Monday, August 31, 2009

Meineke Bowl tickets on sale Tuesday

Tickets for the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl will go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday, bowl officials announced.

The game, which is scheduled to match an ACC team against a Big East opponent, will be played at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 26 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Tickets cost $35 for upper level seats and $65 for lower level seats. Individual tickets are available through TicketMaster (, 1-800-745-3000) and at the Carolina Panthers box office at Bank of America Stadium. Club level seats are available through the bowl offices or at

Ken Tysiac

Tar Heels depth chart for The Citadel

North Carolina released its two-deep chart for Saturday's opener against The Citadel (6 p.m.). There were few surprises but among the highlights:

• Sophomore Zach Brown will get the starting nod at weakside linebacker over freshman Kevin Reddick. Brown, the hero of timing day with a 4.28 in the 40, played primarily on special teams last season.

Reddick enrolled in January but missed spring practice with mononucleosis. Coach Butch Davis said Reddick will play significant snaps on Saturday.

• Junior Greg Little and sophomore Dwight Jones are listed as the starters at receiver, where Davis said as many as five players will see action on Saturday. Junior Johnny White and freshman Joshua Adams are listed as the backups.

Redshirt freshman Todd Harrelson, freshman Jheranie Boyd (Ashbrook High) and freshman Erik Highsmith are also in the mix.

• There's an "or" at backup quarterback between sophomore Mike Paulus and redshirt freshman Braden Hanson (Charlotte Latin). Either Paulus, who started one game last season, has lost ground or Hanson has gained ground.

There's no pre-scripted plan for either to play against The Citadel, Davis said.

• He's not on the two-deep but freshman A.J. Blue (North Gaston High) turned heads in training camp. He will likely be the third running back used, behind Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston (Butler High) and ahead of Jamal Womble. He could also be used to return kicks and, according to T.J. Yates, he has the strongest arm of anyone on the team.

• As expected redshirt freshman Jonathan Cooper will start at left guard and junior Da'Norris Searcy will start at strong safety. Cooper replaces Aaron Stahl and Searcy replaces Trimane Goddard, a pair of starters from last season. Cooper and Searcy were penciled in after the spring and held their respective spots.

• Junior walk-on Trase Jones has a unique double-duty. Jones is the holder and the backup kicker. Jones also returned punts last season. Casey Barth, a sophomore, is the only scholarship kicker on the roster with Jay Wooten's decision to transfer this summer.

-- J.P. Giglio

Pack's Young says Spurrier's calls not the key

After a preseason of guarded comments from N.C. State players and coaches, senior defensive end Willie Young provided some explosive bulletin board material for South Carolina, which visits the Wolfpack in Thursday's 7:03 p.m. season opener.

During a meeting with reporters on campus Monday afternoon, Young was asked if Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier - who's renowned as one of the most innovative minds in college football - is an offensive genius.

"No," Young said. "No. I think you can be as sophisticated as you want to. Coach (Dana) Bible (N.C. State's offensive coordinator) can be sophisticated. But if you can beat somebody with basic plays, then you can whip them. It all comes down to their individuals against our individuals. And if you have a better individual, that individual can shake and bake, probably, and break the other individual down and make a play. That's just generally speaking.

"He (Spurrier) knows his offense. Don't get me wrong. No doubt. No doubt whatsoever. And I think he's confident. But it's going to come down to individual play."

Young also was asked whether South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia's ability to get out of the pocket and run will change anything about the way Young rushes the passer.

"Until he hurts us, I'm not worried about him," Young said. "It's as simple as that. Until he starts to hurt us, he can stand back there and juke and jive all he wants to. But until he hurts us, he has no effect on my pass rush or anything I intend to do.

". . .He's not getting around (defensive end) Shea McKeen over there. And he's definitely not turning anything up the middle between (tackles Leroy) Burgess and (Alan-Michael) Cash. You can take it to the bank."

Finally, Young was asked about Gamecocks tight end Weslye Saunders' comments last week. Saunders said he was going to ask Spurrier for permission to get a 15-yard penalty for extra celebration after scoring a touchdown against the Wolfpack.

"He just talked himself into the biggest MA (missed assignment) possible," Young said. "I'll just put it like that. That leads to nothing but mistakes. I think he's trying to draw attention to himself, if what he's trying to do. Becaus I know, me and my goons, we ain't seeing it."

Ken Tysiac

Military discipline prepares Pack's C.J. Wilson

C.J. Wilson knew exactly what to expect from coach Tom O’Brien at N.C. State.

Like O’Brien, Wilson’s father – Curtis Sr. – served in the Marines.

“When we have chores around the house, when he says, ‘Do it,’ that means it needs to be done,” Wilson said. “Same thing here. When Coach O’Brien wants something done, it needs to be done right then and there. I’m used to it.”

Wilson is preparing for intense chores this week as the starting field cornerback as the Wolfpack plays host to South Carolina at 7:03 p.m. on Thursday in the season opener.

Junior DeAndre Morgan is a returning starter, but Wilson was listed as a surprise starter for the game. O’Brien wouldn’t comment when asked if Morgan is injured, and praised Wilson.
O’Brien said Wilson has done “a tremendous job” in fall camp and benefited from playing during spring practice when Wilson was sitting out with a hamstring injury.

“That gave some of those younger guys (a chance), and once again it was a blessing,” O’Brien said. “They got to play a little more, and their development speeded up. He’s done extremely well in the scrimmages, and he’s put himself in position to see what he can do on Thursday night.”

Just getting in position to be offered a scholarship by N.C. State was a big accomplishment for Wilson. He set Lincoln County High career records for total yards (5,919), rushing yards (3,941) and scoring (468 points).

But he didn’t attract much attention from recruiters because he did it at a small (Class 2A) school. Maryland was the only Football Bowl Subdivision school that offered him an early scholarship, and he said that offer was withdrawn because he was judged to be too small.

He believes he got N.C. State’s attention when he played in the state championship game in 2007 at Carter-Finley Stadium. He was named the game’s most valuable player after rushing for two touchdowns in a 28-14 defeat of South Columbus.

“I believe it helped out a lot,” Wilson said. “I believe (N.C. State’s coaches) had an idea of who I was, but being that they had the opportunity to see me play in person, that helped out a lot.”

Wilson knows that as a redshirt freshman making his first start, he’s likely to be challenged by South Carolina in the passing game. So is boundary cornerback Koyal George, a former walk-on.

But Wilson sounds confident in the military discipline from his coach – and his father – that’s gotten him this far.

“Most definitely they’re going to throw the ball against us,” Wilson said. “They are probably going to come, they are going to shoot at us first, but thanks to coaching and the game plan, we’re ready.”

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wilson gets the love; N.C. State gets the money

(Note: Raleigh News & Observer Staff Photo by Ethan Hyman)

The line stretching from the edge of the west concourse at Carter-Finley Stadium to the front of the Murphy Center was concrete evidence that the reward of a scholarship in no way properly compensates college athletes for their value to an athletic department.

On Meet the Pack Day on Saturday, N.C. State fans waited for more than an hour in the hot sun for autographs from the table where the quarterbacks, place-kickers and punters sat.

Though Josh Czajkowski is a fine kicker, they obviously weren’t there for him. “Russell Wilson,” seven-year-old Johnny Barnes Jr. of Sanford replied when asked who he was waiting to meet.

Barnes wore a jersey bearing Wilson’s number, 16, that had been purchased for him about two weeks ago. Colleges get rich off the licensing fees for these jerseys, and it’s funny how number 16 is in vogue now at N.C. State.

And how number 17 was the hot jersey when Philip Rivers wore it at N.C. State.

And how number 50 North Carolina Tar Heel basketball jerseys are everywhere in the afterglow of Tyler Hansbrough’s illustrious career.

And how number 4 Duke jerseys were the rage when J.J. Redick was setting scoring records for the Blue Devils.

Clearly fans purchase jerseys that are replicas of those worn by their favorite players. Yet those players don’t get a dime for the exploitation of their image by the colleges.

They aren’t compensated for their effect on the bottom line, either. N.C. State just announced that season tickets at Carter-Finley are sold out for the ninth straight season despite a struggling economy.

Athletic director Lee Fowler attributed that to excitement over the program’s progress under coach Tom O’Brien. But let’s give credit where credit is due, to Russell Wilson, the returning first-team All-ACC quarterback.

The line for O’Brien’s autograph was about one-third the length of the line for Wilson’s autograph. It’s unlikely N.C. State would have sold out this season if not for the excitement over Wilson.

Even 7-year-old Johnny Barnes understands Wilson’s effect on a game after attending the Bowl last season. Barnes described how N.C. State played well in the bowl game until Wilson was hurt. Without him in the second half, the Wolfpack lost a come-from-behind decision to Rutgers.

Without Wilson, the Wolfpack wasn’t close to a .500 football team last season and wouldn’t be terribly attractive to fans this season. With Wilson, seats for Thursday’s opener against South Carolina are the hottest ticket in town, and his autograph is in high demand.

Jennifer Decker, 26, of Siler City held a jersey draped over her right arm in hopes Wilson would sign on the “1” or the “6” on the back.

Gaye Clifton, Ken Clifton and their daughter Kristina of Greensboro stood in line for one hour and 20 minutes for Wilson’s autograph. And they had lined up early to wait for their opportunity.

"We considered ourselves lucky when we turned around and saw the line behind us,” Gaye Clifton said.

