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Thursday, July 31, 2008

So...would it be unpatriotic to root for Turkey?


Against the U.S., no less?

That's the scenario Wolfpack fans will face as former Pack guard Engin Atsur leads the Turkish National Team against Team USA tonight at 8:00 in an exhibition game. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Atsur is one of my favorite players in the last decade or so. He engineered one of the best, most memorable conclusions to a State basketball season in recent memory in '06-'07. Never was one player more crucial to its team's success than he...with him, it seemed State couldn't lose...without him we looked like, well, a lot like we did last season.

So forgive me if I pull for the Turks--and Atsur--to hand it to Team USA tonight. I really have no connection to any of the pro players that will make up the squad, couldn't give a crap about the NBA to begin with, and the fact that the team is coached by Coach K doesn't really help matters much, either.

After this game, then I'll get behind Team USA as much as I can get behind overpaid, apathetic pro players coached by a coach I don't really care for...but tonight, I'll be rooting for Atsur.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sidney adds another to '09 class


So, how was your Sunday and Monday?

Unless your name is Sidney Lowe, Larry Harris or anyone else associated with the basketball team, your last two days have likely paled in comparison.

In just 48 scant hours, Lowe and crew added commitments from two legit recruits that could help quickly reverse the sharp downward trend the team took last season. On Sunday, Lowe added blue chip PG/SG Lorenzo Brown. Yesterday he picked up a frontcourt player to compliment him in 6'8", 220-pound power forward Richard Howell.

Howell comes to the Pack via Wheeler High School in Marietta, GA, which should sound familiar to Pack fans, as it was J.J. Hickson's old stomping grounds. The state of Georgia has been very kind to State basketball of late, as Brown hails from nearby Snellville 40 miles to the east.

Here's what ESPN has to say about Howell:

He has a Division 1 frame that is well-built with solid length. Howell has superior quickness and strength that he utilizes when operating in the paint area. He is a quick leaper and can finish with contact. He has nice spin moves in the key and he's gifted passer out of the post as well. What makes him more difficult to defend is his ability to face-up and either shoot the mid-range jump shot or take his opponents off the bounce. He does have a tendency to over-handle it at times which makes him turnover prone, but that's a habit that can be rectified with coaching. Defensively, he has the strength and bounce to defend in the post and the lateral quickness to check versatile 4-men.

The additions of Howell and Brown already make for Lowe's best recruiting class thus far, but he may not be finished yet. There are still two big targets left on the board in Derrick Favors and Ryan Kelly, both 5-star forwards. State has one scholarship left to give (assuming no one leaves the team unexpectedly), so adding either Favors or Kelly would shoot this class into the stratosphere and certainly be one of the top classes in the country.

These past two days have been crucial for Lowe, above and beyond what the recruits themselves are worth to the team. It's proven that Lowe can not only recruit at a high Division-I level, but that he can do so after a disastrous season. One wonders what he could do on the heels of a sweet 16 run in the tourney! Let's hope we get to find out soon.

A big tip of the hat, again, to coach Larry Harris, who continues to put in the major legwork and effort in identifying prospects early on in their maturation process. It's not uncommon to see recruits mention that State, and more specifically coach Harris, were the first to show major interest in them. Pounding the pavement early is reaping its rewards.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Beasley cleared to play



As mentioned in a post last week, we listed incoming LB recruit William Beasley as one of several who failed to qualify. Well, turns out there was some sort of error on the NCAA Clearinghouse's part that missed some of Beasley's credits initially. Now that the error has been caught, Beasley is cleared to play.

This is good news for the Pack for a number of reasons.

One, anytime you see a young man put in the time and effort necessary to earn a scholarship offer from a BCS school, only to have the carpet yanked out from under them at the last moment, it breaks your heart. So you root for those folks who do the work to get things squared away in time to not miss a beat.

Second, linebacker is a definite area of weakness for the Pack this season. As a three-star recruit, standing 6'-2" and 225, Beasley has the skill and size to play right away if the Pack needs him. Given our injury state of recent years, there always seems to be one group that takes a big hit during the course of the year (running backs last season). The linebacking corps is one that can ill afford a single player to go down. Beasley gives a small matter of insurance in the case that someone does.

