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April 26, 2011

Spring review: Offense gaining experience

The NC State offense generated one touchdown and a field goal in the Red team's 13-3 victory over the White in the Kay Yow Spring Game April 16 at Carter-Finley Stadium.

NCSU coach Tom O'Brien wasn't overly concerned about the offenses lack of fireworks, crediting his defense for the low scoring effort in the shortened game, which was called due to inclement weather with 4:17 left in the third quarter.

Here is a breakdown of how the offense lines up after spring.

Quarterbacks

Redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon has typically torched the NC State defense during the spring game, but not this year.

Glennon went 21 of 40 for 182 yards and two interceptions for the White team. One of the interceptions was returned 53 yards for a touchdown by redshirt junior outside linebacker Terrell Manning.

O'Brien said the defense has improved over the years to become too experienced and talented to be picked apart anymore.

"Michael Glennon wasn't going to throw for 400 yards this spring against this defense," O'Brien said. "That is because we have guys playing with experience and competing right now for a job and that makes them better.

"I think he threw the ball well. The ball is there, but he had a couple of drops and had a bounce off interception. Those things happen with guys making plays. Michael is going to be fine."

Glennon was able to get all the reps for the second straight year. Fifth-year senior quarterback Russell Wilson left to play minor league baseball for the Colorado Rockies, playing in Single-A ball in Asheville, N.C. O'Brien said Wilson would be Glennon's backup if he returned to football in August.

NCSU offensive coordinator Dana Bible, who also coaches the quarterbacks and wide receivers, said Glennon is right on schedule with his development and has done a good job of asserting himself in the leadership role.

"It's not only just the physical aspect as far as throwing the ball and those kind of things, but it also is when you are in a new role, you take on a new [aspects] and his role as a leader also changes," Bible said. "Just by and large, he is getting to where he is comfortable in the pocket, he's comfortable in the huddle and he's just comfortable."

Redshirt freshman Tyler Brosius went 11 of 17 for 95 yards and tossed the lone touchdown of the game, a one-yard pass to sophomore fullback Tyler Purvis. Fifth-year senior Daniel Imhoff also played a few series for the Red squad, going 2 of 6 for eight yards and an interception.

Running Backs/Fullbacks

The running backs position suffered a key injury prior to the spring game when sophomore Mustafa Greene went down with a foot injury that could cost him a few months this offseason.

Returning starter James Washington, a junior, and redshirt junior Brandon Barnes handled the running for the White team. Washington rushed for 47 yards on seven carries with a long of 17, and led the squad with six catches for 32 yards. He missed some parts of spring practice due to injury, but was healthy and showcasing his speed in the spring game.

Barnes, who missed last year with a dislocated ankle, rushed for nine yards on six carries, and had two catches for a yard.

Redshirt freshman Tony Creecy and 2010 spring game standout Travis Leggett, a senior, got all the carries among the backs for the Red team. Creecy rushed for 41 yards on nine carries with a long of 10, plus added one catch for eight yards. Leggett chipped in three yards on one carry, and caught a five-yard pass.

Competition for the running back spot will likely continue well into fall camp.

"It is all exciting things to view and to judge and to make evaluations from," Bible said. "I'd say that is a competitive position."

Returning senior starting fullback Taylor Gentry had three catches for 15 yards for the White team, and depth appeared to be behind him.
Purvis emerged at fullback with three catches for 45 yards and the previously mentioned touchdown reception. The walk-on from Lancaster, Pa., helped fill in for injured redshirt freshman Logan Winkles, who missed the spring with a knee injury.

Wide Receivers

The wide receivers were one of the main focuses going into the spring game, and will remain so going into fall camp. NC State's wide receivers had a few too many dropped passes and struggled to come up with big players, with just three catches over 15 yards.

"There is enough talent there. It's just a question of guys looking the ball in and guys trying to make plays too fast," O'Brien said. "The first thing is you catch the ball and then you worry about running with it or getting hit. That's a matter of experience too, and they have to look the ball in and catch it."

