FIRST FIVE COMMITMENTS
Lamarte McGhee ( )
Tyler Lewis ( )
Gerard Miller ( )
John Bedics ( )
Merci Falaise ( )
LAST FIVE COMMITMENTS
Jeremy Gray ( )
Anthony Hill ( )
Daniel Evans ()
DeMario Pressley ( )
Willie Young ( )
Coming off a 2003 season that saw Philip Rivers lead NC State to another bowl victory, the Wolfpack recruiting train continued to roll. After landing a consensus top 10 class nationally the year before, Chuck Amato and his staff went out and inked a group that finished No. 20 nationally according to Scout.com and No. 28 per Rivals.com.
The class was finalized with what turned out to be an oustanding haul over the final week. The first pickup was Riviera Beach (FL) star DaJuan Morgan. The talented safety committed to NC State the weekend prior to Signing Day after Ohio State, the school he had been committed to, indicated that he no longer had a scholarship offer.
NC State assistant Doc Holliday stayed in touch with Morgan throughout the process and his persistence paid off with Morgan inking. He turned out to be a star for State. A two-year starter at safety, Morgan left after an All-ACC junior year for the NFL.
Others who committed that week include: Opelika (AL) cornerback Jeremy Gray, Palm Beach Gardens (FL) defensive end Willie Young, Greensboro (NC) defensive tackle DeMario Pressley, Chatham (VA) lineman Anthony Hill, and Raleigh (NC) quarterback Daniel Evans. That group proved to be the background of the class, as all five signees ended up being multiple year starters for the Wolfpack.
Remarkably, NC State missed on a host of prospects that week and the misses far overshadowed the additions. Just that week the Wolfpack would lose out on Rashaun Jones (Miami), Lovon Ponder (Miami), Olu Hall (Virginia), Brent Schaeffer (Tennessee), Emmanuel Dunbar (FSU), Albert Dukes (Ohio State), Ell Ash (Tennessee), Carl Howard (Virginia Tech), Tony Joiner (Florida), and Dorien Bryant (Purdue).
Joiner and Bryant were the only two who had above-average college careers, with Joiner starting double-digit games at Florida and Bryant catching a bunch of passes for the Boilermakers. The others either couldn't cut it academically, failed to make it into school, transferred out, or served as basically reserves for their respective teams.
Overall the class lacked quantity with only 18 signees but produced five current or potential NFL players (Pressley, Hill, Morgan, Young, and Andre Brown), and a few others, including All-ACC returner Darrell Blackman (a re-signee from the 2003 class), who had very good college careers.
FIRST vs. LAST INITIAL THOUGHTS
The most disappointing aspect of this class had to be the early pickups/evaluations.
NC State assistant Joe Pate landed an early commitment from local product Yomi Ojo in the 2003 class and he did the same with LaMarte McGhee in the 2004 class. A two-way lineman for Roxboro (NC) Person High School, McGhee committed to the Wolfpack right around Signing Day for the 2003 class which made him a very early commitment.
McGhee had outstanding size, checking in at 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, but he had yet to really produce on the gridiron as he considered himself more of a basketball player in high school. However, the Wolfpack coaches believed they could mold McGhee into an effective lineman.
Programs such as Tennessee, North Carolina, and Illinois would eventually offer McGhee but his early verbal remained solid throughout the process and he inked with the Pack. However, his time at State would be brief. He stayed just one year at NC State before leaving in the fall of 2005 to attend a junior college.
Academics played a role in the move, but McGhee would give up football to focus on basketball. He played hoops at Central Carolina Community College before attending Brescia University.
Following McGhee's commitment was in-state kicker Tyler Lewis from Albemarle, North Carolina. NC State was very familiar with Lewis after recruiting tailback T.A. McLendon out of Albemarle, and the decision to offer Lewis early was an easy one.
Considered one of the top kickers in the country, NC State offered Lewis a scholarship without him even attending camp. A three-year starter for Albemarle, Lewis had a 44.2-yard career punting average and also drilled 26 field goals with a long of 57 yards. He set 10 state or national records including career extra point kicks (350) and kicking points (428) and was a U.S. Army All-American.
