Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wolfpack practice review: DBs a focus

N.C. State has a returning all-star candidate at quarterback in Russell Wilson and a healthy competition for the starting halfback position, but the defensive backs drew the most attention from observers during the preseason-opening practice session Tuesday.

The opening practice usually is the only one N.C. State opens to the media, and the focus Tuesday was on the position of greatest need. That's the defensive secondary following a disastrous 2009 season for that group.

Redshirt freshman Dean Haynes appears to have the first opportunity to help fix the secondary. Haynes worked with the starters at boundary cornerback. Junior Justin Byers has played cornerback and safety and has more experience, but has struggled for much of the time he has played.

Haynes' willingness to get physical with the receivers was impressive, but he did get hollered at by defensive backs coach Mike Reed for missing an assignment in run support on one play.

Freshman David Amerson also got an extensive look as a second-team player. Amerson, who was one of the most highly recruited players in North Carolina, is the team's most impressive physical specimen at cornerback at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds.

His inexperience showed on one pass breakup when he knocked down a receiver in a practice where the players are instructed not to take players to the ground. But coaches can tolerate aggressive errors ahead of passive or timid errors any day. And Amerson also demonstrated maturity by staying home to stop a misdirection running play, earning shouts of congratulations from the defensive sideline.

The first-team field cornerback, C.J. Wilson, also made an impression with an interception in the flat that he returned for a touchdown. And if nothing else, first-team safeties Brandan Bishop and Earl Wolff didn't make any glaring errors.

Elsewhere in practice, quarterback Russell Wilson did appear a bit rusty as expected after missing spring practice and spending the summer playing minor league baseball. He fumbled the ball once early during individual drills and didn't have midseason sharpness with his passes. But there's little concern around camp that Wilson will be ready for the Sept. 4 opener against Western Carolina.

Running back James Washington says he can stop on a dime and change direction quickly, and he showed that with some of his running plays. Terrell Manning is ahead of fellow sophomore Dwayne Maddox at weak side linebacker. There is hope in camp that Manning finally is completely ready to put the knee injury that he suffered as a high school senior behind him and display the ability that wowed recruiting analysts before the injury.

Meanwhile, first-year athletic director Debbie Yow watched from the sideline with interest. Yow said she attends practices on an infrequent basis because there is so much administrative work to do in the office. But she showed up, spoke with coach Tom O'Brien for about five minutes and chatted amicably with media members while the team scrimmaged.

After three straight losing seasons under O'Brien, the football team will make Yow's (and O'Brien's) job a lot easier if it shows improvement in the win column. Getting the secondary in order will be a good place to start.

Ken Tysiac


TP said...

Having Nate Irving back will automatically make the defense better since he's such an instinctive player. Hopefully O'Brien can finally catch a break with regards to injuries.