Monday, August 10, 2009

Baker shows burst for N.C. State

N.C. State senior running back Toney Baker performed better during Sunday night’s scrimmage than at any time during spring practice, coach Tom O’Brien said Monday during his media day news conference.

Baker is returning after missing almost all of the last two seasons because of a knee injury.

“He ran (Sunday) night with a little bit of burst and a little bit of power that we hadn’t seen in the spring,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien did not release individual statistics from Sunday’s scrimmage. In 2006 before the injury, Baker led N.C. State with 688 rushing yards. But he finds himself at least behind senior Jamelle Eugene now on the depth chart.

Baker also faces stiff competition from junior Curtis Underwood, redshirt freshman Brandon Barnes and freshman James Washington, according to O’Brien.

- Redshirt freshman Terrell Manning may have found a home at the boundary linebacker position.

Manning changed positions last week at the start of preseason camp. Previously he had been at field linebacker, a position that requires more pass coverage skills.

“He’s a lot more comfortable inside,” O’Brien said. “That’s where he played in high school.”

At boundary linebacker, Manning is competing with sophomore Dwayne Maddox for the position vacated by Nate Irving, who’s out indefinitely after suffering a broken leg, broken rib and collapsed lung in a June 28 car crash.

- Some intense extra work on catching the football might have paid off for wide receiver Owen Spencer.

Spencer was N.C. State’s best deep ball threat last season, with catches of 67, 61, 54, 48 and 44 yards. But he dropped about as many deep balls as he caught.

O’Brien joked that Spencer went to the hardware store and bought himself a new pair of hands. Spencer did make it through spring practice with hardly a drop, according to O’Brien.

“He spent a lot of extra time catching a lot of extra balls,” O’Brien said.

- Moments after his news conference ended, O’Brien re-entered the media room to get in a joke at the expense of quarterback Russell Wilson.

“The best thing that happened in (Sunday) night’s scrimmage is, Russell slid,” O’Brien said.

Although Wilson’s speed and rushing ability are some of his best attributes, he missed playing time on three occasions last season because of injury. As a result,
O’Brien often tells him to slide to avoid dangerous hits when necessary.

On Sunday night, O’Brien gave Wilson an ovation after the slide. After O’Brien announced it to the world Monday, Wilson walked into a room to meet with the media with a sheepish grin on his face.

- Sophomore J.R. Sweezy’s oft-changing positional assignments finally appear stabilized.

Sweezy is at defensive tackle after trying defensive end and linebacker. He made six tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage with two sacks, during Sunday’s scrimmage.

“It looks like he’s found a home in there,” O’Brien said.

- Sophomore tight end George Bryan, who’s coming off an excellent 2008 season, has been asked to shed a few pounds.

O’Brien said Bryan was over 270 pounds at the start of training camp and needs to weigh about 265.

Ken Tysiac

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