This is not the first time Wolfpack fans have seen one of their recruits fall victim to a Clearinghouse issue. If you'll recall, Tramain Hall hit a last-second hiccup on his admissions process back in 2002 that ultimately delayed his entrance to State nearly two years and cost him a year of eligibility.

We're fortunate that Beasley did not have to go down that same road.

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4-star Combo Guard Lorenzo Brown commits over weekend


After a tumultuous year for Sidney Lowe, the Wolfpack basketball coach got some good news this weekend with the commitment of 4-star combo guard Lorenzo Brown from Alpharetta, GA.

All the stories on PackPride.com and ncstate.rivals.com are premium info, so you'll have to subscribe to their sites (if you haven't already) to learn more about him. But all you need to know is that this is a huge get for Lowe after such a dissappointing season.

Here's some basic info on Brown:
- 6'-4", 175 pounds
- #8 SG in country (by both Scout and Rivals), #37 player overall by Rivals
- Offer list included Texas, Florida and Memphis, among others. VERY solid.

He could be a one-and-done player with the Pack, but his departure timetable will likely depend upon how successful State is his freshman year in '09-'10. He would really have to light it up as a freshman to jump after one year.

From all accounts he sounds like a grounded individual, as well, that's not afraid to put in the work in the gym to be successful.

Landing Brown may have other recruiting implications, as well. Big time prospets like to follow other big time prospects to programs; it makes sense, so long as you're not looking to share time with the other name. So landing Brown may improve our chances with two other targets on the '09 board--Derrick Favors and Ryan Kelly, two five-star forwards who--along with Brown--could make for one of the best recruiting classes in the Pack's recent history.

Nevertheless, Brown is a big get, and a great addition to the '09 class.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our tailback corps needs a nickname.


Don't ask me how I got here, to this train of thought. Maybe it was thinking about the upcoming season, or Heather Dinich's position ratings she's been doing. But here we are. I think our trio of running backs needs a nickname.

I'm not talking played-out running back nicknames, either, like "Thunder and Lightning." That combo's been beaten to death by nearly every pro and college franchise at some point and therefore gets the LAME stamp. To use The Four Horsemen requires, of course, four running backs worthy of the moniker, and I'm not quite ready to promote our second-string FB into a "Horseman" just yet.

So what, then, shall we call Toney Baker, Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene?

At the start of last season, prior to injuries when it was a two man show of Brown and Baker, the very cool "Shake N' Bake" moniker looked like it was going to take hold. But by mid-season it was Eugene all by his lonesome, and "Shake N' Bake" had to be put back in the cupboard.

Now that all three are healthy and vying for playing time, we need something new. "Shake, Bake and that Other Guy" ain't gonna cut it.

Here are the basic guidelines to a good backfield nickname:

- Must roughly convey attributes of the players ("shake" worked well for the shifty Brown)
- Must be reasonably intimidating (no flowers, small, furry animals or vague emotional concepts)
- Must roll off the tongue (The Most Totally Awesome Backfield in Foreverz doesn't quite work...try putting that on a T-shirt)

Matters are complicated further with a trio of backs instead of only one or two. When it's one guy, he's usually already got a nickname by the time he reaches this level. A duo is easier to dub because both backs typically employ a different rushing strategy. One's usually a smaller, quick-cuts back and the other is a bruiser. Hence the over-use of the nickname "Thunder and Lighting."

A trio, though...boy, that's tough.

"The Holy Trinity?" -- Seems a bit sacrilegious.
"Lethal Weapon 3?" -- Already been done.
"The Trident" -- Kinda lame. Weapons used by Greek Gods tend to wander too far into the nerd category.

You can try using aspects of their names as a launching-off point. Their first names start with the letters J, T, A, which could spell "Taj," leading to "The Taj Mahal." Good luck explaining how that one's intimidating or even relevant to the game of football.

Their last name initials are B, B, E. "Ebb and Flow?" I don't think a term that embodies inconsistency is what we need portraying any aspect of our offense.

We need something off-the-chart badass. If only there were a way to incorporate a third party into the duo of "Tango and Cash," we'd be on to something. "Tango and Cash, Feat. John McClane." Nah. Doesn't roll off the tongue.

Clearly this is a task for minds far greater and more creative than mine. So this is a call to all engineers, wordsmiths and hungover students: our tailbacks need a nickname.

