The third installment of our six-part series on NC State's 2009 Scout Team focuses on the Wolfpack's offensive line!
Along the offensive line, there were several changes with talents like R.J. Mattes, Zach Allen and Andrew Wallace moving up to first or second team offense. That opened up some opportunities for freshman linemen like Sam Jones and Durand Christophe, who were very raw athletically when they arrived, but are rapidly developing into solid prospects.
In fact, grad assistant Mike Archer commented that once they fill out their frames – Jones is currently listed at 6-7, 321 lbs, and Christophe at 6-6, 287 lbs (size 19 shoes!) – the sky is the limit.
"Once those guys mature and fill out, they'll be playing with the guys we had here last year [Wallace, Mattes, Allen]," he said. "They're not afraid to do what it takes. Those guys also mixed in at guard at times when guys were taking breaks, so they're not afraid to pull and hit you. They've also got good footwork, especially for their size."
This spring, both will be closely evaluated to see how they can contribute along the line. While both are very similar, Archer explained that Jones would probably see the field first mostly because of the maturity and experience he gained while prepping at Hargrave Military the year before (Jones, in fact, was listed as first-team right tackle on the Spring 2010 organizational chart).
During their time on the scout team, the young tackles did have trouble early on adjusting to the speed of the game, but as Archer explained, the experience of junior center Wayne Crawford and the other linemen helped them get adjusted.
"During the first couple weeks, the game was a little fast for them," Archer said. "Granted, they were going against our first- and second-team every day.
"But with the help of our more-experienced players, especially Wayne Crawford, we were able to get them on board quickly. Wayne, specifically, was able to show some leadership and help orchestrate our offensive line with all of their calls and blocks, and that helped out a lot."
The 6-4, 303 lb. Crawford was assigned to the scout team when true freshman Camden Wentz was called to back up starting center Ted Larsen. Most players would take that move as a demotion, and many would even react poorly, but Archer pointed out that Crawford, a former defensive lineman, took it as an opportunity to work hard and grow into the position.
"What's good about Wayne," said Archer, "is that he's been around as long as I have, and he's not going to waste time moping and whining – he's going to do his part and practice hard every day. One thing you don't want your scout team offensive line to do is become lazy (because your d-line is getting nothing out of it), so Wayne would get on the other o-linemen when guys would just blow by them. He knows what it takes to play, and he held the rest of the line accountable."
Crawford will compete with Wentz for the starting center job in 2010, but Archer is confident the scout team experience could be a determining factor.
The guards were manned by redshirt sophomore Henry Lawson and senior walk-on Matt McKeon, and while Archer admits neither is as athletic as the guards from last year (Wallace and Allen) or as big as freshman Denzelle Good (6-6, 336 lbs.) who was sitting out with an injury, they did help Crawford provide a stabilizing influence in the trenches. In fact, they contributed just as much to the swagger Archer wanted as the other members of the scout team.
"Those guys were doing the same stuff the receivers were doing," said Archer. "They were talking smack, saying ‘you're not running from me.' I wanted the experience to be as realistic as we could in practice, so I even told them to simulate holding in practice to make the d-linemen understand that it happens in games but doesn't always get called. And I think it really helped our defense in the long run."
Stay tuned for Tales of the 2009 Scout Team: Part 4, where we will focus on the defensive line!