With Lewis also being a big NC State fan, the decision to offer him was an easy one as the Wolfpack coaches expected him to come in and win the starting punter job right away.
However, Lewis also never reached his potential at NC State. He spent just one semester in Raleigh before returning home for personal reasons. He never played a snap of college football after redshirting his lone semester at State.
Vanceboro (NC) West Craven defensive tackle Gerard Miller was the Pack's next commitment. Another in-stater with an early offer, Miller held offers from programs such as Florida State, UNC, and Virginia Tech among others. A consensus top-10 in-state prospect, Miller was expected to come in and compete for early playing time at defensive end or defensive tackle.
He was never able to make the transition to the college level. A major part of Miller's problem was an inability to stay in playing shape. He battled weight problems during his time at State and that prevented him from finding a position. He spent time at defensive end and defensive tackle before eventually moving to offensive guard when Tom O'Brien took over. Miller left the program in 2007 and transferred to East Carolina. He never cracked the rotation at NC State.
Following Miller was Bethlehem (PA) Catholic defensive lineman John Bedics and Georgia Military College offensive tackle Merci Falaise. State cornerbacks coach Greg Williams has connections with the Bethlehem Catholic coaching staff and that played a part in the Wolfpack getting in with Bedics. NC State offered after landing senior film of Bedics, and he committed shortly after a late-November official visit.
Bedics came in an unheralded defensive line recruit but left a starter on the offensive line. He was a solid reserve for three seasons at defensive tackle but O'Brien moved him to guard in the spring of 2008 and the move paid off. Bedics started every game as a senior after making an easy transition to offensive guard.
Of the five first commitments, John Bedics was easily the most productive, while also being the one who entered without much fanfare.
Falaise was recruited by several high-major colleges out of high school, but a severe hip injury forced the big-timers to back off. He enrolled at Georgia Military Junior College and started two years, showcasing talents that led to him being named a consensus first-team JC All-American as a sophomore.
The success for Falaise didn't translate over at NC State. Despite the lofty accolades, he never cracked the offensive line rotation. He did remain in Raleigh and earn his degree and is now an assistant coach at Georgia Military College.
As disappointing as the first five was, State hit the jackpot with late commitments in this recruiting class. Pressley, Hill and Young (in April) all went on to be drafted by NFL squads after stellar careers at NC State. Gray was a two-year starter at cornerback, and Daniel Evans started parts of three seasons under center for the Pack. All five players contributed and were multiple-year starters.
Gray was the first of the group to commit, and like Bedics, he landed an offer from the Wolfpack following a strong senior season. State offered Gray during his official visit in mid-January, but his recruitment would only pick up as Mississippi State and Auburn also extended offers after the Pack. Gray visited both programs late in January before committing to NC State a couple of days short of Signing Day.
It was a huge and surprising pickup for the Pack as Gray's father, Jimmy, played at Auburn and Opelika High School is just minutes away from the SEC school. However he would spurn the hometown school and have a productive career in Raleigh.
Hill joined Gray on the commitment list after selecting the Pack over North Carolina, Clemson, and Virginia Tech among others. Under recruited out of high school, he enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy and landed several offers after showcasing his athleticism and ability to play on both sides of the ball.
NC State was one of the first schools to offer Hill a scholarship, and he repaid their loyalty by committing to the Pack. He had a great career in Raleigh, and ended up being a fourth-round draft pick of the Houston Texans. A devastating blocker, Hill also was a reliable receiver as he caught 45 balls for 478 yards in 2006 to garner All-ACC honors. A knee injury forced him to miss 2007, but he bounced back with a strong senior year. Ironically, most believed Hill would end up an offensive tackle while he was being recruited at Hargrave, but he maintained his weight and developed into a professional tight end.
The Pack's final three commitments would all come on Signing Day. NC State entered the day with seven or eight prospects still on the board and eventually inked Willie Young, DeMario Pressley, and Daniel Evans.
