2010 Season: 9-4 (5-3)
By: Danny O’Donnell
The Wolfpack had a promising 2010 season when head coach Tom O’Brien led the team to their first winning season in his four years with the program. NC State is going to need the returning men to fill in the gaps that the team will be losing, especially on offense. O’Brien says, “We’re more mature than we’ve been, at this point. We kind of understand where we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to do.” Florida State is the favorite in the conference and Maryland is putting together a very serious squad. O’Brien is going to need to keep the momentum going into 2011 to have any chance at the division title.
This season, NC State will be returning just four starters from last year’s squad but will boast the return of three of their lineman. Tight end George Bryan (369 yards, 3 TDs) will return as the teams leading receiver after the loss of wide-outs receivers Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams. But even with the return of the meat, the group will need to do much better than last season after finishing 11th in rushing yards per game in the ACC. And if the offensive line can get it together, the running game could be deadly for the Wolfpack. O’Brien is pleased to know that all four of his leading rushers from 2010 will be coming back headed by running back Mustafa Greene (597 yards, 4 TDs.)
The defense has much more to look forward to since they will be bringing back the majority of their 2010 squad. The secondary will bring back all of their starters including free safety Brandon Bishop (led the team with four interceptions.) But the unit failed to crack into the ACC’s top half of pass defense efficiency by allowing over 225 yards through the air a game. NC State will move Audie Cole to middle linebacker in hopes he can fill the hole left by former team leader Nate Irving. Irving led the NCAA linebacker’s in tackles for loss and was the team’s sack leader in 2010 with seven.
Weakness: Wide Receiver. The leading returners to the team in receiving yards are their tight end and running back. NC State will return several veterans who desperately need to take leading roles. Senior TJ Graham has the speed to move throughout defenses, as well as go deep, but often time needs industrial strength glue to catch the ball.
Strength: Running back. The depth at running back isn’t pouring out, but what they have is skill. Mustafa Greene will return as the leader followed by James Washington (who started the final four games last year.) But junior Brandon Barnes, now healthy, had a showcase spring practice and will be a serious threat to take over third-down responsibilities.
2010 Team Rankings
Scoring: 31.9 ppg (3rd ACC, 32nd National)
Rushing: 123.3 ypg (11th ACC, 95th National)
Passing: 281.2 ypg (1st ACC, 18th National)
Scoring: 21.3 ppg (6th ACC, 29th National)
Rushing: 114.3 ypg (2nd ACC, 14th National)
Passing: 225.1 ypg (8th ACC, 72nd National)
Russell Wilson (3,563 yards, 28 TDs) decided to skip the MLB for another season in college football. Unfortunately, he won’t be returning to the Pack. NC State was the top passing team in the ACC last year but will find it hard to repeat those numbers with a new quarterback and weak receiver core. But the team shouldn’t fear since Mike Glennon is taking over the position. A strong arm and pocket passer, the 6’6, 225 lbs junior has been learning from Wilson and is prepared to take over. Redshirt freshman Tyler Brosius will be a solid quarterback, and it will benefit him to let Glennon take over while the wide-outs get their act together.
Big Man on Campus: Mustafa Greene, RB. Greene will be the starting runner and is a statistical leader both on the ground and through the air. The Wolfpack do not boast flashy players but Greene is the closest thing they have to a poster player.
On the Rise: Earl Wolff, S. Wolff was the teams leading tackle (95) last season and is increasing his skill set to find the ball. The secondary is bringing back everyone and Wolff will be a key asset as a blitzing safety to step up the pass rush.
Breakout Freshman: Niklas Sade, K. NC State is going to have to rely on two young freshmen to take over the special teams play in 2011. Sade was a 2010 US Army All-American and will take over field goals and kickoffs.
NC State has a very easy road game schedule this fall. Florida State will be the only difficult team they face away from their home crowd. The first half of the schedule is winnable for the Pack until October when they’ll face Virginia, FSU, and UNC all in a row. The Wolfpack’s schedule should allow for a second place finish in the division and could see the top if the Seminoles have a struggling year. They’ll finish the season against Maryland at home and that game could easily decide who finishes behind the ‘Noles in the division. The offense is losing a lot and starting a new quarterback. Expect them to finish third in the division but higher in years to come.