The Cliftons witnessed one of Wilson’s oddest signings of the day, as he held an infant in one arm and affixed his signature to the child’s tiny Wolfpack outfit. Wilson handled his duty cheerfully and used the opportunity to communicate a message.

He wrote “1 Corinthians 13” each time he signed, referencing a Bible verse on the importance of love. That was appropriate, because he certainly had to be feeling loved Saturday.

"He’s fast,” little Johnny Barnes said admiringly.

For now, though, love is all Wilson will get. N.C. State gets all the money generated by fans’ affection for the quarterback.

That's how the NCAA works.

Ken Tysiac

UNC crowd cheers Sexton to victory

RALEIGH — It was difficult to tell what made former quarterback Cameron Sexton more emotional on Saturday: leading his new Catawba team to a 25-7 victory over St. Augustine's at Broughton High School, or having more than a dozen of his former North Carolina teammates there to congratulate him afterwards.

"It's real emotional for me,'' said Sexton, a part-time starter last season who transferred during the offseason because he knew a healthy T.J. Yates would start at Carolina this season. " You get calls all week, 'we're coming, we're coming, we're coming,' but you don't really know who's coming or not. And you walk in, and half the stands are just filled with my former teammates – even Coach [Butch] Davis' son is here. All the basketball guys could be doing whatever they want to be doing, but they're my best friends, and they showed up to support me. That's why I love them, I really do love them."

Sexton completed 23 of his 40 passes with an interception and two touchdowns – the final one a 39-yard bomb to Travis Landrum. He passed for 336 yards total.

After his interview session, the first ones to hug him were basketball players Marcus Ginyard (wearing a T-shirt that read "Sex- ton Sells"), Marc Cambell (wearing a No. 11 Carolina Sexton jersey), and Deon Thompson – followed by a plethora of football players, including Yates, Kendric Burney, Quan Sturdivant, Bobby Rome and Kyle Jolly.

— Robbi Pickeral

Friday, August 28, 2009

Freshman to play key positions at Duke

Duke released its depth chart for the start of the 2009 season on Friday and there were few surprises, with senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and senior linebacker Vincent Rey locked into starting roles.

Throughout training camp, Duke second-year coach David Cutcliffe has said a lack of depth will require freshmen to contribute this season in key positions. With the release of the depth chart, the Blue Devils have six true freshmen slated among the top reserves, along with five red-shirt freshmen.

Among the newcomers, the Devils have three true freshmen listed as linebackers, a position they recruited for this season because of the expected lack of depth.

Freshmen linebackers Austin Gamble, August Campbell and Tyree Glover have been named to reserve roles.

On offense, freshman wide receiver Connor Varner was named as the first or second receiver behind Austin Kelly, meaning the newcomer could start in the season-opener on Sept. 5 against Richmond.

Freshman wide receiver Tyree Watkins, who was impressive in several scrimmages with his speed and physical play, was named as a backup behind Johnny Williams.

Durham Hillside freshman Desmond Scott was not placed on the two-deep roster.

Junior kickers Nick Maggio and Will Snyderwine were both named as starting kicker, meaning the actual starter will be left to coaches on game day.

-- Edward G. Robinson III

Tom O'Brien news conference highlights

Some highlights from N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien’s news conference as the Wolfpack prepares to play host to South Carolina at 7:03 p.m. Thursday at Carter-Finley Stadium:

- Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia has been on O’Brien’s radar since he was a high school player and O’Brien was at Boston College. Garcia’s brothers, Brian and Gary, played at Harvard.

“He’s very athletic, strong armed, can pull the ball down and run with it,” O’Brien said. “He can do a lot of different things with the football. So you’ve got to be alert for him. You’ve got to contain him and keep him in the pocket, not let him out of the pocket. You’ve got to be aware that he’s just as liable to pull it down as he is to throw it 60 yards down the field.”

- Place-kicker Josh Czajkowski, who made 16 field goals in 19 attempts last season, has bounced back after a shaky first scrimmage.

“He’s kicked the ball well,” O’Brien said. “He’s done extremely well in practice. I think from that point the next three scrimmages he might have missed one field goal. So he’s been very good for us.”

- Although sophomore Dwayne Maddox will start against the Gamecocks at boundary linebacker, redshirt freshman Terrell Manning will play a lot, too.

They are trying to replace Nate Irving, the defensive standout who is out for the season because of injuries suffered in a June 28 car crash.

“It’s an opportunity for both of them,” O’Brien said. “They’re both going to get in the game and play. We have to see how Manning does in game situations, so how many snaps he gets, I don’t know. But he’s certainly going to play a good portion of the football game.”

- Redshirt freshman C.J. Wilson, who has replaced junior returning starter DeAndre Morgan atop the depth chart at field cornerback, has done a “tremendous” job in camp, according to O’Brien.

“In spring practice, when we were down, Morgan was out with a hamstring there in spring, that gave some of those younger guys, and once again it was a blessing,” O’Brien said. “They got to play a little more, and their development speeded up. He’s done extremely well in the scrimmages, and he’s put himself in position to see what he can do on Thursday night.”

O’Brien declined to say whether Morgan is injured. N.C. State isn’t required to release an injury report for the game until Tuesday.

Ken Tysiac

O'Brien: Baker's resurgence lifts Pack backfield

Toney Baker’s determined, two-year rehabilitation from a knee injury has resulted in a position atop N.C. State’s depth chart at running back.

Coach Tom O’Brien released the depth chart Friday before his news conference to preview Thursday’s season opener against South Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Baker hasn’t played since suffering a serious injury to his right knee during the 2007 season opener against Central Florida. Doctors told him there was a 50 percent chance that he would never play football again.

He returned to practice this spring and was listed at No. 2 on the depth chart entering the fall behind fellow senior Jamelle Eugene.

“He spent a lot of extra time in the training room, spent a lot of time in the strength and conditioning area to get himself back into this position,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said Baker and Eugene, who has 1,168 career rushing yards and is an excellent receiver, will alternate in the backfield in a fashion similar to how Eugene and Andre Brown split time last season.

“It’s a good position to be in to have backs of that caliber, and they’ll share time,” O’Brien said. “I don’t know if you can say one is the starter and one is the backup, because they’re the same.”

Mattes gets start. Redshirt freshman R.J. Mattes of Concord has moved ahead of senior Andy Barbee into the starting spot at right guard, which was the only unsettled spot on the offensive line.

Mattes’ father, Ronald, played at Virginia in the 1980s while O’Brien was on George Welsh’s staff there.

“(His) Dad was the big, tough, physical guy, and I think certainly R.J. fits into that category,” O’Brien said.

Other positions of note:

- Junior Jeff Ruiz held off freshman Chris Ward to earn the start at punter.

- Sophomore Dwayne Maddox will start ahead of redshirt freshman Terrell Manning at the boundary linebacker spot vacated by injured Nate Irving.

- Redshirt freshman C.J. Wilson is a surprise starter at field cornerback over junior DeAndre Morgan, who had been praised by teammates as the leader of an inexperienced secondary. O’Brien was asked if Morgan is hurt, but said he wouldn’t comment until Tuesday, when he will release the injury report for the game.

Kickoff set for 7:03 p.m. At the urging of sports information director Annabelle Myers, O’Brien emphasized that kickoff for Thursday’s game is scheduled for 7:03 p.m.
Some confusion has been created because of schedule cards that were printed using an inaccurate kickoff time.

Fan Day Saturday. N.C. State players will meet fans and sign autographs from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29 at the annual “Meet the Pack Day” at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Admission is free, but fans are asked to bring donations of school supplies for area at-risk students. All stadium lots will be available for free public parking, and fans can enter at Gates 2-4 and 8-9.

Follow me on Twitter @kentysiac

Ken Tysiac

Baker tops Pack depth chart at RB

Senior Toney Baker, who has missed all but one game of the past two seasons because of a knee injury, is atop the N.C. State depth chart handed out Friday before coach Tom O'Brien's news conference.

Jamelle Eugene, another senior, who started the fall top the depth chart, is listed as the second-team back.

Elsewhere on the depth chart, redshirt freshman R.J. Mattes is listed as the starter at right offensive guard ahead of senior Andy Barbee; Dwayne Maddox is starting ahead of Terrell Manning at the boundary linebacker position where injured Nate Irving played; and junior Jeff Ruiz is listed ahead of freshman Chris Ward at punter.

Redshirt freshman C.J. Wilson is listed ahead of junior returning starter DeAndre Morgan at field cornerback.

The Wolfpack opens the season Sept. 3 at home against South Carolina.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ritcher wins Legends Award

Former N.C. State player Jim Ritcher, the first center to win the Outland Trophy, has been named the 2009 recipient of the President Gerald B. Ford Legends Award.

The award will be presented during the annual Rimington Trophy presentation on Jan. 16 in Lincoln, Neb.

Candidates for the award must have played center at the college or professional level, made extraordinary contributions to his team during his football career, or have proven to be an exemplary citizen, philanthropist or leader in the business or football community.

A two-time All-American, Ritcher played 16 years in the NFL and serves as a flight instructor and pilot for American Airlines. He is one of three former N.C. State players in the college football hall of fame. His son John played tight end for N.C. State from 2002-05, and son Harrison is a fullback on the current team.

"I am blessed and truly honored," Ritcher said of receiving the award in a statement released by the school.

Ken Tysiac

Pack announces that season tickets are sold out

N.C. State football remains a hot ticket, even during an economic recession.

