Improving NC State looks to contend in ACC in 2012
North Carolina State has an experienced quarterback leading its
offense, an all-American anchoring its secondary and the chance to
contend for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
With 17 wins the past two seasons, N.C. State appears capable of
challenging league favorite Florida State and Clemson in the
Atlantic Division race. Sixth-year coach Tom O’Brien said this
year’s Wolfpack team has built depth and experience with 16
returning starters, who helped the team shake off some early ups
and downs to surge in the final month and close with a bowl victory
for the second straight year.
The players know the opportunity awaiting this fall, starting
against Tennessee in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta on Aug.
”As a senior class, we realize what’s at stake,” said
quarterback Mike Glennon, a fifth-year graduate student preparing
for his second full season as the starter. ”We were Coach
O’Brien’s first full recruiting class. That’s the pitch he gave to
us, that they came down from Boston College to win an ACC
championship. … That’s the mindset we’re going to use.”
The return of Glennon and cornerback David Amerson gives both
units a potential star to build around. Glennon replaced Russell
Wilson and threw for 3,054 yards and 31 touchdowns, with the 31 TDs
tied for second most in school history only to NFL first-round pick
Amerson, meanwhile, was a second-team Associated Press
all-American after setting an ACC single-season record with 13
interceptions. The junior led a secondary that finished with a
national-best 27 picks last season and returned three for
N.C. State (8-5, 4-4 ACC) battled injuries and inconsistent play
through the first half of last year, including a 44-14 loss at
Cincinnati and a 34-0 loss at Florida State. But the Wolfpack won
four of five to close the year, starting with a shutout of rival
North Carolina and including a 37-13 rout of then-No. 7 and
eventual ACC champ Clemson.
That late run also included a rally from 27 down in the second
half to beat Maryland in the regular-season finale, the biggest
comeback in school history.
”Any time you have a group of experienced guys that have seen a
lot and played a lot,” fifth year senior center Camden Wentz said,
”you try not to settle for anything less than what you’ve already
O’Brien is hoping this year’s team can stay healthy and apply
some of those experiences to fulfill some of its potential.
”I think you talk about the ACC championship as the goal and
what you set out to do when the season starts,” O’Brien said.
”But in order to do that, you have to focus on the task at hand
each and every week. … We always want that to be our goal, but we
have to be more concerned right now with getting to be a much
better football team individually so that collectively we can have
success week in and week out.”
The offense has four starters back on the offensive line to
protect Glennon and open holes for a group of halfbacks led by
senior James Washington (897 yards, seven TDs in 2011). Glennon’s
receivers are a little more unproven, with fifth-year senior Tobais
Palmer as the leading returnee with 37 catches.
On defense, Amerson is joined by safeties Earl Wolff and Brandan
Bishop, and cornerback C.J. Wilson as returning starters in the
secondary playing behind an inexperienced group of linebackers. The
defensive line also has experience with the return of Darryl
Cato-Bishop, Brian Slay and Art Norman (seven sacks as a
Cato-Bishop said the Wolfpack players won’t get ahead of
themselves thinking about their chances in the ACC.
”Of course you think about it because it’s every team’s goal in
the ACC to win the ACC championship,” he said. ”But you have to
know yourselves. If you don’t put in the work to be great or be
good, you’re not going to achieve your goals. … You’re either
getting better or getting worse.”