Although it’s often tough to tell what to expect from a team after watching spring practice or a spring game, those things do reveal trends which can impact how teams enter fall practice. Whether it be position battles, injuries or coaching changes (all of which NC State is and will continue to go through), spring practice periods are a good chance to take a look at where you are while also trying to figure out where you’re going.
ESPN’s Heather Dinich put together entries on each of the ACC schools following spring practice and discussed each schools prospects heading into the fall. She also put together an ACC power ranking list based on what she had seen and heard following spring periods.
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1. Wilson will be back, but Mike Glennon is a capable starter. Starter Russell Wilson missed all of spring football to play baseball, but his season didn’t quite take the turn he had probably hoped, as Wilson wasn’t a starter. In his absence, Glennon impressed coach Tom O’Brien and completed 21 of 38 passes for 423 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the Pack’s spring game. As long as Wilson picks up where he left off in 2009, it should be his job to lose.
2. Irving is back and can play. After missing last season with injuries he sustained in a serious 2009 summer car accident, it was unclear how much Irving would be able to contribute this spring. He moved to middle linebacker and eased his way back into full participation and played in half of the spring game.
3. Defensive linemen emerging. Even though all four starters from last year’s defensive line graduated, there was enough talent there this spring for optimism. Darryl Cato-Bishop, David Akinniyi, and Brian Slay impressed the staff. Their success is critical, as both J.R. Sweezy and Markus Kuhn are facing disciplinary action.
Along with the answers above, Dinich also highlighted three questions NC State will need to answer heading into fall practice in August. I’ve tried to answer them as best I can.
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1.Who will run the ball?
With the injury to Brandan Barnes (dislocated ankle, surgery), this position is a lot more up in the air heading into fall practice. James Washington and Curtis Underwood will be the top two heading into practice, but neither have experience to lean on. For the first time in four or five years NC State won’t have a reliable back with experience heading into the season. Both Underwood and Washington are talented players but it’s tough to know how effective they can be. They’ve combined for 72 career carries. If Barnes can get healthy he should also be in the mix come August.
2. Punter, please?
I’ve got nothing on this one. Chris Ward can’t stay out of trouble, Jeff Ruiz is bad. Looks like it could be another year of giving up valuable field position when the offense stalls anywhere inside its own 45. Despite being an issue people don’t talk much about, this could be as important as anything heading into 2010. The Wolfpack has to improve its special teams play, period.
3. How much can the defense improve?
I’ll answer that question with another one. Can the defense get worse? My gut reaction is to say no, but if Markus Kuhn and J.R. Sweezy don’t get their crap straight, the defensive line will become a major liability in a hurry. The back seven of the defense should be vastly improved as long as all the major players (pretty much everyone projected to start as of now) stays healthy, but that won’t matter much if the front four is worse. If the front can’t get any pressure on opposing quarterbacks then even an improved back seven could look worse. If receivers have enough time they’ll find wholes in any zone.
Dinich also put together her post-spring power rankings. The Wolfpack did not fair well.
1. Virginia Tech
5. Georgia Tech
6. North Carolina
7. Boston College
9. Wake Forest
10. NC State
Based on what you saw at the spring game in April, what do you think of State’s 10th place ranking?