Get cracking!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pack players get fatter, shorter, and other anomalies


Pack Pride story on roster changes
Updated 2008 Roster

The bulk of the article on roster changes deals with players who either gained weight or lost it over the Spring, but there are a couple of curious updates, including YANCSSB's favorite player, Markus Kuhn, who apparently shrunk in North America's higher gravity:

Sophomore defensive end Markus Kuhn is up five pounds to 280 pounds. He's also listed an inch shorter at 6'4 and switched numbers from #62 to #91. #91 was previously worn by Ted Larsen.
And he switched numbers, which means I need to update my Markus Kuhn graphic:

The bad news is that, like every season, there are some casualties heading into the fall. Signees William Beasley (LB), Tobias Palmer (CB) and Marty Everett (DT) failed to qualify academically and I can only assume will prep this coming year. All three were solid signees for State, all ranked three stars by scout.com. Also not planning to attend State this fall are Ray Mangram (S) and Thomas Locust (DT). Per PackPride:
Mangram will head to Georgia Military College, a decision he made prior to signing with NC State, and the future destination of Locust, a defensive tackle out of Cerritos (CA) College, is unknown. Coaches at Cerritos informed Pack Pride that Locust not enrolling at NC State wasn't due to academics.
The distressing part of this news is that all five players are on the defensive side of the ball where State lacks the most depth. It's doubtful any of the bunch would've played much this year, but with injuries, who knows. Keep these five guys in the back of your head as "What could've beens" if/when State goes down Injury Rd.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Pack picked to finish DFL in Atlantic


Pssh. Media. What do they know.

Well, we all saw this one coming. State was chosen to finish in 6th place in the Atlantic Division this season by the writers present at Operation Football this week.

1. Clemson (59) 1. Virginia Tech (58)
2. Wake Forest (5) 2. North Carolina (4)
3. Florida State (1) 3. Miami (1)
4. Boston College 4. Georgia Tech (1)
5. Maryland 5. Virginia (1)
6. N.C. State 6. Duke

This falls in line with all the chatter we've been hearing from the local media leading up to the event. The Pack is squarely in the midst of rebuilding year #2, and no one seems sold on State improving at the quarterback position, given that Daniel Evans will likely be the starter again come August.

But call me crazy, I don't think there's any way this team finishes in last place in the Atlantic again. One of the areas Tom O'Brien has clearly focused a lot of attention over the offseason is in building depth along the offensive line. He moved two defensive linemen, John Bedics and Ted Larsen, over to the offensive side. Jake Vermiglio is a young talent that will be a star along this line before his career is over.

And I'm of the mentality that everything--EVERYTHING--begins and ends with the offensive line. When you can run the ball at will and block your quarterback effectively, you:

- put more points on the board
- keep the ball out of the opposing teams hands
- eat more clock, limiting possessions by the other team
- keep your defense fresh
- demoralize your opponent

If O'Brien can develop a solid two-deep along the offensive line that stays healthy for the bulk of the season, his reputation as OL guru will grow. But more importantly, it will give our QB--whoever that may be--a fighting chance to sneak a conference win or two that others don't expect.

So if I'm so gung-ho on State not finishing DFL, it begs the question as to who finishes behind us.

The three most likely candidates are:
- Maryland
- BC

1. Maryland: Maryland faces two big hurdles this season: One, a quarterback controversy, and two, a schedule that offers no respite once conference play begins.

The two-headed monster in College Park this year features Jordan Steffey battling Chris Turner. Steffey began last season as the #1 option, but when he fell to injury, Turner came in and played well. Steffey's now back, and playing better than ever according to Maryland fans. It may take the Terps a while to settle into a definite starter, and if it takes too long, it may cost them a game or two in conference play.

Speaking of conference play, Maryland gets no breaks in its conference schedule this year. The Terps get all four of their out-of-conference games out of the way by the end of September, when they start an eight-straight-conference-game stretch in Death Valley. The final four games--@Va. Tech, North Carolina, Florida State and a chilly road trip to Boston College--will be challenging if fatigue has set in.

Bottom line: Maryland does catch a break, schedule-wise, in a two-week rest before Wake Forest comes to town. If the Terps maximize their efforts in the off week, they could sneak up on the Deacs and steal a win. That would ensure them not finishing at the bottom of the division.