The tight ends, running backs and fullbacks ended up combining for 14 out of 21 catches on the White team, and eight out of 13 receptions on the Red.

"It isn't that they are brand new, but in different roles," Bible said. "They are in new roles, and that is the point right there. This is the first time they are a starter or with the first group. This is the first time they are getting significant playing time. This is the first time where you are really under pressure. That is the beauty of college football. The most predictable thing is the fact that it turns itself over."

First-string wide receivers, T.J. Graham and Jay Smith, both seniors, started for the White squad with redshirt sophomore Quintin Payton also in the mix. Graham caught three passes for 45 yards and had a 24-yard snag, and Smith added three catches for 28. Payton chipped in one catch for six yards.

Steven Howard, who like Smith is a fifth-year senior, caught two passes for 25 yards, and redshirt junior Tobais Palmer had two receptions for seven yards for the Red team. Redshirt freshman Bryan Underwood caught one pass for six yards.

"The question offensively are the guys on the perimeter catching the football," O'Brien said. "We had a few too many drops [in the spring game] for my liking."

Tight Ends

The tight ends are one of the strengths of the offense, and all four returning players caught a pass in the spring game.

Fifth-year senior George Bryan is a reigning two-time first-team All-ACC performer and caught two passes for 32 yards and a long of 30 for the White team. He also has improved his blocking and worked under new tight ends coach Don Horton this spring. Horton previously coached the offensive line at NC State.

Bryan's experience and leadership should pay off for Glennon in the fall.

"Like coach [Tom O'Brien] tells the team and tells the offense all the time, the players that have played and the players that have experience under their belt, the veteran players, that has to mean something," Bible said. "You have to play at a level where you are experienced and that is a plus for us. The young guys that aren't as experienced, they have to grow and build their own and put together their own story."

The 6-5, 265-pound Bryan has started 27 of the 38 games he has played in, accumulating 93 catches for 992 yards and 13 touchdowns in his Wolfpack career.

"He had to get thrown into the fire and ready or not, he had to produce," Bible said. "Again, that is just how it works. Are you ready? I don't think you are ever completely ready. You just jump in there with both feet and do your best."

Redshirt junior tight end Mario Carter has missed time in the past because of two knee surgeries, but had a healthy spring. The 6-4, 262-pounder caught one pass for three yards for the Red team in the spring game.
Junior Asa Watson added one catch for 23 yards for the White team, and redshirt sophomore Anthony Talbert added one catch for a yard for the Red.

Offensive Linemen

NC State shuffled its tackles this spring with redshirt junior R.J. Mattes moving from right tackle to left tackle, and backed up by redshirt freshman Tyson Chandler, who is the biggest lineman on the team at 6-6 and 340 pounds.

Fifth-year senior Mikel Overgaard remained at right tackle after contemplation of moving him to the left side. He'll be pushed by new right tackle, sophomore Rob Crisp, who started one game at left tackle last year.

The Wolfpack gave up a combined seven sacks - four against Brosius and the Red team, and three vs. Glennon and the White - during the spring game. Some of the sacks might not have occurred if live tackling on the quarterback was allowed.

The Wolfpack rushed for a combined 62 yards on 31 carries after the sacks were taken out (total yards was 106 prior to the yards lost).

"R.J. Mattes is now at left tackle and Mikel Overgaard is at right tackle, and they are doing fine," Bible said. "One of the things we have built on is that Duran Christophe played late in the season when Andrew [Wallace] was hurt, and he got thrown in [at left guard], he was ready to play and we are building on that.

"If you recall last year with Mikel, he started the season out, ready or not, and then got hurt [elbow], so he's building on half of the season. Like spring, it is always a work in progress. People at different levels are working to get better."

Christophe handled the left guard duties and redshirt junior Zach Allen returns at right guard. Junior center Camden Wentz anchors the middle.
Redshirt freshman guards Andy Jomantas and Torian Box, and fifth-year senior center Wayne Crawford, joined Crisp and Chandler in pushing the first-string players this spring.



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