Season tickets for N.C. State games are sold out for the ninth straight year, according to an announcement today by Brian Kelly, the school's assistant athletics director for ticket operations.

But a limited number of single-game tickets remain on sale. Tickets for the Murray State, Gardner-Webb and Duke games remain available. A few "Rivalry Packages," which include seats for the Duke and North Carolina games for $93, also remain.

Athletics director Lee Fowler said N.C. State's improvement under third-year coach Tom O'Brien has kept the team popular among fans.

"Even in a difficult economic climate, our fans continue to show how deveoted they are to Wolfpack football and how excited they re about the coming season," Fowler said. "I know it means a lot to Coach O'Brien and his team that they will again be playing in a packed Carter-Finley Stadium."

-- Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gamecocks' Saunders incites N.C. State

Former Durham Riverside player Weslye Saunders has provided the first obvious bulletin board material for N.C. State's Sept. 3 season opener against South Carolina.

Saunders, who plays tight end for South Carolina, talked to The (Columbia) State Newspaper and others after practice Tuesday.

"I'm going to talk to Coach (Steve) Spurrier beforehand and see if he's OK if I get a 15-yard penalty," Saunders said. "Because I'm gonna do some sort of extra celebration if I get a touchdown on the Wolfpack."

A junior, Saunders is moving into a more prominent role with the Gamecocks following 2008 starter Jared Cook's early departure for the NFL draft. Saunders, who caught 16 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns last season, is the only experienced tight end on the team.

If that hasn't gotten N.C. State's attention, his comments Tuesday certainly will.

Ken Tysiac

Ex-Pack QB Burke named Louisville starter

Justin Burke's return to his home state has been a success on the football field.

Burke had competed for the N.C. State starting quarterback job in two straight preseasons without success before transferring to Louisville. On Tuesday night, Burke was named the starter over Adam Froman, Louisville assistant sports information director Rocco Gasparro confirmed.

A former Gatorade Player of the Year in his home state, where he played for Lexington Catholic High, Burke will start in the Big East, just a one-hour drive from his home.
During a telephone conversation last week, Burke expressed gratitude for his time at N.C. State.

"I learned a ton when I was down there," he said.

Transferring players often leave a lot of bad feelings in their wake, but a lot of people at N.C. State are rooting for Burke because of the way he handled himself and his exit from the school last fall. He already has his bachelor's degree in accounting as a junior and plans to get a master's degree by the time he finishes with college football.

Burke would have been stuck behind two younger players on N.C. State's roster, Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon, with little chance of ever starting. The Wolfpack would have been better off with Burke as its third-team quarterback than walk-on Daniel Imhoff, but it wouldn't have been fair to expect Burke to stick around when he had a realistic chance of starting for another BCS program.

When asked about Burke, N.C. State offensive coordinator Dana Bible said the difficult thing for quarterbacks is that only one of them plays. Or in the Wolfpack's case, a second quarterback (Glennon this season) might play an extremely limited role.

The positive thing for N.C. State is that a quarterback who probably would have been third-team for the Wolfpack can start at a school that won the Orange Bowl just three seasons ago. That demonstrates that N.C. State is piling up talent in its program.

In Burke's case, it was too much talent to stick around waiting for a chance that might never have come.

Ken Tysiac

ESPN's Palmer: Pack-SC 'different' in '09

ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer made his Thursday night broadcasting debut last season during South Carolina’s 34-0 defeat of N.C. State in Columbia.

Palmer, who will work the teams’ rematch on Sept. 3 in Raleigh, shared his pre-game thoughts in a telephone interview this week:

On the significance of last season’s rout: "Last year, both these teams met in the first game of the season and it was certainly very one-sided in favor of South Carolina. This year, I think, is different because the game is at N.C. State. I think you look at the way Tom O’Brien’s team played down the stretch last year. Even though they lost to Rutgers in the Bowl, this team really matured down the stretch. And looking back on last year if you had told me after that South Carolina game that Russell Wilson was going to be offensive rookie of the year and throw 17 touchdowns and only one interception, I probably would have told you, you were crazy. But you look at the way he developed down the stretch, it was so impressive. And there are so many playmakers on that side of the football.”

On the N.C. State skill players who complement QB Russell Wilson: "Jamelle Eugene, I know is a guy they’re very excited about. Toney Baker is back healthy at running back and Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer were two guys at receiver that came on down the stretch. George Bryan was a guy they found out was a good player midway through the season. So I’m really excited. I think this N.C. State team, I don’t know that they’re necessarily going to creep up on anybody this year because of the way they finished down the stretch and winning games against Wake Forest, UNC and Miami."

On the Gamecocks: "South Carolina, we know about the athleticism and the speed. I think the big question offensively is two things. One, Stephen Garcia and his ability to really take control of Spurrier’s offense and make plays. There were a lot of turnovers last year from the quarterback position, and that’s something that really needs to get shored up on that side of the football or it’s just going to be another so-so year at South Carolina. They were last in the SEC at running the football, so they have to get more physical up front. And they have to be willing to do that. I think defensively, we’ve seen the last couple years South Carolina has been good on defense. Under Ellis Johnson, the defensive coordinator, we expect them to be good again on that side of the football."

On N.C. State’s outlook for the season: "This is a completely different N.C. State team this year. Now they started off very slowly last year, but that was because they had a lot of inexperience. I’m really excited to see if Tom O’Brien’s unit can get off to a quick start and hit the ground running. Because who knows what can happen? The ACC in a lot of people’s minds is an up-for-grabs conference, so I’m really excited about this first game."

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pack's Carter out for season

N.C. State tight end Mario Carter is out for the season with a knee injury, school sports information director Annabelle Myers said Tuesday.

Carter, a redshirt freshman, also missed his senior season at Charlotte's Independence High after suffering a knee injury in a preseason scrimmage. He was the No. 3 tight end on the depth chart behind George Bryan and Matt Kushner.

Ken Tysiac

Russell Wilson Q&A: 'I'm never afraid'

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson held his weekly news conference on Tuesday morning. Here are excerpts from his conversation with reporters:

Q: What kind of changes and things have you done since the beginning of bowl practice through the spring just to recognize when the right time to take off and when the right time to stay in the pocket is?
A: A lot of it is just understanding the offense, feeling more comfortable with the offense. I’m more comfortable with the wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, offensive line. Just getting that experience helps. I want to be the best quarterback I can. I want to be the best quarterback in the ACC, I want to be the best quarterback in the nation every time I step on the field. And I definitely want to be the best quarterback on the field that day. If that’s sitting back in the pocket all day or getting out to run, I will do that.

Q: What are some specific areas where you see yourself stepping up to lead outside of practice and things like that?
A: A lot of it starts with off-the-field stuff. Doing well in school. Trying to stay as organized as possible. Trying to make sure you’re at meetings on time. All that stuff really matters when it comes to winning games and working hard on the practice field. Everybody has that mind set, and I’ll always push people and always push myself. The first thing you have to do is always push yourself.

Q: When you have success as a freshman, people expect greater success, for you to top that as a sophomore, a junior or a senior. Have you talked with Coach (Tom) O’Brien or other people about how you go about not letting either self-imposed or outside pressure affect what you do?
A: No matter what you do, either good or bad, there’s always going to be critics or people who think you’re better than you actually are. I have to recognize how good I am and how bad I am. I have to know that every time I step on the field, or if I’m in the film room, if I’m just at home thinking about which play I’m going to run, I have to really visualize it and get better at it.

Q: Do you pay attention to that outside stuff or what people think?
A: It goes in one ear and out the other. You have just have to be honest with yourself and get better every time you step on the field.

Q: Looking back on last year, is there a highlight game or a highlight play that sticks out to you?
A: I think throwing my first touchdown, that was against ECU I believe, was definitely exciting. Coming back from where we were at one point during the season when we weren’t winning games but we were so close – you’re so close, but you lose, that was a tough feeling to have. Especially when you know you have a good team and the rest of the guys are working hard. But then coming over that hump and over that adversity and Coach O’Brien truly helping us and continuing to push us and believing in us, and the rest of his staff, that truly was the most exciting point to me.

Q: Your health is obviously very important to this team. How important is it to you to stay healthy and not be afraid of getting hurt?
A: I’m never afraid. I’m never afraid of doing certain things or trying to play to the best level I can. I’m definitely excited about this season. I’m going to be smart. If I need to get down, I’m going to get down. I think a lot of that is also watching film and understanding certain situations where I could have gotten down earlier, or understanding where I am in the game. That’s just maturing and more experience, and understanding the game.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, August 24, 2009

O'Brien aware of Gamecocks' woes

The suspension of end Clifton Geathers could leave South Carolina without two key players on the defensive line when the Gamecocks visit N.C. State on Sept. 3 for the season opener.

Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien admits he is keeping tabs on the Gamecocks' personnel even though the game is more than a week away.

Geathers was arrested for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness following an incident early Sunday morning, according to The (Columbia) State Newspaper.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier suspended Geathers indefinitely, until he ascertains that all the facts of the matter have come in. Defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye already is serving a three-game suspension stemming from an arrest for marijuana possession, The State reported.

O'Brien said Sunday night that his staff reads articles about N.C. State's opponents when possible. He said he was aware of one South Carolina being suspended.

But if he thinks it gives the Wolfpack a better chance of winning, he's not letting on.

"I do know, I've read that they say it's the best team they've ever had," O'Brien said. "So we'd better be ready to go."

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, August 23, 2009

ECU's 'Rock' hasn't missed a lick

It's not been an easy August for the guy often referred to as the "Rock" of the ECU football coaching staff.