2. Boston College: No Matt Ryan. No Matt Ryan, no Matt Ryan, no Matt Ryan.

Whereas Maryland has two serviceable quarterbacks to choose from, BC has none at this point. At least not one with any meaningful game experience. I know Jeff Jags hated answering question after question about Matt Ryan's departure--TFB. The media knows a storyline when it presents itself. And if our recent history is any predictor of BC's future results, then they can expect a rocky few years trying to climb out of the shadow of a great QB.

BC's wildcard? They've got a hell of a QB coach up there at Chestnut Hill--Steve Logan. The man who turned ECU into a football name in the 90's knows a thing or two about molding high school kids into top-notch quarterbacks, and he's no fool. I have all ideas that he spent the better part of last season--when Ryan was tearing it up on gameday--grooming Chris Crane into Ryan's successor.

But a noob QB is still a noob QB, and it'll be the better part of half a year before Crane has his QB legs under him. The Eagles open the conference schedule against a dangerous Georgia Tech team. A loss in the conference season opener could set the table for struggles in the league down the road.

Bottom line: BC travels to Raleigh for their second conference game of the year. If they enter Raleigh having lost to the Jackets AND lose to the Pack, I predict they finish in last in the Atlantic. And it couldn't happen to a better sack of horse manure like their bitter fanbase.

3. FSU: Whah!?! The Once Mighty Noles? Finishing dead last in a division that the ACC Powers-That-Be hand selected during expansion as the Noles' kingdom to rule over? So it ain't so!

Well, it probably won't happen. As much as the Noles HAVE fallen off in recent years, it's a bit ridiculous to think they could fall all the way to last with all the talent they continue to get through the doors at Tallahassee.

But looking at their schedule, you can see how it MIGHT happen if the rest of the Atlantic bunches up into a tight cluster where tie-breakers decide one or more final positions in the standings. They play their three toughest games of the year--Wake, Clemson and Virginia Tech--at home this year but Wake wasn't afraid to smack FSU around in Doak two years ago, Clemson and Tommy always seems to get a gift from daddy Bobby, and Frank Beamer's been around long enough to minimize the environment's impact on his team. All three games are loseable.

The road games pose a challenge, as well. FSU's first trip to Dolphin Stadium/Pro Player/Joe Robbie/The Place With The Big Round Stairwells At All Four Corners is a crapshoot. Carter-Finley hasn't been the most inviting place for Bobby Bowden since this decade began, and either of the Georgia Tech or Maryland games on the road could be lost.

Bottom Line: The Noles finished 4-4 in the league last year. State and Maryland both finished 3-5. A scenario could play out this year where all three (or four if you throw BC in the mix) end up with the same record, creating a logjam that requires some advanced math to settle. If the Noles lose 4 or 5 to the wrong teams, they could find themselves--yes--at the bottom of the heap in the Atlantic.

My guess: I think the team that will supplant State at the bottom of the division will be Boston College. Maryland's got issues and things could go horribly awry at the end of Bobby Bowden's career in Tallahassee, but I think BC faces the biggest challenge in replacing Matt Ryan at the QB position. I think Steve Logan is the best in the business at what he does but I'm not sold on Jags as a head coach. I think Crane will look solid behild center but will make enough mistakes over the course of the year against a tough conference slate to put the Eagles in DFL.

Another wildcard: Of the three teams I listed above, none of them face Duke this season and only one faces Virginia--Maryland. State by contrast gets Duke for the first time in ages during the first year of the Cutcliffe era. The Pack always seems to struggle against Duke for some reason, and I'm sure Cutcliffe will add plenty of new wrinkles and enthusiasm to a squad with one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Still, Duke is Duke, and what should be an easy win for State is one more reason why I don't foresee us finishing at the bottom of the Atlantic standings.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Triangle Pigskin Preview...interesting QB comments from TOB


PP link.

"Daniel was not able to participate in spring practice," O'Brien stated. "He has a lot of experience under his belt, and we have to give him every opportunity to do what he can do and be the quarterback.

"One of the things that the injury allowed us to do in the spring was take a long, hard look at Russell Wilson who is a pretty talented freshman. He did an excellent job this spring."

"We had a great performance out of Justin Burke in the spring game... the second half of the spring game," added O'Brien. "We will look at Mike Glennon, the freshman coming in, who is certainly a talented individual."

