Thursday, August 7, 2008

Scrimmage unveils defects in Wolfpack's line

N.C. State’s strength on offense is supposed to be its running game.

Jamelle Eugene, Andre Brown and Toney Baker are talented, experienced backs – though Baker, who tore a knee ligament in last season’s opener, is being held out of contact drills for the moment.

But when asked about the running backs following the preseason-opening practice, coach Tom O’Brien cautioned that the offensive line needs to open holes for the running game. That offensive line didn’t perform up to O’Brien’s standards in Wednesday’s opening scrimmage.

N.C. State’s lead backs – Eugene (eight carries, 22 yards) and Brown (9-36) – combined to average less than four yards per carry.

“When you look at the running stats, you’ve still got to be able to block people better to run the ball better,” O’Brien said. “That’s still a work in progress.”

O’Brien and offensive line coach Don Horton were noted for building successful lines at Boston College before coming to N.C. State after the 2006 season. They still have a lot of work to do with the current line.

Center Ted Larsen and left guard John Bedics – who could be challenged by Jake Vermiglio in camp – entered camp as starters after moving from defense in the spring. Horton likes their experience and physicality but said they still need to learn their fundamentals and assignments so they can be aggressive enough.

O’Brien cautioned that Wednesday’s scrimmage was only the first one of an unusual training camp that started early because N.C. State has a Thursday night (Aug. 28) opener at South Carolina.

“It’s the first effort out of the box,” O’Brien said. “We’re still in school. We still have to take exams Monday and Tuesday. This isn’t like a normal camp. We’re feeling our way through this right now.”

– Ken Tysiac