Defensive line coach Thomas "Rock" Roggeman, beginning his fifth season on the staff, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in preseason and is undergoing treatment at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center at the ECU Medical School as the Pirates prepare for their Sept. 5 opening game against Appalachian State.

"Rock – being Rock – says his situation "just isn't that big a deal," defensive coordinator Greg Hudson said. "And it's for sure, the [chemotherapy treatment] has had absolutely zero impact on his voice volume. He's a battler in the finest Notre Dame tradition. You know he's out there pushing his guys to improve day after day."

Roggeman, 46, was an Irish player in the mid 1980s and worked under former Notre Dame head coaches Gerry Faust and Lou Holtz.

At ECU, Roggeman has been instrumental in the development of several standout players, including current preseason all-star candidates Van Eskridge and C.J. Wilson. The Pirate defensive line in 2008 was generally rated as the best in Conference USA.

"Those guys have a special bond with Rock," Hudson said. "When he has to go in for treatment, they go over to the med center to get in a little reverse coaching on him. It's an unusual dynamic to be around. Those guys care about each over."

Hudson said Roggeman has missed virtually no coaching time and that the defensive line has been consistently graded out well in preseason drills.

"No one has missed the first lick," Hudson said. -- Caulton Tudor

Lewis, Scott shine in Duke scrimmage

DURHAM - Despite the slow start from the offense during Saturday's 65-play scrimmage, the Duke football team show some signs of improvements, particularly in the passing game where senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis returned to top speed.

Duke second year coach David Cutcliffe, who prefers to critique scrimmages after viewing film, remained mostly positive about the scrimmage at Wallace Wade Stadium.

The scrimmage provided the coaching staff a chance to mostly evaluate the depth of second and third string players, although the first team players were mixed into the action. Cutcliffe will announced his two-deep roster later this week.

"There were some nice plays made offensively and some big hits and nice plays made defensively," he said.

Lewis, red-shirt freshman Sean Renfree and Sean Schroeder completed 25 of 39 passes for 240 yards, while redshirt sophomore running back Cameron Jones rushed three times for 49 yards and sophomore running back Jay Hollingsworth rushed four times for 28 yards and a one-yard touchdown.

Freshman Conner Vernon had three catches for 42 yards and continued to look impressive with his speed and ability to run sharp routes.

Freshman running back Desmond Scott, a graduate of Durham Hillside High, had four carries for 25 yards and six receptions for 39 yards.

The highly-touted freshmen showed a comfort level with the offense that he did not have in the first scrimmage a week ago. Freshman are not allow to speak with the media.

"Desmond was busy, and was good," Cutcliffe said. "He was more consistent than he's been and looked comfortable with his assignments."

Duke senior linebacker Vincent Rey left the scrimmage with what Cutcliffe called a "minor ankle sprain." He was not certain about the severity of the injury or how long it could sideline Rey.

Also, sophomore wide receiver Johnny Williams injured his leg, though Cutcliffe was not certain about the details of the injury.

Behind an offensive line that provided time, Lewis completed 7 of 12 passes for 86 yards. Renfree completed 11 of 18 passes for 93 yards, while Schroeder completed 7 of 9 for 61 yards and a touchdown and an interception plucked by redshirt sophomore Colin Jones. -- Edward G. Robinson

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Four ACC teams in AP poll

Virginia Tech is the highest-ranked ACC team in the preseason AP Top 25, released today. The Hokies are No. 7, followed by Georgia Tech (15), Florida State (18) and UNC (21).

Curious, the two voters (me and Jeff Gravley) who see UNC the most, don't have the Tar Heels in the top 25.

N.C. State and ECU were among the "others receiving votes."

And to answer your question, Ray Ratto, the San Francisco Chronicle columnist, is responsible for all nine of Boston College's points. He ranked BC No. 17.

Florida was the near-unanimous No. 1 choice with Texas receiving two first-place votes (one from me). -- J.P. Giglio

J.P.'s Top 25

AP Top 25

1. Florida (58)

2. Texas (2)

3. Oklahoma

4. USC

5. Alabama

6. Ohio State

7. Virginia Tech

8. Ole Miss

9. Penn State

10. Oklahoma State

11. LSU

12. Cal

13. Georgia

14. Boise State

15. Georgia Tech

16. Oregon

17. TCU

18. FSU

19. Utah

20. BYU

21. UNC

22. Iowa

23. Notre Dame

24. Nebraska

25. Kansas

Others receiving votes: Oregon State 122, Illinois 105, Pittsburgh 103, Michigan State 100, Rutgers 83, Texas Tech 76, West Virginia 57, Cincinnati 44, Clemson 42, Miami 40, ECU 30, Tennessee 15, Arizona 13, N.C. State 10, Boston College 9, UCLA 7, Auburn 7, Central Michigan 7, Northwestern 5, Southern Miss 3, Vanderbilt 3, Missouri 3, South Florida 3, South Carolina 2, Tulsa 1, Troy 1, Arkansas 1, Houston 1, Nevada 1.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hotel stays for home football teams scrutinized

A Pac-10 proposal designed to save athletic departments tens of thousands of dollars each football season is bound to encounter resistance from coaches.

The NCAA’s Division I Legislative Council has been asked to vote on banning schools from housing their football teams in hotel rooms on the night before a home game, the NCAA News reports.

Public records obtained by The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer show that N.C. State, for example, spent $85,923.79 in 2008 to take its team to a hotel on the nights before home games.

Also in 2008, Clemson paid $111,654.39, including $47,230 just to transport its team back and forth from the hotel in nearby Anderson, S.C. East Carolina spent $29,020.55 and South Carolina spent $70,474. Figures from North Carolina were not immediately available.

But aside from Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, who suggested eliminating them, coaches strongly favor Friday night hotel stays before home games. They say it’s difficult for players to get a good night’s sleep on a Friday night because neighbors in their dormitories or apartments can be extremely loud.

“When you put them in a dorm and ask them to live on campus on a Friday night of a home football game, that’s not exactly the environment to get eight, 10 hours of sleep,” East Carolina coach Skip Holtz said Monday. “Everybody else gets to sleep in until noon and wake up and start tailgating again and go to the game. The players have to be in the meeting at 8 o’clock.”
Stay tuned.

Ken Tysiac

Heels' special teams, 'Tweetgate' and more

North Carolina's special teams have taken a big hit, Duke has been feeling ill and N.C. State's tweeting has become more benign.

Here are some points to ponder as college football training camps arrive near their midpoints:

- The loss of Matt Merletti was a difficult blow for North Carolina. And not just at nickel back.

Merletti was one of the Tar Heels' best all-around special teams players on a team that comes into the season with few concerns other than special teams.

Couple Merletti's season-ending injury with the less serious knee sprain of Ryan Taylor and you've got two of North Carolina's best special teams players hurting. This isn't disastrous, but it sure doesn't help.

- Going through a bout with H1N1 flu during training camp certainly hasn't been pleasant for Duke.

But it may be better to have it happen during the preseason than the regular season. There's a real concern on the part of school officials and athletics training staffs that this virus is set to hit a lot more places this fall. A significant outbreak during the regular season could be a huge setback for any team.

- "Tweetgate" appears to have come to an end at N.C. State.

Texted highlights of the Wolfpack's second scrimmage were posted on the team's official Twitter page earlier this preseason while the scrimmage was closed to the media. There were no such posts after the third scrimmage Tuesday.

If coach Tom O'Brien doesn't want certain information becoming public, here's guessing it's kept under wraps for the remainder of the preseason.

- Ben Hartman's hip injury, which has prevented him from practicing, is a concern at East Carolina because he's one of the best clutch kickers in football with four last-play game winners in his career.

But with East Carolina's stout defense returning nine starters and the offense getting set to open back up again with senior Patrick Pinkney at quarterback, the Pirates may not need many last-minute winning kicks this season.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Heels' Merletti out for season

Matt Merletti, who was a key member of North Carolina's special teams and was competing for playing time at safety, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during practice Tuesday afternoon, the school announced.

Merletti is out for the season. In 2008 he was a co-captain on special teams, an honor given to players based on a point system. He made 11 tackles last season and made two fumble recoveries - one in the end zone for a touchdown against Connecticut.

Ken Tysiac

Q&A with Dick Sheridan

Former N.C. State coach Dick Sheridan attended the Wolfpack's scrimmage Tuesday night after visiting with senior associate athletics director David Horning, who is recovering from a brain aneurysm.

Here are excerpts from a Q&A Sheridan did with reporters after the scrimmage, including a revelation about what he's been asked to do before the Wolfpack's regular season finale against North Carolina:

Q: You came out to see David. Can you talk about what he means to you?

A: David Horning was a member of our staff the entire time I was at N.C. State. He's just a first-class individual and we'd been really alarmed and worried about him as he's been through this ordeal, but this is the first chance I've had to see him. . . .David is a special person to me, and I think he's done as well as he has because of how tough and strong he is.

Q: Coach, how much fun is it for you and how much pride do you have being around the red and white and on the sidelines?

A: It's very enjoyable to me. I have a lot of respect for Coach (Tom) O'Brien and his staff. I like watching them work and the pace and tempo of practice and the teaching that's going on. They're doing a fantastic job in my opinion and I have a lot of respect for them.

Q: Obviously you have some special pride, though, being back around the program a little bit?

