Wolfpack recruiting coordinator Jerry Petercuskie was responsible for landing Northeastern University transfer David Akinniyi and Snow College (UT) offensive lineman Mikel Overgaard. A few months ago Akinniyi probably figured he'd be preparing for his senior season at Northeastern right now, but following the 2009 season the team was informed that the school would be dispanding its football program. Some of those hurt the most were the juniors, like Akinniyi, who were left with just one year of eligibility to find a new home to extend their football career.
Scrambling to find a school, Akinniyi and his coaches sent out film to a number of colleges and coach Petercuskie was immediately intrigued. NC State was graduating two starting defensive ends and could use some added depth at the position.
Akinniyi, who checks in at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, had started every game of his career at Northeastern as either a linebacker or defensive end. After speaking with the Northeastern coaches Petercuskie felt like Akinnyi fit what they are looking for at NC State.
"David is one of those unselfish players," said Petercuskie. "I've known the coaches at Northeastern a long time and they spoke highly of David. He enrolled there as a linebacker and led the team in tackles a linebacker. They asked him to move to defensive end and he did it willingly for the team. He then led the team in tackles for a loss and sacks from his defensive end position.
"With David you've got a disciplined football player, a really good athlete, and a guy who is team-oriented. I think that's huge."
While Akinniyi has just one season of eligibility remaining Mikel Overgaard has two years to play two seasons after transferring in from Snow College (UT). He began his college career as a walk-on tight end at Washington State but transferred to Snow College after redshirting his first season in hopes of earning a Division I scholarship offer.
He played sparingly as a blocking tight end in 2008 before working out at left tackle in the spring of 2009. Overgaard was so impressive at left tackle he earned the starting job and the coaches kept him in the weight room leading up to the 2009 season where he added 30 pounds and played all year at 270 pounds. In his first year playing offensive line Overgaard was named first-team All-Western States Football League. Petercuskie and Wolfpack offensive line coach Don Horton were impressed with Overgaard's physical attributes.
"Mikel is very interesting in how he has progressed," said Petercuskie. "He was originally a tight end, but he just kept growing. The thing about him is he has tremendous feet. His dad was a player and high school coach so he's from an athletic family.
"It's just a matter of putting more size on Mikel, but he's a really good athlete. Those are the kind of guys we love in the offensive line."
With just one year of eligibility left look for Akinniyi to be in the mix at defensive end, but newcomers Theo Rich and Artemus Norman are hoping they can come in next fall and prove that they should play as true freshmen.
Both signees flew under the recruiting radar. Rich played just one year of high school football and Norman, like Rich, lacked ideal size that a lot of college coaches are looking for at the defensive end position. However, their other physical attributes really stood out to Petercuskie and the Wolfpack coaches.
"I think both Theo and Artemus have great get-off," said Petercuskie. "They have explosive starts and outstanding speed off the line of scrimmage. Both are really tenacious. They aren't the biggest guys in the world, but they have, as we always talk about, high motors and keep coming after you. They are very athletic and have great balance. For us, all of those traits, in terms of rushing the passer, are very important.
"I think you can improve most aspects, but it's hard to change the tiger's stripes sometimes. If you see a guy who doesn't play every snap but looks great, that's a tough decision because you'd like to be able to take those guys. However, you always look for kids who do have those traits. Sure, we would all like to see 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7 kids coming off the edge, there's no question about it, but they've got to have those other attributes as well."
Retooling the defensive line was definitely a goal for NC State with the 2010 class, and they also wanted to add more depth in the secondary. The team returns several defensive backs with experience, but there is always a need for quality athletes capable of playing cornerback or safety. The Wolfpack's defensive scheme calls for cornerbacks with terrific feet, safeties who aren't afraid of contact, and everyone must have strong ball skills.
"There's a little bit of a difference in what we want out of corners and safeties," said Petercuskie. "At the corner spot we're looking for the point guard feet... the really good hips, and the ability to have great transition. We also want good ball skills. As you know, in football there are jumpballs now where the quarterback just throws the ball up and you've got to have terrific ball skills and the ability to judge the ball in the air. Those are big, big things we look at when evaluating cornerbacks.
"At safety a kid can be a little longer strider... he will need to cover a lot of ground and have great range. Also, we want him to be a little bigger kid [than at cornerback]. Obviously he'll also need to have good ball skills, but he must be able to play in the box. We want our safeties to have be able to light you up... just make plays."
One of the defensive backs signed by the Wolfpack is Macon (GA) Westside star D.J. Green, and he might be State's most intriguing signee. He attended a combine last spring and checked in at 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds... physically he was bigger than Wolfpack standout defensive end Willie Young was at the same age.
On film Green is a very sure tackler and does a good job of breaking down and making sure he doesn't over run plays. He diagnoses plays well and is able to maneuver effectively to the ball-carrier to make the stop.
"D.J. Green has excellent potential," said Petercuskie. "The question with his is if he will grow into a linebacker or stay at the safety position? That's all going to be determined by him and how his body reacts to our Strength & Conditioning program.
"However, let's say he's a kid that is 6-foot-4 and grows to 230 pounds. If he's still at the safety spot, then that is obviously not going to be a bad thing for us."
The NC State signee most familiar with Green is probably Thomaston (GA) Upson-Lee standout Logan Winkles. Green and Winkles hail from the same area of Georgia, participate in the same region, and even squared off last fall. Winkles started at tight end and linebacker for Upson-Lee, and he was a two-time all-state selection in football and recently won the state's heavyweight title in wrestling.
Those who have had a chance to watch his highlight tape probably think offering him a scholarship was a no-brainer for NC State. However, Winkles actually earned his scholarship with a stellar performance at the Wolfpack's summer camp.
"Camp was huge for Logan," Petercuskie stated. "We had a chance to watch him perform, and we were able to see his tenacity. The way he attacked the drills... we saw the speed and transition that he had.
"His film was a very good tape, and obviously that was a big piece of the puzzle. However, you really like the toughness he brings to the table. That's a great trait of his.
It seems recruits like Logan Winkles are the kinds of prospects that the NC State coaching staff covets. A solid student with great character, Winkles loves the game of football and is always going 110%. A self-starter with a high motor, the effort Winkles plays with can rub off onto teammates.
"That's absolutely the kind of kid he is," said Petercuskie. "That can be contagious too. When you have a good number of those guys out there on the field together it's a good thing... it can definitely be contagious for the entire team."