Meet the Wolfpack

N.C. State's offensive juggernaut is not as effective without sophomore tailback and reigning ACC Rookie of the Year T.A. McLendon in the lineup. He is nursing a strained hamstring and is considered questionable when the Tar Heels travel to Raleigh on Saturday. But John Bunting said he's not falling for that one: "I think if McLendon was locked up somewhere, he would still find a way to get in the game."

With its much-hyped game with Ohio State and national championship aspirations now in the past, the Wolfpack took out a season's worth of frustrations last week with a 49-21 drubbing of Texas Tech. Carolina has won eight of the last 10 meetings, but has lost two of the last three between the two schools. State never needs any help in getting up for this one, and will be looking to rub red salt in the wounds of the winless Tar Heels. A bright spot – if you can call it that – is that the Wolfpack's defense is statistically as bad or worse than Carolina's. However unlike UNC, the State defense seems better able to come up with the big stop when it really needs to.


Rivers
Here's IC's weekly trip through the depth chart of UNC's next opponent.

Quarterbacks

What is left to say about Philip Rivers (6-5, 236, Sr.), who is the ACC's fifth all-time leading passer? His release is low and his speed is limited, but he fires his gun as quick as they come and he has excellent maneuverability and pocket presence. Rivers is leading the ACC in passing with 331.2 yards per game and 11 touchdowns. He also leads the league in total offense and ranked seventh nationally. Even Bunting admitted on Monday that Rivers is the best quarterback in the conference.

Running Backs

With both speed and power T.A. McLendon (5-11, 215, So.) is a load for opposing defenses to stop. He is the ACC's third leading rusher, averaging 6.8 yards per carry in limited action. The Wolfpack coaches may feel they can afford to rest McLendon against the Tar Heels the league's worst team against the rush. If that happens then Josh Brown (5-10, 185, So.), who head coach Chuck Amato says is "quick as a hiccup," would see much more time this week. Brown gained 543 yards on 123 carries as McLendon's backup last season. Fullback Chance Moyer (6-3, 238, Jr.), who played in all 14 games last season, is rarely utilized in the Pack's offensive schemes.

Wide Receivers


Cotchery
Jerricho Cotchery (6-1, 200, Sr.) leads the ACC with four touchdown receptions and is among the Top 10 in receptions and receiving yards per game. He is averaging 16 yards per catch. One reason the Wolfpack defense led the ACC last season was due to the play of the offensive scout team, led by fleet-footed wideouts who were ineligible for competition in 2002. Tramain Hall (5-11, 183, So.) sat out as a JUCO transfer and freshman Richard Washington (6-0, 164, Fr*) each have two touchdowns already this season and are among the league's leading receivers. After Cotchery, the most experienced receiver is Sterling Hicks (6-2, 185, Jr.), who caught 37 passes for 510 yards last season. However, Hicks tore is ACL at Ohio State and is out for the season.

Offensive Line

Scott Kooistra and Shane Riggs have moved on to the NFL, and tackle Chris Colmer (6-6, 305, Sr.), has been the top performer on the offensive line for each of the last two seasons. He recorded 151 knockdown blocks in 2002 and graded out at over 90 percent in nearly every contest, but has yet to play this year due to nerve damage. Parade All-America Derek Morris (6-6, 328, Fr.) has lost over 30 pounds since arriving on campus in January and joins John McKeon (6-5, 306, So.) in anchoring the right tackle position. Sean Locklear (6-5, 296, Sr.) has moved to Colmer's position and Ricky Fowler (6-2, 287, Jr.) and LeRoy Harris (6-3, 285, Fr.*) are the guards. Jed Paulsen (6-2, 290, Jr.) has returned at center after undergoing surgery on his ACL last year.

Tight Ends

The Pack will miss the sure hands and strong blocking of Sean Berton, who along with Joe Gray, have graduated. John Ritcher (6-3, 248, So.) moved into the starting spot after having seen action in every game last season. However, Ritcher only caught one pass, while T.J. Williams (6-4, 236, So.) battled shoulder injuries.

Defensive Line

End Mario Williams (6-7, 254, Fr.), one of the stars of the 2003 recruiting class, lived up to his impressive high school reputation this spring. Chip Cross (6-1, 248, So.) and Renaldo Moses (6-6, 210, So.) platoon at the other end position. Allan Halloway (6-5, 285, Jr.) brings the most experience on the interior line and is joined by John McCargo(6-2, 286, Fr.*) at tackle.


Edwards
Linebackers

Pat Thomas (6-2, 229, Jr.), the Pack's third leading tackler last season with 106 stops, mans the weak side position. Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay (6-1, 224, Jr.) will line up both on the strong side and in the middle, along with Oliver Hoyte (6-3, 230, So.), one of the hardest hitters on the team.

Defensive Backs

The roverback position is known as the "hidden linebacker" in the State defensive scheme, and Andre Maddox (6-1, 191, Jr.) has the speed and finesse of a defensive back with the ferocity of a linebacker. Lamont Reid (6-0, 190, Jr.) is the most consistent corner, and will be joined by Greg Golden (5-11, 185 Jr.) and Dovonte Edwards (6-0, 170, Jr.), who had 26 catches for 289 yards last season as a flanker, but was moved to cornerback where he won the teams' "Most Dependable" award during the spring. Free safety Troy Graham (6-3, 193, Sr.), a former wide receiver, played mostly on special teams last season.

Special Teams

Cotchery was the leading punt returner last year, but Hall has taken over and is second only to Michael Waddell with a 13.6 yards per return average. Golden handles the kickoffs and has garnered 87 yards on five returns. Kicker Adam Kiker (6-0, 185, Sr.) is currently ranked third in the ACC in scoring with three field goals and 20 extra points.


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