|Previews Thus Far|
|Atlantic Division||Coastal Division|
For a breakdown of the ACC’s football
divisions, click here.
North Carolina State Preview
Eye View: On the heels of an unexpectedly poor 5-6 season, Chuck Amato
lost arguably his top three assistants when defensive coordinator Reggie Herring
went to Arkansas, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone went to Ole Miss, and
recruiting coordinator Doc Holliday went to Florida. There are a couple of
schools of thought on the change, but overall I think the Pack will improve as
the season progresses and arguably their three toughest intradivisional games
fall in November (FSU, BC and Maryland).
Areas of Strength (offense):
New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, coming off nearly two decades of NFL
experience (his last college stop was Miami in 1984), will get to select from
four Parade all Americans at tailback: sophomores Darrell Blackman and Bobby
Washington, and freshmen Toney Baker and Andre Brown. Regardless of who wins the
job, they should have a capable replacement for T.J. McClendon. T.J. Williams is
a fine tight end. The offensive line returns three starters and should be above
average. Interior lineman Leroy Harris may be the best center in the ACC. I
really like the addition of Trestman, and by the end of the year when the
players have his system down this offense could be very good.
Areas of Concern (offense):
The passing game has questions as returning starter Jay Davis doesnï¿½t have
ideal physical tools, and Marcus Stone played poorly last fall when given the
chance. Davis should be more comfortable this year as Trestman wants to run a
west coast offense, emphasizing high percentage passes, and that should play to
his strengths. The wide receivers as a group were very highly recruited and
could surprise, but for now with the loss of Richard Washington and the knee
injury to John Dunlap this is a spot with more questions than answers. If the
spring is any indication, Brian Clark, Sterling Hicks and Lamart Barrett show
signs of joining Tramain Hall as ACC playmakers.
Areas of Strength (defense):
Welcome to the best defensive line in the ACC and perhaps the entire country.
End Mario Williams is enormous at 6ï¿½7ï¿½, 285 lbs., yet heï¿½s also a terrific
athlete. He plays the run and pass equally well and is coveted by NFL teams
because his size allows him to fit into either a 3-4 or a 4-3. Bookend Manny
Lawson is 6ï¿½5ï¿½ and a former high school sprinter who excels at getting after
the quarterback. He also projects as a high NFL draft choice. Inside John
McCargo (who blew up against VT last year) and DeMarcus ï¿½Tankï¿½ Tyler both
started and played well. Stud sophomore DeMario Pressley will provide
outstanding depth inside. The linebackers arenï¿½t as deep as they were last
year, but with Oliver Hoyte, Stephen Tulloch and Pat Lowery there is some
experience. Hoyte is the best of the bunch. All three will benefit from the
attention the front four requires.
Areas of Concern (defense):
Three starters are gone from the secondary and that means there will be a lot of
youth. Does new coordinator Steve Dunlap continue with the high risk, high
reward blitzing style employed by Herring, or play it safe until the secondary
gets acclimated? Both corners, Marcus Hudson and A.J. Davis, have talent, but
neither has proven to be a lock down defender.
Key Game: Versus Virginia
Tech. This team is going to be better in October than September, but if they can
spring the early upset at home (and at night) against an inexperienced
quarterback they could be in for a banner year. Although initially I thought the
advantage went to VT because State had two new coordinators, I am beginning to
develop my doubts. Trestman will bring a totally new package that will be
virtually impossible to prepare for, given the fact he hasnï¿½t been in the
college game for two decades, and Dunlap has more than a passing familiarity
with the VT offense after recent stints at West Virginia and Syracuse. Expect a
barn burner in the ACC opener.
Fearless Predictions: Bobby
Washington will emerge as the primary tailback option, with Toney Baker getting
a fair number of carries especially in goal line situations. The offense will be
good enough to help the Pack to an eight win season. The surprises of the year
will be the Davis boys ï¿½ Jay and A.J. will both have better than expected
seasons. Williams will declare early for the NFL draft and go in the top ten.
State will finish with three conference losses and end up in a nice bowl.