A: Oh yeah. Hopefully I'll always feel a part of it. I feel like I'm in another place with these facilities. It's beautiful what they've done with these facilities, and I just think there's a lot of good things ahead for N.C. State.

Q: Do you think the ACC as a conference gets a bad rap? From a national perspective it's kind of a down conference. From your perspective what do you see?

A: I don't think it does any good to complain. It is what it is, and I think you get what you earn and what you deserve. The conference is stronger than most observers think, and I think the only way to change that is when you have interleague play between the conferences. The ACC has a great chance to go out and beat some of the people on the schedules that are in the SEC, for example. And I think they'll do it.

Q: Do you plan to come back and speak to the team at some point?

A: Well, they don't know who I am and they don't care (laughing). It would be an honor to come back and do that. . . .I've been invited to toss the coin before the North Carolina game. I guess they felt like we had some good luck against the Tar Heels. Maybe I can bring a little luck.

Q: What do you think of that game as the last game (on the schedule)?

A: I think it's great. I think it's something fans look forward to no matter what's happened prior to that. There's going to be a big turnout, a lot of interest and great competition between two great schools and programs.

Ken Tysiac

N.C. State's Carter injures knee

N.C. State tight end Mario Carter will have knee surgery this week and will miss at least the season opener against South Carolina, coach Tom O’Brien said Tuesday.

Carter, a redshirt freshman, was third on the depth chart behind George Bryan and Matt Kushner. Carter also missed his senior season at Charlotte Independence High because of a knee injury.

O’Brien also announced that freshman offensive lineman Denzelle Good will miss the season after reinjuring his shoulder. O’Brien said it was likely Good would have redshirted even if he had been healthy.

Byers tops scrimmage stats. Safety and Vance High graduate Justin Byers, with two of the team’s three interceptions, was one of the standouts of Tuesday night’s scrimmage.

Audi Augustin made two tackles for loss and blocked a field goal attempt, and Terrell Manning blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown.

Chris Ward punted four times for an average of 42 yards, and Josh Czajkowski made a 37-yard field goal but missed a 43-yard kick. Linebacker Audie Cole led the team with nine tackles.

Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon combined to go 20-for-40 for 232 yards with one touchdown pass. DeAndre Morgan had the other interception for the defense.

O'Brien extends hand. O’Brien plans to have his team participate in a pregame handshake with South Carolina before the Sept. 3 opener if Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier agrees.

In order to promote sportsmanship, the American Football Coaches Association and NCAA are urging schools to hold a pregame handshake for their entire teams on the opening week of the season.

“Seeing where I’m on the ethics committee and that’s where it came from, we’ll do it,” O’Brien said. “. . .I haven’t talked to South Carolina, but we’ll line up before the game and see if they do, and shake hands.”

Ken Tysiac

UNC recruit Tate signs with Padres

The Donavan Tate story was interesting while it lasted at North Carolina.

Tate, the No. 3 overall pick in the major league baseball draft in June, has signed with the San Diego Padres. He had reported to preseason camp as a freshman quarterback for the Tar Heels, but left after spending just a few days in Chapel Hill.

The Associated Press reported that Tate's deal is worth $6.25 million and quoted Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson as saying he knew all along that football was not where his heart was.

Was Tate using football as a bargaining chip? If that's the case, why would North Carolina coach Butch Davis allow him into camp?

That's an easy call. There's always a sliver of a chance a player will come to campus and develop a camaraderie with his teammates that will cause him to decide to join your team.

Better still, getting Tate into camp should provide at least a small benefit for North Carolina in recruiting. It reinforces Davis' reputation as a coach who is recruiting all kinds of high-profile athletes to the Tar Heels. If that got the attention of even one high-caliber recruit anywhere in the United States, the exercise was worthwhile for Davis and North Carolina.

Ken Tysiac

Plucky Paulus named QB starter at Syracuse

Once again, Greg Paulus has proven he should never be underestimated.

On Monday night, coach Doug Marrone named Paulus the starting quarterback at Syracuse. Paulus, who took a four-year hiatus from football while playing point guard for Duke, beat out sophomore Ryan Nassib, senior Cam Dantley and freshman Charley Loeb to earn the position.

At Duke, Paulus proved not to be as athletic as some had thought after he was named the 2004 Gatorade National Player of the Year in football. He couldn’t move his feet fast enough to stop ultra-quick opposing point guards from penetrating, so he was a liability defensively.

But what he lacked in pure ability, he made up for with hard work and savvy. He wasn’t an outstanding perimeter shooter when he entered Duke, but emerged into a dangerous 3-point threat. When the Blue Devils defeated No. 3-ranked North Carolina in 2008 at the Smith Center in one of the biggest games of his junior season, Paulus’ 6-for-8 performance from 3-point range was the difference.

Paulus also found other ways to beat people. He flopped to draw offensive fouls on his opponents, chased loose balls out of bounds and was the first player to the floor when an opponent lost control of the ball.

When Paulus was quarterbacking his high school team at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, his coach had to leave the locker room to find a pump for his footballs before the state Class AA championship game. The coach, Joe Casamento, returned to find his players in tears.

While Casamento was gone, Paulus had told each player on the team what they meant to him. Fired up beyond belief, CBA stormed out of the locker room and won the state title over a New Rochelle team led by a superb running back named Ray Rice, who’s now in his second year with the Baltimore Ravens.

Even if Paulus isn’t the most athletic in college football, that kind of leadership makes him special and gives him an incredible one-year opportunity to start at quarterback in his hometown.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tragedy strikes Pack again

The story Edrick Smith’s former teammates love to tell about him occurred on a brutally hot day at practice in the fall of 2000.

Smith, who played linebacker for N.C. State, had a slight equipment malfunction at practice. His helmet needed adjusting, and while N.C. State’s training staff worked to fix it, Smith got comfortable in the shade and smiled at his sweating teammates.

They teased him about it later, but he had a snappy comeback.

“I was just trying to save my legs for 11 on 11,” Smith said, according to teammate Dantonio Burnette.

Smith was the guy who was always laughing, and telling jokes about beloved assistant coach Joe Pate and others, whenever N.C. State’s players got together for a reunion.

Now his former teammates are trying to come to grips with the idea that he’s gone.

The Wolfpack defense from the late 1990s and 2000 has lost two players in six months. Former defensive end Corey Smith died in March when he was in a boat that capsized in rough seas off the coast of Florida near Tampa.

On Sunday, Edrick Smith died in Charlotte when he was in the back seat of a Honda Accord that was split in two in a collision with a Chevy Camaro on North Tryon Street, according to police.

The driver of the Camaro, Hugo Fernando Rosillo, 30, was tracked down by police after fleeing the scene and charged with second-degree murder, felony hit and run, and drunk driving, police said.

Smith was 29 and is survived by wife Karisa and three children.

Burnette was one of his best friends. They roomed together on the road and played the same position, middle linebacker.

Smith was a year older than Burnette and took him under his wing after making 94 tackles in 1998 in an impressive freshman season. But Smith tore two knee ligaments in the 1999 season opener.

The injury created an opening for Burnette, who took the opportunity and ran with it. He became a first-team All-ACC selection in 2002 and ranks second in school history in career tackles with 476.

When Smith returned from the injury, the two players figured it would be an opportunity for N.C. State to have two great middle linebackers, but Smith was never the same after the injury. Despite that, Smith worked out with Burnette and didn’t hold a grudge.

“We still were great friends,” Burnette said.

Burnette now is an assistant strength and conditioning coach for N.C. State and was at work Sunday when word about Smith began spreading. Burnette began searching the Internet for information and found nothing at first.

“It’s got to be somebody else,” Burnette kept telling himself.

But it wasn’t. And now the phrase “11 on 11” may always have a melancholy tone for a certain group of former N.C. State players.

“He was always the life of the group,” Burnette said, “and he will be missed by a lot of people.”

Ken Tysiac

Friday, August 14, 2009

Twitter says...Wilson for two TDs

For reasons coach Tom O'Brien hasn't explained, he isn't releasing individual statistics for offense to the media after N.C. State's scrimmages.

After Thursday's scrimmage, for example, O'Brien said quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon combined to go 23-for-40 for 198 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception.

The state secrets are out, though, on N.C. State's twitter page:

Chad Jamison, N.C. State's director of high school relations, sends out the "tweets" for N.C. State's twitter page. He is allowed into the Wolfpack's scrimmages, whereas members of the media are not.

Two of Jamison's tweets Thursday were:

"Russell Wilson throw to Darrell Davis into the endzone for a diving TD catch."
"and then Wilson takes advantage with another TD throw to Spencer."

(That's Owen Spencer, of course).

So the mystery of N.C. State's touchdown passes, at least, has been solved.

N.C. State sports information director Annabelle Myers said O'Brien isn't releasing individual statistics because they can falsely inflate expectations for players if they're good and create unnecessary pressure on players if they're bad.

Statistics also can be misleading because they're sometimes situational. For instance, a back's rushing numbers can be seriously deflated (and his touchdowns inflated) if he spends half of his carries working in a goal line situation where he can gain 1 yard at the most.

"Scrimmage stats don't tell the whole story," Myers said.

Myers said she thinks O'Brien also likes to keep some things secret in order to generate more interest. How well is Toney Baker doing? Are Spencer and Davis catching all the passes, or is T.J. Graham making big plays, too?

O'Brien might just prefer that fans (and perhaps opposing coaches) don't find out until the Sept. 3 opener against South Carolina.

"I think he enjoys getting everybody's appetite whetted," Myers said.

