Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
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
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-
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
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
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.
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