2010 NCAA Football Preview: North Carolina State Wolfpack

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 5-7, 2-6
Bowl Game: None
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 5th ACC Atlantic
Offensive rank: 46
Defensive rank: 55

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Toney Baker, 773 yards, 6 TD
Passing: Russell Wilson, 3,027 yards, 31 TD, 11 INT
Receiving: Owen Spencer, 765 yards, 6 TD; Jarvis Williams, 547 yards, 11 TD
Tackles: Audie Cole, 73 total tackles; Clem Johnson, 63 total tackles
Sacks: Willie Young, 8 sacks (8 solo))
Interceptions: Clem Johnson, 2 interceptions

2010 Season Outlook

(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 16 vs. Cincinnati: Getting the Bearcats at home in front of a national audience on a Thursday night is a great stage for the Wolfpack to steal one from a team with Big East title aspirations. NC State beat Big East opponent Pitt last season.

September 18 @ West Virginia: The matchup with East Carolina could be pivotal in the Wolfpack's quest for bowl eligibility. NC State gets Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia Tech from the Coastal this year, and have an early test against Cincinnati. Matchups with Florida State, Clemson and Boston College of their own division will also prove challenging. Matchups against rival East Carolina and Central Florida earlier in the season could make or break their bowl hopes.

November 13 vs. Wake Forest/November 27 @ Maryland: NC State may have to grab these games against their weaker ACC opponents to make it to the bowl season.

Preseason Rankings (will not officially be released until August)


Coaches': N/A

Key Losses

Toney Baker, RB; Ted Larsen, C; Willie Young, DE; Alan Michael Cash, DT; Ray Michel, LB; DeAndre Morgan, CB

Key Returning Players

Russell Wilson, QB; Jarvis Williams, WR; Owen Spencer, WR; George Bryan, TE; Jake Vermiglio, OT; Nate Irving, LB; Dwayne Maddox, LB; Audie Cole, LB; Josh Czajkowski, K

Offensive Overview

Russell Wilson will be the starting quarterback this fall, but he missed the spring to play for the Wolfpack baseball team. That allowed Mike Glennon, who saw limited action last season, to play with the first team offense all spring. He looked good, too, throwing for 400+ yards and three touchdowns in the spring game. Wilson will start the season as the starting quarterback, but Glennon gives coach Tom O'Brien and the Wolfpack a bit of insurance should Wilson go down with injury or cannot go for whatever reason. Wilson was drafted in the fourth round of this year's MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies, but has stated he will return to the football field this fall. No word yet on 2011, though.

Last year's three leading rushers, not including Wilson who rushed for 260 yards and four touchdowns, are gone. To make matters worse, Brandon Barnes, who ran for 79 yards as a freshman last season, went down with injury in the spring. Curtis Underwood is projected as the starter with James Washington expected to contribute as well. Barnes and Washington saw limited action last season, combining for 46 carries for 155 yards, while Underwood redshirted last season. Walk-on true freshman Travis Leggett was the leading rusher in the spring game with Barnes and Underwood sidelined with injuries.

Leading receivers Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams return for their senior seasons. The duo will once again be the playmakers in the NC State passing game, while Darrell Davis should also see his fair share of passes. Tight end George Bryan was set to return for his junior season, but his season is in question following an incident in April involving marijuana. Also in question is the status of offensive tackle Jake Vermiglio, who is one of just two returning starters on the offensive line and was among those busted with Bryan. Center Camden Wentz and guards Andrew Wallace and Zach Allen, all sophomore entering 2010, are promising young prospects who should see the field this season in starting roles.

Defensive Overview

The Wolfpack recorded just eight interceptions last season and recovered just six fumbles. The Wolfpack ranked 114th in the nation in turnover margin, although 12 fumbles and 13 interceptions on the offense don't exactly help the dismal ranking. The secondary did manage three interceptions in the spring game, but quarterbacks Glennon and Daniel Imhoff aired it out for 68 attempts, 644 yards and six touchdowns. Sophomores C.J. Wilson and Rashard Smith will start at the corner spots, with fellow sophomores Brandon Bishop and Earl Wolff at the safety positions.