Young selected State over Florida and Ohio State. He had to attend prep school for a year, and redshirted another season but when he hit the field all he did was make plays. He ended his career a two-time All-ACC selection, earning second-team honors in 2009 after recording 54 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss and eight sacks. He's expected to be a mid-round draft pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Pressley was by far the biggest commitment of the day and arguably Chuck Amato's highest-rated signee ever. A consensus five-star prospect and the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle, Pressley selected the Pack over North Carolina, Florida State, and Oklahoma State among others.
Citing Amato's stability at NC State as a major reason for his decision, Pressley gave the 2004 class the big splash it needed to overcome the multiple misses on Signing Day. Although he had a solid career at NC State, Pressley never fully reached the expectations placed on him. He battled injuries late in his career, but was still able to be selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.
A reserve defensive tackle for the Saints, Pressley earned a Super Bowl ring Sunday night.
The most shocking signee had to be local product Daniel Evans. A legacy recruit, Evans grew up a NC State fan with his father, Johnny Evans, being an All-American for the Wolfpack. He posted stellar numbers at a senior at Raleigh (NC) Broughton, totaling 3,796 yards passing and 37 touchdowns. However most programs were scared off by his slight frame and some questioned his arm strength so Evans entered Signing Day unsure of where he would ink.
NC State continued to evaluate him as a senior but was in heavy pursuit of Florida prep standout Brent Schaeffer. A four-star prospect, Schaeffer eventually selected Tennessee on Signing Day, and that opened the door for Evans to secure a scholarship. He inked with the Wolfpack that afternoon and was the last pickup in the 2004 class.
A one-star prospect, Evans went on to outperform Marcus Stone and Harrison Beck, two four-star recruits who most thought would eventually be the starting quarterbacks at NC State. Evans started 17 games at NC State and led the Wolfpack to wins over ECU, North Carolina, Virginia, and Miami among others during his career. As a senior he would lose the starting job to Russell Wilson, but he was able to help coach O'Brien and his staff achieve some success late in their first season.
FIRST vs. LAST FINAL THOUGHTS
Talk about a stark contrast in recruiting hits and misses. Of NC State's first five commitments, only John Bedics emerged as a significant contributor. In fact, Bedics was the only one to play a meaningful snap for the Wolfpack. McGhee, Lewis, and Miller left the program early in their careers and Falaise was a career reserve. A junior college transfer is often hit-or-miss because they normally have just two seasons to contribute.
The three in-staters were clear misses and all three had early offers from NC State. When you offer prospects early and take their commitments you are often judging their abilities based on junior film and as with all prospects are taking a risk on their character.
McGhee had to attend junior college for academics and Lewis apparently left the program after being homesick. The most puzzling had to be Miller. When we evaluated the 2004 signing class, we thought he was one of the safest prospects in the class. In high school he had a high-motor, a terrific work ethic, solid grades, and was a team captain. At NC State he never really found a position and battled weight problems throughout his career. Sometimes you just miss on kids and that was the case with Miller.
Bedics was offered later in the process, based on senior film and after the NC State coaching staff received recommendations from local high school coaches they trusted.
The final five verbals all panned out and essentially made the class a success. Hill and Pressley were NFL draft picks and Young is expected to be drafted this April.
Gray was one of the last recruits to land a scholarship offer, and like Bedics, he picked up the offer based largely on senior film and production.
Evans might have impacted as much as anyone, serving as a bridge between the two coaching staffs. A NC State fan, he wanted to wear the jersey and you never doubted his willingness to win when he was on the field. He was criticized at times for his play, but at the end of the day he was never recruited to be "the man" in Raleigh. He also was a high-character kid and had terrific grades which made it even easier to extend a scholarship offer.
It wasn't his fault that the Pack missed on other quarterbacks which led to him being thrusted into the starting role. All he did when given the opportunity was compete and make some plays. For a one-star prospect, he produced and at the end of the day he proved that the Wolfpack made the right decision to offer him on Signing Day.
Ironically, Schaeffer ended up having an up-and-down career during his stints at Tennessee and Ole Miss, and Evans actually posted better numbers as a signal-caller.
Chuck Amato probably stated it best on Signing Day in 2004.
"Who's to say [Evans] won't be as good as anybody that we recruited?"