Sunday, July 25, 2010

Staying healthy is key for Pack

GREENSBORO - N.C. State wide receiver Owen Spencer didn't hesitate Sunday when asked to identify the most important factor if the Wolfpack is going to contend for an ACC title.

"If we stay healthy," Spencer said Sunday at the ACC football media kickoff, "we have a better shot."

Injuries have seriously depleted N.C. State's roster over each of coach Tom O'Brien's three seasons with the Wolfpack. Last season, the team's best defensive player, linebacker Nate Irving, suffered injuries in a June car wreck that kept him out for all of 2009.

Along with Irving, Toney Baker, Donald Bowens, Andre Brown and Anthony Hill are among the many key players who have missed substantial time for N.C. State over the last three seasons.

"It's always frustrating, especially when you know those guys off the field and what they go through," Spencer said.

"Hopefully we will be healthy, and that comes with training well and eating right and all the things that prevent [injuries]."

It sounds as if Spencer, who caught 30 passes for 765 yards last season, has been training well. Though he declined to give specific numbers, he said his bench press and his power clean marks, in particular, have soared in the weight room.

"I'm at my healthiest," Spencer said.

Irving, meanwhile, said he is at full go for the start of fall practice Aug. 3. He said he wasn't satisfied with his performance in the spring game, as he still was shaking off the cobwebs and getting used to playing after injuries to his leg, shoulder and ribs.

"I don't know how much of a difference I can make as far as being on the field," Irving said. "All I know is, I'm going to demand 100 percent of everyone who's lined up next to me."

He will do that while playing a new position. Irving has moved from the boundary linebacker spot on the outside to middle linebacker.

As a result, he has an opportunity to be in on every play in the middle of the field. But he also faces a bigger physical challenge in some ways.

"I take on a lot more blocks in the middle," he said. "I've got to deal with the linemen a lot more."

-- Ken Tysiac