The defensive line loses all four starters from last season. While misdemeanor assault and larceny charges against defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy stemming from a March altercation with a shuttle bus driver were dismissed, Sweezy was among those with Bryan and Vermiglio when they were busted for marijuana possession, among other charges. Fellow defensive tackle Markus Kuhn was also involved.

Audi Augustin saw action in every game but the finale with North Carolina and is set to assume one of the defensive end positions. Defensive end Michael Lemon played in every game and was a promising member of the squad. David Akinniyi transferred from Northeastern and could also contribute. Natanu Mageo is expected to assume one of the defensive tackle positions, while end Darryl Cato-Bishop and tackle Brian Slay were impressive this offseason.

The biggest news for the Wolfpack defense is the return of linebacker Nate Irving. Irving was involved in a car accident that kept him off the field all of last year and should provide a big boost to a defense that clearly missed his presence. Audie Cole was last year's leading tackler and will play alongside Irving in 2010.

Special Teams Overview

If Josh Czajkowski makes his first four extra point attempts this season, he will hold the record for most consecutive successful PATs in school history with 77. Czajkowski was 10 of 12 in field goals last year with a long of 48. He is a very dependable kicker who will be a staple of the Wolfpack in 2010. Following the departure of Jeff Ruiz, redshirt freshman Chris Ward handled the punting in spring practice.

T.J. Graham, who suffered a leg injury halfway through 2009, will return to handle punt and kick return duties this season. Graham averaged just under 25 yards per kick return and even brought one back for a score in 2009, and averaged over 10 yards per punt return. Like Czajkowski will be an instrumental part of the special teams, so too will Graham, who will be relied upon to put the Wolfpack in good field position and provide the team with a spark.

Head Coach: Tom O'Brien

Even Tom O'Brien has admitted that he is on the hot seat entering this season. O'Brien's comments came among rumors, since confirmed and announced via press conference, that Debbie Yow, formerly athletic director at Maryland, would take over the same post at NC State. With a new chancellor and athletic director, O'Brien was quoted by the Raleigh News & Observer as saying, "The chancellor I came here with and the athletic director I came here with are no longer here. Things have changed a lot. How that’s going to affect our situation won’t be solved until the chancellor and new AD decide what direction — or if there’s a new direction — they want to go in..

"Certainly you get evaluated differently because it's not the people who brought you in, who did the research to bring you in." Since taking over for the Wolfpack in 2007, O'Brien has led NC State to a losing record in each of his three seasons. He did take his team to a bowl game in 2008 following a 6-6 regular season record, however, but lost the Bowl by a score of 29-23 to Rutgers. Previous to his position with NC State, O'Brien was the head coach at Boston College from 1997 to 2006. With the Eagles, O'Brien's teams were a model for consistency, finishing with a winning record in eight of his ten seasons and with at least eight wins in seven seasons. He even won the Big East Conference title in 2004—the Eagles' final season in the Big East.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Jarvis Williams, WR; Nate Irving, LB

Season Prediction

4th ACC Atlantic

NC State returns one of the ACC's top quarterbacks and a wide receivers corps with a few proven playmakers. Linebacker Nate Irving returns to the defense this season after missing all of last season following a car accident. After that, there is little to get excited about. The leading returning rusher is Russell Wilson and injuries have slowed an already thin backfield. Star tight end Bryan George's season is in question following an offseason legal mishap. Three fifths of the offensive line is gone with tackle Jake Vermiglio caught up in the same legal mishap as Bryan. The defensive line lost all four starters and two defensive tackles have found themselves on the wrong side of the law this offseason. The secondary has potential, but is otherwise unproven and very young.

For the Wolfpack to succeed in getting back to the bowl season, somebody must emerge in the running game to take some of the pressure off of Wilson and the defense must stiffen up and force a few more turnovers. O'Brien and his team must also find a way to overcome the slew of injuries and off-field incidents that have plagued the program of late. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.