The extra information on the twitter page removes just a bit of that mystery.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

O'Brien explains transfer's troubled past

While describing N.C. State’s background check on Michael Lemon, coach Tom O’Brien explained the history of the defensive end who is expected to begin practice with the Wolfpack on Friday.

Lemon, a defensive end, was dismissed from the Georgia football team in July of 2008 after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of battery, disorderly conduct and public intoxication.

O’Brien said Lemon had been through extremely difficult times. He described how Lemon’s mother was killed, her home was set ablaze, and Lemon’s younger brother was rescued from the flames.

According to the Macon Telegraph, Phaba Lemon died of blunt force trauma to the head on Feb. 21, 2007. Her boyfriend, Herbert Hart Jr., pleaded guilty to murder and arson and is serving a life sentence, the Telegraph reported.

“(Michael Lemon) had some issues at that point and was trying to grow up, and made a mistake,” O’Brien said. “But. . .it’s a one-time thing and we’re very satisfied he’ll be a great student here at N.C. State.”

Michael Lemon was charged after punching a fellow student several times at a cookout in Athens, Ga., after seeing the student talking to his girlfriend, according to the Telegraph. Court records show he was sentenced as a first offender to 12 months probation, 240 hours of community service, three weekends in the county jail and anger management counseling.

He attended Georgia Military junior college before transferring to N.C. State. O’Brien said he had numerous conversations with Lemon’s former coaches, including Georgia head coach Mark Richt, before deciding to give Lemon a chance to come to N.C. State.

O’Brien said Lemon had been readmitted to Georgia.

“We’ve done extensive work with him and are very satisfied with all the issues he had when he left Georgia,” O’Brien said. “(We had) a lot of conversations with Coach Richt, and a lot of people were very satisfied with the individual we’re getting.”

Scrimmage notes. Running back Toney Baker and the play of quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon were among the highlights of N.C. State’s second scrimmage Thursday.
“Toney Baker’s getting a little better, showing a little more toward where we want to see him,” O’Brien said, “and by the numbers the quarterbacks were pretty good today. I think Russell made some great throws.”
Wilson and Glennon were a combined 23-for-40 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Linebacker Ray Michel led the defense with seven tackles, and redshirt freshman Terrell Manning made four tackles for loss.
After a shaky first scrimmage, Josh Czajkowski made all three of his field goals – from 23, 34 and 37 yards.

Pack loses two. Offensive lineman Desmond Roberts, who played a reserve role last season as a redshirt freshman, will transfer to a junior college, O’Brien said.
Freshman quarterback Everett Proctor had surgery Wednesday to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder and is out for the season. Proctor was expected to redshirt this season.

Ken Tysiac: 919-829-8942 or

Irving out for 2009, but 'blessed'

Nate Irving said he doesn’t remember anything about the crash that ended his junior football season.

Irving stood in front of a throng of reporters at N.C. State’s Murphy Center office complex Thursday to announce that he won’t play football this season because of injuries suffered in a June 28 car crash.

He remembers leaving his parents’ house in Wallace, N.C., near Wilmington and waking up in the hospital, but nothing in between. The state highway patrol account shows that driving while sleepy may have contributed to the single-vehicle crash at about 4:40 a.m. in Johnston County.

After looking at photos of his wrecked vehicle, Irving said, he felt fortunate to be alive.

“I would say I’m pretty blessed to make it out of the accident that I made it out of,” said Irving, who plays linebacker, “and to be here today as I am now, I’m pretty blessed. To be able to have a chance to play football again down the road is another blessing, so I don’t have any complaints.”

Irving’s meeting with a doctor Thursday confirmed what he already had feared. He is walking now, but the compound fracture of his leg was a severe injury. He also suffered other serious injuries – a broken rib, collapsed lung and separated shoulder.

According to coach Tom O’Brien, the doctor told Irving it would be best if he takes the entire season to heal. O’Brien wasn’t ruling out a miraculously quick recovery that could perhaps have Irving ready for a bowl game.

But O’Brien is proceeding under the assumption that Irving won’t play until 2010, when he will be a senior.

“I think the initial shock (after the crash) was not what he wanted to hear,” O’Brien said, “but the more he met with the doctors and made it through his appointments, the best thing for him would be not to push it for this year.”

Irving redshirted in 2006, so he cannot gain an additional year of eligibility as a result of this injury.

This was supposed to be a big season for Irving, who made 84 tackles and led the team with four interceptions but missed three games because of injury in 2008. He pondered leaving school early for the NFL draft, but was considered likely to improve his stock with pro scouts if he played another year at N.C. State and was injury free.

Instead, he will have to sit out the year as sophomore Dwayne Maddox and redshirt freshman Terrell Manning compete for his spot at boundary linebacker. Irving was cited for careless and reckless driving as a result of the crash and has a lengthy rehabilitation ahead.

In his typical soft, shy voice, he said his biggest concern is returning to full health.

“I’m out now,” he said. “so there’s nothing I can do but take what happened and learn from it and move forward. I’m just happy to be here now.”

Ken Tysiac

Pack's Irving out for season

After meeting with a doctor Thursday, N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving announced that he will be out for the season because of injuries suffered in a June 28 car crash.

Irving, who was scheduled to be a junior this season, led the team with four interceptions last season and made 84 tackles despite missing three games because of injury. He suffered a broken leg, broken rib, collapsed lung and separated shoulder in the crash.

Coach Tom O'Brien said there is a slim chance Irving could return if N.C. State reaches a January bowl game, but Irving certainly won't play during the regular season.

Sophomore Dwayne Maddox and redshirt freshman Terrell Manning are competing for the starting spot at the position vacated by Irving.

Ken Tysiac

Small dose of Glennon just right for Pack

Ever since Mike Glennon’s redshirt freshman season ended, his status has been a huge topic of speculation among N.C. State fans understandably excited about his potential.

The guy is 6-foot-6 and has a cannon for an arm. His teammates say he is even deceptively fast on his feet. He may be the second coming of Matt Ryan, who N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien helped mold into a fantastic dropback passer at Boston College.

Nonetheless, O’Brien has it right when he describes his plans for Glennon’s playing time. O’Brien says Glennon will play a little. The plan is to get him in for one or two series during the first half of the opening game against South Carolina.

A series or two in each game will be just enough to get Glennon the experience he will need in case Russell Wilson gets hurt and Glennon is thrust into action. If O’Brien uses Glennon any more than that, he will be taking his best player off the field.

After spring practice, O’Brien asked his assistant coaches to rank N.C. State’s top 20 players on offense and defense. After O’Brien compiled the aggregate rankings, linebacker Nate Irving, who’s now injured, led the defense followed by end Willie Young.

Wilson was the highest-ranked player on offense, and rightly so. The guy was the first-team All-ACC quarterback last season as a redshirt freshman. He threw 17 touchdown passes and just one interception in 275 attempts.

He made his most amazing plays – including a breathtaking, 29-yard touchdown run against Miami – with his feet. Even though he missed some spring practice because he was playing baseball, there’s no reason to suspect Wilson won’t get even better this season as a sophomore.

Even so, the backup quarterback always is a popular figure on campus. Glennon’s coaches have nothing but positive things to say about him. And fans are longing to see what Glennon can do because they have heard so much about him.

They will get to see him. But just a little.

That’s the way it should be, because Wilson is unquestionably the best player on the N.C. State offense.

Ken Tysiac

Heels' Gaskins, Taylor suffer knee injuries

North Carolina's depth on the offensive line decreased Wednesday when offensive tackle Carl Gaskins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the morning practice.

Team spokesman Kevin Best announced today that Gaskins, a sophomore who was competing for playing time at left tackle, is out for the season. Gaskins played in five games last season and was listed as a backup to senior Kyle Jolly.

Senior H-back Ryan Taylor also suffered a knee injury, although it wasn't quite as serious. Taylor sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and is expected to miss about one month.

Taylor was listed as the starting H-back on the preseason depth chart and has been one of the team's most versatile players. He played mostly as a reserve linebacker last season and is a standout on special teams. Last season he shared special teams captain honors with Matt Merletti.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pack to scrimmage Thursday

Attention to detail and limiting mistakes will be key objectives Thursday as N.C. State takes the field for its second preseason scrimmage.

“We’re going to play a little more of a game situation,” coach Tom O’Brien said. “There’s going to be penalties marked off, and it’s going to be more realistic. Obviously penalties and mistakes are really going to come into play, and things like that. We’re going to have to play smart, and we’re looking for great effort.”

The most important development for N.C. State Thursday might occur off the field, as linebacker Nate Irving is scheduled for a doctor’s appointment. Irving, who was injured in a June 28 car crash, will have the leg he broke examined.

He already has had doctors examine his lung, ribs and shoulder, which also were injured. If O’Brien gives an update on Irving’s status, he will do so after the scrimmage, according to N.C. State sports information director Annabelle Myers.

N.C. State currently lists Irving as out indefinitely.

- Booster club activities for O’Brien next spring will venture far beyond the traditional speaking circuit. The Wolfpack Club has scheduled an unusual fund raiser with O’Brien for May 15-22 of next year in Killarney and Dublin, Ireland.

O’Brien and his wife, Jenny, will join athletic director Lee Fowler and wife Carol as hosts on a tour of Ireland. The travel package will include rounds on three championship courses for those who like to golf.

Details are available from the Wolfpack Club. O’Brien, who calls Ireland “my homeland,” has been a frequent visitor there.

“Anytime I can go to Ireland, it’s fun,” O’Brien said.

- Redshirt freshman Brandon Barnes and freshman James Washington are making progress at running back.

Behind starter Jamelle Eugene, the freshmen are competing with veterans Toney Baker and Curtis Underwood for playing time.

“They’re still growing, still learning, still very much in the development stage,” said offensive coordinator Dana Bible. “But we like how they’re coming along. Each day you can see one more step.”

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

UNC's defense ahead of offense

CHAPEL HILL — With nine starters back on defense, UNC coach Butch Davis expected the defense to be ahead of the offense, which is trying to break in two new linemen and a new set of receivers.

The defense hasn't let Davis down after the first five days of practice.

"Our defense, thus far, as you would suspect, has has the better end of the deal," Davis said Tuesday.

Davis singled out the defensive line, defensive backs Kendric Burney and Jordan Hemby and linebackers Bruce Carter, Quan Sturdivant and Kevin Reddick for their quick starts in camp.

Davis has been especially pleased with the defensive front, which returns the top eight players on the depth chart.

"Our defensive line has set the tempo for all of our practices," Davis said.

A bright spot on offense has been junior receiver Greg Little, Davis said. Little is the only receiver in the program with a career reception but he split his time between running back and receiver last season. He finished the 2008 season with 11 catches for 146 yards while running for 364 yards on 78 carries.

"I like what I see out of Greg Little," Davis said. "He's really pushing himself."

Davis added young offensive linemen Jonathan Cooper, the slated starter at left guard, and freshmen Travis Bond and Brennan Williams to the list of players who have stood out.

TATE IN CAMP ... SORT OF: Freshman quarterback Donavan Tate is in camp but he's not participating in practice.

Tate, an outfielder from Cartersville, Ga., was the third overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft in June. He, and agent Scott Boras, have until Aug. 17 to negotiate a deal with the San Diego Padres.

In the interim, Tate's trying to get acclimated with the UNC football program, in case he decides to choose college over professional baseball.

"At some point, they'll make an offer, and if the offer is significant enough, he'll make that decision," Davis said. "We'd certainly love for him to be here."

Until the Aug. 17 deadline passes, it's unlikely Tate would risk injury and participate in any live drills. Davis said Tate is attending meetings and working on his conditioning.

"We're just playing it day-by-day," Davis said.

ETC: Sophomore linebacker Zack Brown joined the team after missing the first two days of camp to attend a family wedding. Sophomore guard Kevin Bryant, listed as the backup on the depth chart, still has not reported to camp. ...New lights were installed on the North side of the stadium. Two games were delayed last season due to lighting problems. ...The deal to play LSU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in 2010 is "getting closer and closer," UNC athletic director Dick Baddour said, but still has not been finalized. -- J.P. Giglio

Former UNC kicker transfers to South Carolina

Kicker Jay Wooten, who left UNC earlier this summer, has decided to transfer to South Carolina.

Wooten said in a phone interview on Tuesday that he would join the Gamecocks on Aug. 20 as a walk-on. Under NCAA transfer rules, he has sit out the 2009 season and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Wooten began the '08 season handling all of UNC's kicking dutings -- kickoffs, field goals and extra points -- and made 4-of-6 field-goal attempts and all 11 PATs. He was replaced on field goals and PATs after the fourth game by Casey Barth.

"I know where I stood at North Carolina," said Wooten, who was considered one of the best kicking prospects in the country when he entered UNC out of Scotland County. "I know I wanted to do more than that."

South Carolina has three kickers trying replace departed veteran Ryan Succop, the seventh-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs. Wooten said he hopes to win the starting job in '10.

"Wherever you go, there's competition," Wooten said. "I know I'm starting over at South Carolina." -- J.P. Giglio

Duke coach in mood to talk

DURHAM - Duke football coach David Cutcliffe met with the media on Tuesday afternoon and he was in a storytelling mood.

He covered topics from the Wizard of Oz to a letter he received from a family member to baseball, not to mention updating the status of the Blue Devils as they prepare for the season-opener against Richmond on Sept. 5 at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Cutcliffe, who has been cautiously optimistic about his team's chances at becoming bowl eligible this season, talked for nearly 40 minutes about the progressive of the team in its first full week of traing camp.

He talked about his early impressions of his freshmen class, one he believes has some players who will contribute to the two-deep roster. He also reviewed the depth on the offensive line, an area the Devils must shore up if senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is to have a strong season.

Cutcliffe called junior center Bryan Morgan and sophomore left tackle Kyle Hill definitive leaders on the offensive line. He said Hill will have some challenges in his new position guarding the end.

He said red-shirt freshman Brian Moore has gotten off to a good start, while senior Jarrod Holt, the only senior among the bunch, has worked at guard and tackle. Junior left guard Mitchell Lederman has returned to strong reviews.

A few linemen, including right tackle Pontus Bondeson and right guard Brandon Harper have missed time in practice.

"I'm encouraged, but we're not deep enough into this thing to know yet," he said. "And it's an area of concern. Everybody should realize that. But I really feel like that we're in the right thing. We're asking them to do the right things. -- Edward G. Robinson III, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Tudor's Take: Would BC leave the ACC?

Logically, this can be tossed into the "no way" file.

But just in case smoke is always an indication of fire, there's speculation within the Big East population that Boston College might listen to suggestions about returning.

The issue has been a casual topic almost from the day BC left to join the ACC. Of late, however, it's been given some attention by ESPN and a newspaper or two in the Northeast.

At a glance, it all sounds fairly preposterous, but so did those early reports in 2003 that the ACC would raid the Big East for BC, Miami and Syracuse, which was ready leave until Virginia Tech broke in line.

Money game

BC, a private school, eventually had to fork over a $1 million exit penalty to the Big East, plus $3 million in ACC initiation fees, when its jump was finalized in 2005.

In football and men's basketball, the switch has been productive enough on the field.

The football team has gone 21-11 in the league and played in the past two championship games (losing both). That's compared to 14-13 in its final four seasons of Big East competition.

The basketball team has gone 34-30 (skewed somewhat by 4-12 in '07-'08) in ACC regular-season games and have received three NCAA invitations. In their final four Big East seasons, Al Skinner's teams went 41-23 with three NCAA trips.

But on the travel front, the Eagles have done a ton of heavy lifting during a rapidly decaying economy that's unlikely to fully rebound soon. With a small fan base, BC's football teams have been shipped to Idaho, Charlotte, Orlando and Nashville, where they've won three times and fell 16-14 to Vanderbilt last season in their only loss.

At the same time, ACC schedules have done little to stoke emotion among BC fans, who understandably miss their games against old rivals, particularly Syracuse and Connecticut.

New deal time

As usual, the X-factor could be television contract negotiations. The eight Big East football coaches have been clamoring for expansion in their sport for the past two years. There's no question that adding ninth and 10th teams would significantly upgrade the league's football inventory.

The rub, of course, is what to do about the already overloaded 16-school basketball membership. But have no fear, if the money's right, the minds will get right.

Meanwhile, the ACC is sorting through its presentation packages for football and basketball contracts that will expire after the 2010-11 school year.

The current football deal ($258 million over seven years) could be difficult to exceed unless ACC teams have more national success this season than of late. The roughly $300 million basketball contract should get bump, primarily because North Carolina has won two of the past five NCAA championships and came close to grabbing a third.

But overall, the additions of Miami and Boston College haven't made huge television impacts nationally or regionally. Virginia Tech's football team has been a valuable commodity by giving the ACC at least a reasonable national presence at a time when Florida State, Miami and Clemson have slipped.

There's also the matter of possible low ceilings for BC and Miami in football. In short order, the Eagles have gone from Tom O'Brien to Jeff Jagodzinski to career defensive assistant Frank Spanziani on the sideline.

Miami has gone from Larry Coker to Randy Shannon while failing to post a double-digit win total since 2003. Since joining the ACC, the Hurricanes are 20-20 in the league and have won only two of their past 12 games against ranked opponents.

Odds are, the ACC's status quo will be maintained as it enters Phase II of TV life as a 12-team conference. But don't expect the second-guessing at Boston College and elsewhere in the league to wane as the expansion saga - and surprises - continue to unfold.

-- Caulton Tudor, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Michel leads LBs; more from Pack's media day

N.C. State held its media day Monday.

Here are more notes from the interviews with coach Tom O'Brien and players:

・With Nate Irving out indefinitely because of injuries from a June 28 car crash, senior Ray Michel has emerged as a team leader among the linebackers.

"He is the oldest there, and he's got to be the leader of that group, and right now I think he's doing a pretty good job of that," O'Brien said. "You look around him and there's nobody else even close to him as far as experience goes. He's taken it upon himself to be the leader. He spends a lot of time watching film, but he spends a lot of time with the younger kids, trying to help them understand what they're supposed to be doing."

・Freshman Chris Ward admitted that a fortunate bounce aided him in Sunday's scrimmage, when he punted twice for 97 yards.

He estimated the bounce added 10 yards to his second punt. He said he considers his leg acceleration to be his strength, but wants to work on improving his flexibility and his drop.

Flexibility is a specialty of N.C. State strength and conditioning coach Todd Rice.

He is a former soccer goalie and said that helped him with his punting and also his hands.

"Shots coming at me and all, it's just like a snap coming back there," Ward said. "So I'm able to catch any type of snap that comes back to me."

・Give junior DeAndre Morgan an assist in the recruiting of fellow cornerback Jarvis Byrd, who's one of the most highly regarded freshman N.C. State signed in February.

