| ||2011 SEASON IN REVIEW:Tom O'Brien's Wolfpack posted an 8-5 overall record last season, a game below the 2010 mark of 9-4, but there was plenty to build on, especially as the season progressed, as NC State won 6 of its last 8 games. |
The departure of star quarterback Russell Wilson did not deter O'Brien, who had a plan in place in the form of capable signal-caller Mike Glennon.
Consistency took some time though, as the Wolfpack struggled out of the gates to a 2-3 record, knocking off Liberty (43-21) and South Alabama (35-13), but falling to Wake Forest (34-27), Cincinnati (44-14) and Georgia Tech (45-35).
A win over Central Michigan (38-24) put the team back at .500 on the year and was followed by a 28-14 victory at Virginia, the team's first victory in- conference. The team struggled big time in Tallahassee after that, getting embarrassed by Florida State (34-0), but came back to pitch its own shutout with a 13-0 win over rival North Carolina, its fifth straight in the series with the Tar Heels.
The Wolfpack dropped a tough decision at Boston College (14-10), but rallied once again, soundly defeating nationally-ranked and ACC champion Clemson (37-13) before closing out the regular season with a memorable come-from-behind win against Maryland (56-41) to pull even in league play at 4-4, good for fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
NC State capped off its solid season with a 31-24 win over Louisville in the Belk Bowl.
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|A 31 vs. Tennessee (Georgia Dome) |
S 8 at Connecticut
S 15 vs. South Alabama
S 22 vs. The Citadel
S 29 at Miami-Florida
O 6 vs. Florida State
O 20 at Maryland
O 27 at North Carolina
N 4 vs. Virginia
N 10 vs. Wake Forest
N 17 at Clemson
N 24 vs. Boston College
QB Mike Glennon
RB James Washington
WR Tobais Palmer
OT R.J. Mattes
OG Zach Allen
OG Duran Christopher
C Camden Wentz
DE Brian Slay
DE Art Norman
DE Darryl Cato-Bishop
CB C.J. Wlson
CB David Amerson
S Brandan Bishop
S Earl Wolff
PK Niklas Slade
P Wil Baumann
OFFENSE:Much to Glennon's credit, the Wolfpack did not miss a beat offensively, as the team moved on from Wilson. Glennon proved more than capable of leading an offense and should garner his fair share of conference accolades in 2012 after completing over 62 percent of his passes last season, for 3,054 yards and an impressive 31 TDs.
O'Brien has been particularly impressed with Glennon's growth.
"He's grown a lot in the last year. We put a lot on his shoulders last year with the situation and I think he handled it tremendously well."
Glennon has four of his five starters back up front, and although talented wideout and return man T.J. Graham is no longer in the fold, senior WR Tobias Palmer (37 receptions, 496 yards, 5 TDs) will get a chance to become the go-to- guy downfield.
The ground game played second-fiddle in the NC State attack last year, but versatile tailback James Washington is back after accounting for nearly 900 yards rushing and seven TDs in 2011. Washington also finished second on the team in receptions (42). Adding depth in the backfield is sophomore RB Tony Creecy (6-0, 210), who should see his role increase in 2012.
DEFENSE:The Wolfpack return seven starters on the defensive side of the football. The team must replace its ultra-talented linebacking corps that featured stars Audie Cole (team-high 132 tackles, 5.5 sacks) and Terrell Manning (82 tackles, 5.5 sacks), but there is depth in the ranks there and the hope is that a couple of guys will step up and fill the void.
The real strength of the NC State defense is the secondary, which returns intact. The Wolfpack went from 101st nationally in turnover margin in 2010 to 6th in 2011, thanks mostly to the play of All-American CB David Amerson. The 6-3 Amerson had quite the sophomore season, leading the entire nation in interceptions with 13.
O'Brien realizes that this may be Amerson's last season in Raleigh.
"I'd be really surprised if David Amerson is back after another year."
Joining Amerson in the defensive backfield this year will once again be corner C.J. Wilson (31 tackles, 1 INT) and safeties Earl Wolff (113 tackles, 3 INTs) and Brandan Bishop (99 tackles, 5 INTs).
Sophomore rush end Art Norman is the player to watch along the defensive line, after posting team-highs in sacks (7) and QB hurries (30) as a redshirt freshman a year ago.
SPECIAL TEAMS:Niklas Sade and Wil Baumann return to handle the kicking duties for NC State, as both played as freshmen a year ago. Sade was 46-of-48 on PATs and converted 11-of-16 field goal attempts with a long of 45 yards. Baumann averaged 37.5 yards on his 65 punts, placing 21 of those inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
OUTLOOK:O'Brien's plan is starting to take shape in Raleigh and like his last job at Boston College, the results could be impressive. The team should be able to match last year's win total and make it 4 bowl appearances in the last 5 years.
The bar is set pretty high right out of the gates, as a season-opening battle at the Georgia Dome against SEC power Tennessee kicks things off. The rest of the non-conference schedule isn't as daunting, as the team follows up the game with the Vols by taking on UConn, South Alabama and the Citadel.
The ACC slate is manageable, but isn't without its pitfalls. The Wolfpack open up league play at Miami-Florida, followed by a home date with ACC favorite Florida State before the bye week. The team must travel to Maryland and North Carolina coming out of the break, but finishes up with three of the last four games in Raleigh, with the lone road tilt coming in mid-November at Clemson.
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor