Coach Tom O’Brien and Assistant Don Horton have long been renowned for their ability to develop and coach offensive lineman. NFL rosters are littered with their former players and Wolfpack fans have seen a steady progression in the rebuilding of the NC STATE unit since their arrival. This year’s version will be the deepest set of lineman enjoyed by TOB and Horton in terms of numbers and talent. It will also be one of the youngest position groups put on the field (next to the defensive backs) this season. Horton and TOB will have their work cut out for them as the Pack will be forced to replace three starters this season, while a forth will be recovering from a major knee injury.
Frump it for in-depth, Frump-only analysis….
Frump’s PROJECTED STARTERS
LT (Sr) Jake Vermiglio 6-5 325
Vermiglio sports the most experience by far of all the returning offensive linemen and has been a starter for three seasons. #70 is the anchor – big, nasty and athletic, he brings the attitude that will hopefully rub off on the new pups.
Projection – Jake has first team all-ACC and NFL potential – he will be the rock up front.
LG (Rs So) 6-3 314 Zach Allen
Allen saw quite a bit of playing time last season backing up the starters, especially towards the latter part of the schedule. Allen plays with great drive off the ball (in his high school film he literally looks like a bulldozer) but will really need to lean on Vermiglio for the mental part of the game
Projection – Allen’s performance (along with Wentz) will be crucial to the Pack’s success, especially running the ball…his physicality and aggressiveness will likely produce some great moments and some miscues. Early on, his performance could be inconsistent but should greatly improve as Allen (and Wentz) gain experience.
C (So) 6-3 290 Camden Wentz
Coach O’Brien does not like to play true freshman, especially when those freshmen play on the offensive line. So it should mean something to Wolfpack fans that the staff choose to take the redshirt off of Wentz and get him some game experience last season backing up Ted Larson.
Projection – The center position is the lynch pin of the offensive line and should Wentz be proven incapable, Rs Jr Wayne Crawford could get the nod. I think it is very telling that Wentz was thrust into game action last season when it really was not an absolutely necessary move for him to do so. Wentz or Crawford’s ability to master the mental part of the position will prove to be the deciding factor in how effective this season’s offensive line is.
RG (Rs So) 6-6 303 RJ Mattes
Mattes was simply steller last season at the RG position. He started every game before going down with a torn ACL against FSU and showed flashes of professional potential last season. Lets hope the knee does not slow that progress.
Projection – I think Mattes is a natural tackle but his injury last season will force him inside. The Pack needs him on the field from the start. but his knee may not be healed early enough to allow him the time to acclimate back to the outside. To get him on the field, I think they will stick him back in his RG spot where he really shined as a redshirt freshman.
RT (Rs So) Andrew Wallace 6-5 299
Wallace filled in nicely last year during the rash of injuries and illness that fell across the Wolfpack line towards the end of the season. His standout performance was when he stepped in at the last minute for a sick Jake Vermiglio and started against Maryland. Wallace and the rest of the banged up OL held the Terps to only one sack and were crucial to the W.
Projection – Before his injury, this spot had RJ Mattes’ name all over it. While my sources expect Mattes back for the fall, it is likely he will be a little too rusty to play the edge. Andrew will have some bumps early but proves capable at RT. The mobility of Russell (hopefully) is important to Wallace’s success. Its very possible that Wallace moves back inside should Mattes progress faster or a freshman steps up.
BACK UPS AND WILD CARDS
There are four players who could potentially shake up the offensive line rotation:
1. Rs Fr Sam Jones 6-7 321 – Jones is still raw, but is physically everything you want in an offensive lineman. He is reportedly very athletic and only needs to refine his technique. Jones could see some action at either the guard or tackle position.
2. Rs Fr Denzelle Goode 6-6 336 – Goode is a player that I have felt will be an impact, all-ACC type player for NC STATE before he graduates, ever since I first watched him. At the risk of being cliche’ he has “it.” Like Zach Allen, his high school film is full of the opposition being driven 10-20 yards down the field. He plays with a great tenacity and is a prototypical guard.
3. JC (transfer) Rs Jr Mikal Overgaard 6-6 280 – A JUCO transfer, Overgaard was recruited to play earlier rather than later. All accounts tout Overgaard’s great footwork and frame. He could definitely factor into the RT position should he continue to grow and can apply all of the things Coach Horton will cram down his throat before fall.
4. Fr Rob Crisp 6-8 300 – Crisp has all the tools to be a great offensive lineman…footwork, size, brain, attitude…its all there. Should he come in and grasp the offense, I do not think it is a stretch that Mr. Crisp could be a starter. I do think he will play this season as a back up, at minimum. There is no denying his game and Coach O’Brien has shown he will play kids now to prepare them for larger roles later.