Both players are from Florida, and Byrd knew Morgan before coming to N.C. State.

"He was telling me about N.C. State and how great it was," Byrd said. "So I decided to come to N.C. State for that reason, too."

・Each year O'Brien asks all of his assistant coaches to rank their top 20 players on offense and on defense.

"Then I compile them," O'Brien said. "It's pretty interesting to see how the defense looks at the offense and how the offense looks at the defense. And then they rate their own players."

Coming out of spring practice, quarterback Russell Wilson was rated No. 1 on offense by the coaches, O'Brien said. Irving, the injured linebacker, was the top-rated defensive player, followed by defensive end Willie Young.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tate arrives at UNC

As scheduled, freshman Donavan Tate arrived at UNC on Saturday and has been attending meetings but is not participating in practice, a school spokesman said.

Tate was the third overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft in June and has until Aug. 17 to negotiate a contract with the San Diego Padres.

His options include signing a deal with the Padres, enrolling at UNC or neither and re-entering the MLB Draft in 2010. If Tate enrolls at UNC, he would not be eligible for the MLB Draft until after his third season (2012).

Tate can practice with UNC (without enrolling) and still negotiate with the Padres without compromising his baseball status with the NCAA.

Tate's listed at quarterback on UNC's roster and media guide. He played both quarterback and safety in high school in Cartersville, Ga.

-- J. P. Giglio

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

Pack's Irving to be evaluated Thursday

N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving will meet with a doctor Thursday to learn more about the status of his broken leg, coach Tom O’Brien said Monday during the team’s media day news conference.

Irving also suffered a broken rib and collapsed lung in a June 28 car crash. He has seen doctors to have those injuries evaluated, and the leg injury is what’s left to be examined.

O’Brien expects to have a better idea about Irving’s status for this season after Thursday’s meeting. N.C. State lists Irving as out “indefinitely,” and O’Brien sounds as though he’s prepared for a long asbsence.

“We’ll find out Thursday if he’s going to make it back some time this year, or if he’s going to be (out) for another year,” O’Brien said.

Even if Irving is cleared to return at some point this season, O’Brien said, he will have a long period of rehabilitation in order to get into game shape. O’Brien said Irving was walking at the team’s pre-training camp meeting.

Irving led the team with four interceptions and made 84 tackles in 2008 despite missing three games with injuries. Sophomore Dwayne Maddox and redshirt freshman Terrell Manning are competing for Irving’s spot during training camp.

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Punter shines, kicker shaky at Pack scrimmage

RALEIGH - The play of N.C. State’s specialists – for better and for worse – was the most eye-opening development of the Wolfpack’s first scrimmage Sunday.

Entering preseason camp, coach Tom O’Brien listed punter as one of the team’s biggest concerns. The staff hoped freshman Chris Ward of Fayetteville, Ga., would be able to challenge junior Jeff Ruiz for the job vacated by 2008 senior Bradley Pierson.

In his first scrimmage, Ward punted twice for a total of 97 yards, an outstanding effort by any account. Ruiz’s yardage on two punts totaled 62 yards. Although Ward’s showing was a welcome development, O’Brien wasn’t ready to anoint him the answer for the Wolfpack at his position.

“One swallow does not make a spring,” O’Brien said, borrowing a quote from former Virginia coach George Welsh that emphasizes the importance of repetitive strong performances.

Place-kicker, meanwhile, was supposed to be one of N.C. State’s strengths with 2008 starter Josh Czajkowski returning. Last season, Czajkowski made 16 of his 19 field goal attempts in an excellent showing as a sophomore.

Czajkowski missed three of his five field goal attempts Sunday, which O’Brien said is a cause for concern. He said Czajkowski changed his approach to the ball during the offseason.

“He thinks it’s going to be better for him,” O’Brien said. “Hopefully like in golf, he’s got to (just) work through his swing and get it in gear. Now he’s been kicking great in practice, so we put him back in spots that he’s had trouble with. And he still had trouble with them.”

O’Brien provided only limited statistics from the scrimmage to the media, especially for the offense. The team rushed for 103 yards on 27 carries, and quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon combined to go 20-for-31 passing for 168 yards and three interceptions with one touchdown.

Individual rushing, passing and receiving statistics were not provided.

On defense, freshman cornerback Rashard Smith returned an interception 77 yards for a touchdown and senior cornerback Koyal George added a 33-yard interception return. Redshirt freshman cornerback C.J. Wilson intercepted a pass in the end zone.

Sophomore linebacker Sterling Lucas made six tackles, and sophomore defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy made three of his six tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including two quarterback sacks.

With temperatures soaring into the mid-90s underneath a scorching sun at Carter-Finley Stadium, O’Brien was pleased with the way the players persevered and competed.

“We’ve got to get tougher,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got to get more physical, and we’ve got to get a little mentally tough. But this was a good day to start on it because this was a day you had to concentrate and really hang in there with the heat.”

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tate misses Friday's practice

•  Donavan Tate was not at practice on Friday but he is expected to be on campus on Saturday.

Tate, the third overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft, has until Aug. 17 to negotiate a deal with the San Diego Padres. He can practice with UNC without affecting his immediate two-sport future.

"We're hopeful it works out," UNC coach Butch Davis said. "[But] I have no idea."

Davis said Tate will play quarterback, joining fellow freshmen Bryn Renner and A.J. Blue and redshirt freshman Braden Hanson in the mix for third-string behind starter T.J. Yates and backup Mike Paulus.

Tate, an outfielder in baseball, also played safety in high school. Blue, who is listed as an "athlete" on the roster, also plays running back. He was taking reps with the quarterbacks in the portion of practice which was open to the media on Friday.

•  This could be the last August camp for a group of juniors — defensive tackle Marvin Austin, linebacker Bruce Carter and linebacker Quan Sturdivant, who if all goes well, could be in the NFL next season. Carter said he's thought about the possibility but it's not high on his radar.

"I'm not trying to make a decision today," Carter said.

•  Don't be alarmed by the wrap on safety Deunta Williams' left wrist. The junior had surgery after spring practice and will wear what looks like a soft cast for the first part of camp as a precaution.

•  UNC's No. 20 ranking in the USA Today Top 25 is the first time the Heels have been ranked in the preseason since 1998, Carl Torbush's first year.

That UNC team, which opened at No. 12 in the AP poll, started 0-1 with a home loss to Miami (Ohio). The program wasn't ranked in the top 25 again until Nov. 2001.

With The Citadel as this year's opener, on Sept. 5, there's little chance of history repeating.

-- J.P. Giglio

Holtz discusses status of ECU players

ECU coach Skip Holtz called them the "elephant in the room" and he was quick to answer questions about the status of several players who were either suspended last season or during the spring.

Running back Jonathan Williams, running back Norman Whitley, cornerback Emanuel Davis and guard Doug Palmer are all back on the team and eligible to play in the opener against Appalachian State on Sept. 5.

Receiver Jamar Bryant, who was suspended after the fifth game last season, is not on the suspension list but will be with the team this season. Defensive end Allen Crowder will not, he was suspended for the season.

Holtz announced four other players have left the program: receiver D.J. McFadden, linebacker Lorenzo Osborne, safety Julian Carter and cornerback DeAndre Jones.

Holtz is also waiting for senior kicker Ben Hartman and junior-college running back Giavanni Ruffin to report to camp. Hartman, who kicked game-winners against Tulsa last year and UNC and Boise State in 2007, is dealing with hip injury and is out indefinitely, Holtz said.

Ruffin is waiting for word from the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Lastly, on the comings-and-goings list, Holtz said two players have switched positions. Rob Kass will go from quarterback to tight end and Cliff Perryman will switch from linebacker to defensive end.

Kass' move means redshirt freshman Josh Jordan will be Patrick Pinkney's backup. Freshman Rio Johnson is also in the backup rotation.

-- J.P. Giglio

Friday, August 7, 2009

Gamecocks season tickets still available

After a query from a reporter, South Carolina sports information director Steve Fink reports that with six weeks to go before the Gamecocks' home opener, the school has sold 48,225 season tickets.

The school has 55,000 season tickets available, so the school has sold 88 percent of its total. The Gamecocks sold out last season.

South Carolina was the final school to provide information about its sales for a story that ran in the Raleigh News & Observer on Wednesday. Here is how the other Carolinas BCS schools were faring selling season tickets in a struggling economy:

- Duke and East Carolina (20,824 sold) reported increases.

- North Carolina (34,700 sold, 1,400 short of last season), Wake Forest (14,500 sold, 500 short of 2008), N.C. State (36,600 sold, 900 short of 2008) and Clemson (Down 11.7 percent from the 2008 total of 58,134) all reported decreases.

Ken Tysiac

Duke loses freshman safety

Duke's already-thin secondary got a little thinner when a freshman who Duke coach David Cutcliffe thought could play this season will redshirt instead, recovering from knee surgery.

Cutcliffe announced Thursday night that Anthony Young-Wiseman, a freshman safety from Bethesda, Md., will undergo surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will be out the entire season.

Duke has only two seniors, one junior and four sophomores on its roster at cornerback and safety.

Cutcliffe said Duke's two other injured players, defensive lineman Kinney Rucker (foot) and offensive lineman David Harding (ankle surgery), remain out, although Harding would "be back shortly." With only 90 of the permitted 105 players in camp, the Blue Devils aren't in a position to handle many other injuries. -- Luke DeCock