A decision from O'Brien on his starting quarterback will likely not come until the week of the South Carolina opener. Naming the starter is a big decision, and O'Brien feels you shouldn't do so until the choice is obvious.

Now, it's interesting to note not so much what he said but whom he didn't mention: Harrison Beck.

It's risky reading too much into a name omission in a collection of quotes like this. It could be he mentioned Beck in passing, or in a quote that was tough to make out on tape (I've been there before). And I'm sure if you asked why he didn't mention Beck, O'Brien would quickly tell you that it means nothing.

But Beck is not a name you just gloss over, like a walk on or fifth-year senior that was lucky to get a spot on the squad.

No, Beck was the high-profile transfer from Nebraska with a ton of stars on his recruiting profile and a cannon for an arm. There were plenty of folks that felt like he was going to instantly lock up the starting spot from the minute he became eligible to play.

It hasn't worked out that way, though. Turns out Beck cannon's about as accurate as one pulled from a shipwreck, and he sports a brash attitude that apparently rubbed folks the wrong way in Lincoln. And when the starting QB job was there for the taking, he couldn't supplant an undersized, underpowered Daniel Evans.

Fast forward to today. In response to a direct question regarding all of the possible options at QB, O'Brien takes time to break down the incumbent, the two players that turned heads in the spring and the incoming freshman...but not Beck.

Again, it's tough reading too much into something not said...but it's an interesting omission nevertheless.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Edit: Packer hangs 'em up on his terms


Edit: I initially stated that Packer had been let go from CBS. After clarification on Primetime With The Packman (hosted by Mark Packer, Billy's son), Packer had planned to step away as early as March. So good on Billy for leaving on his terms, not someone else's--just as I'm sure Billy had planned it way back when.

This week, Billy Packer stepped down from CBS, and as he says basketball broadcasting altogether, putting an end to 34 straight NCAA Final Fours called by the veteran broadcaster.

This sucks.

I know a TON of people out there hate Billy Packer. He's cantankerous old son-of-a-bitch who hates God, puppies, babies and all that is right with the world, they say.

But the man knows his basketball. He maintains he's never said a thing over the air he didn't believe to be true, and he'll stand behind it in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary.

There's NO other broadcaster out there, however, that gets more RIGHT, in the flow of the game, than Billy Packer. He sees the trends of a game unfold long before most of his audience, and he never gets credit for the eight times out of 10 he's dead-on...it's the two he's off that ruffle everyone's feathers.

As a State fan, I will sorely miss Packer on CBS because he knows and respects N.C. State's basketball tradition. Ask him who the greatest collegiate basketball player ever is, and David Thompson is what he'll reply. When the whole world called us crazy for swinging for the fences on our coaching search, wondering what business State had to hire a top-flight coach, I can guarantee it Billy understood.

He GOT it. He got us, State fans, because he knew where we've been and how important we--our school, Everette Case, Sloan, Valvano, etc.--have been in building the ACC to where it is today.

It will be weird not hearing him call the Final Four this coming year...even weirder when the voice coming through the mic that he once wore is Clark freaking Kellogg. This is what all the ill-informed bitching and moaning from the Packer haters got us: Clark freaking Kellogg.

As they say, Hater Nation--be careful what you wish for.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Cullen Jones is China-bound


GoPack.com article

State's strong tradition of swimmers continues on in Cullen Jones, who's earned his spot on the U.S. Olympic swimming team with a strong performance in the 4x100m relay.

His 50m preliminary time in Omaha set a new American record, but in the finals he failed to make the 50m free roster, finishing third by 16/100s of a second. Nevertheless, he's on his way to Beijing.

Not bad for a guy who nearly drowned at a waterpark at age 5.

There's some history at stake for Jones, as well. If he were to win gold, he would be the first black American swimmer to do so.

Jones is State's second swimming Olympian in 12 years. David Fox won gold in Atlanta in 1996 as part of the 4x100m relay sqaud. It can be argued that men's swimming has been the strongest men's sport at State, historically. The Wolfpack has won 24 ACC titles in its history, seven more than UNC's 17. It was Carolina grad Willis Casey, somewhat ironically, that led the Pack to 12 straight titles from 1966 to 1982. Casey, of course, went on to become one of the most prominent athletic directors in State's history.

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