12 Returning Starters (6 Offense, 6 Defense)
Key Players: QB Marcus Stone, RB Andre Brown, WR John Dunlap, C Leroy
Harris, DE Willie Young, DT DeMario Pressley, DT Tank Tyler, LB LeRue Rumph, CB
A.J. Davis, SS Garland Heath
Overall View: NC State lost a lot of talented players off their 2005
team, including defensive end Mario Williams, the #1 pick in the draft.
Defensive end Manny Lawson and defensive tackle John McCargo were also taken in
the first round. Other than that, the Wolfpack are in pretty good shape.
NC State’s offensive strength is at the running back position. Their top
three rushers return from last year. They are so loaded at tailback that Darrell
Blackman, last year’s starter at the beginning of the season, has been moved
to wide receiver.
Two rising sophomores will man the tailback position this year. Andre Brown,
who led the team in rushing with 662 yards and six touchdowns, averaged 5.2
yards per carry last year. Toney Baker ran for 546 yards, five touchdowns, and
averaged 4.4 yards per carry. The Wolfpack has weapons in the backfield, but the
offensive line needs to stay healthy for them to be effective.
NC State has to get better play at quarterback. Ever since Philip Rivers
moved on to the NFL, the Wolfpack have not gotten the same type of production
from the quarterback position. Marcus Stone, a rising junior, replaced Jay Davis
halfway through last season and got some wins for the Pack, but he was far from
Stone completed just 48.7% of his passes for 1,015 yards. He threw eight
touchdown passes and six interceptions. Stone is going to have to raise his
completion percentage if NC State hopes to develop a consistent offense in 2006.
NC State should have an outstanding secondary in 2006. They return three
starters from a group that finished 26th nationally against the pass, allowing
just 191.5 yards per game. They are a very experienced group, starting two
seniors and two juniors. The secondary is also very deep, with backups Phillip
Holloman, DaJuan Morgan, J.C. Neal and Levin Neal all seeing playing time last
Cornerback A.J. Davis is the headliner of the group. He had two interceptions
and broke up seven more passes last season. Strong safety Garland Heath is an
impressive physical specimen at 6-2, 225. He had 64 tackles and led the team
with five interceptions last year.
Mario Williams and Manny Lawson will be impossible to replace at defensive
end. NC State will be fine at defensive tackle with DeMario Pressley and Tank
Tyler, but r-freshman Willie Young and senior John Amanchukwu won’t be able to
produce at the DE spots as Williams and Lawson did.
Amachukwu, a transfer from St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, has played
just eight snaps on the college level. The ordained minister will have to step
up big time, as will the r-freshman Young. Young is expected to develop into a
very good player, but he will be an inexperienced player in 2006.
NC State will play their key game on September 16 at Southern Miss. Chuck
Amato is 23-3 against out of conference opponents at NC State, with two of those
losses coming to Ohio State. If they manage to knock off Southern Miss, they
have a chance to go 4-0 out of conference. The rest of their OOC schedule
includes Appalachian State, Akron and East Carolina, all at home.
If NC State can go 4-0 out of conference, then they only need to pick up two
or three wins in ACC play to have a chance to go to a bowl game.