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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some Random Items

-- From "Pawsitive" Press (see what he did there?), a Clemson blog run by Paul Strelow, the Clemson beat writer for The State newspaper out of Columbia. In this latest entry, he puts together his own list of top offensive players in the ACC in response to Heather Dinich's series a few weeks ago. There are some off-the-wall picks (four OL, and two in the top six, plus a kicker), but State's Owen Spencer and Football Jesus made the list.

Here's what he had to say about them:

12. WR Owen Spencer, Jr., N.C. State

My vote for the conference’s breakout player this year. Although Spencer (6-3, 185) obviously wasn’t shabby as a sophomore, ranking seventh in the league in receiving yards per game (finished with 31 catches, 691 yards, 5 TDs, whopping 22.3 yards-per-catch average).
5. QB Russell Wilson, R-So., N.C. State

Get the sense some folks might withhold judgment/excessive praise for Wilson based on Cullen Harper’s demise from the ACC QB cat-bird seat last year? It’s hard to overlook the 17:1 touchdown-to-interception total he posted last year (missing most of three games), although strangely, he looked bad against both USC (his O-line was atrocious before Wilson got hurt) and Clemson (10-21, 92 yards, his only INT), plus the fact he carried the Wolfpack down the stretch to four wins in a row at regular season’s end.

The only thing I can’t come to grips with is the gut feeling that a future NFL QB, redshirt frosh backup Mike Glennon, is hovering over his shoulder – and that O’Brien isn’t afraid to use him.
I disagree with him on the notion that Tom has an itchy trigger finger to put Glennon in ahead of Russell, as if one bad start could spell the end of Wilson's football playin' days.

I do tend to agree with him that the Russell worship is starting to get a little bit out of hand and could perhaps be a harbinger of disappointment to come. There's a point where someone's legend grows to the point where it's impossible to match what's expected of you. Ladanian Tomlinson in 2007, following his incredible 2006 season, is a perfect example. There was no way he could keep up that kind of production level he posted in '06 (28TDs, 5.2 YPC, 1,800 yards), so when he merely scored 15 TDs and rushed for only 1,400 yards, somehow that was a disappointing season.

In Russell's defense, he is a bit more of a proven commodity than Harper was coming into last season, so while I don't expect him to post another 17:1 TD/INT ratio, I do think he'll be all-ACC-caliber again.

-- Part Four (or IV) of JP Giglio/The N&O's summer ACC basketball preview came out yesterday, looking at the three teams they forecast into the bottom fourth of the league where State has set up shop in recent years.

Joe correctly notes that this will be Sidney's first real season with all of his players (yes, I see you over there in the corner, Dennis) so for the first time since his arrival on campus, the success or failure of the team will be all on his shoulders.

Joe offers these positives and negatives heading into '09-'10:

• Addition by subtraction. With the exits of Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley and Courtney Fells, the last ties to former coach Herb Sendek are all but severed. Every coach deserves a chance to be judged by the talent he brings into a program and how he manages that talent. Sidney Lowe gets that chance this season, his fourth.


• Tracy Smith. ... Tracy Smith is going to be a mile better as a junior. The power forward went from averaging 3.3 points as a freshman to 10.0 last year. In his third season, don't be surprised if Smith's numbers jump another seven points.

He's a no-nonsense player around the basket and he understands how to score points, either by attacking the rim or getting to the foul line (his 123 free-throw attempts were second on the team despite only starting 12 times and playing an average of 18.2 minutes per game.)
That's the good...here's the bad:

• Not enough new blood.
The key to Lowe starting over in Year 4 was bringing in better talent. If Lorenzo Brown had qualified, Lowe would have had a new guard to go with two ACC-ready big men and a promising shooter.

With Brown's detour to prep school, Lowe's only bringing in the aforementioned big men — who either play the same position as each other or the best player on the roster — and a promising shooter who just went from being asked to specialize to possibly being asked to be both Scott Wood and Lorenzo Brown.


• Defense. State ranked last in the ACC in steals and blocks. They have to create more turnovers to create more easy points to take the pressure off the point guards and the halfcourt offense.
Couldn't agree with him more on the defense. It's been downright bad at times, particularly late in games. Which leads me to my corollary addition to the "negatives" column, which is team conditioning. There have been enough examples in the past two seasons of State jumping out to a strong lead, only to give it all (and sometimes more) back to the opponent down the stretch. To me that smacks of a team with no legs left for defense or shooting. State's got to get not only more aggressive on defense for a full 40 minutes but better equipped, fitness-wise, to do it.

We shall see.

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