The Wolfpack of NC State will miss many players from the 2010 roster, but fifth-year head coach Tom O’Brien has the team ready to stay competitive in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Pack returns 12 starters on both sides of the ball, but it will take a combination of both veteran and new players for NC State to win the ACC title.
Here are seven players to keep an eye on this season:
Mike Glennon: Junior, QB
The biggest loss to NC State’s roster was Russell Wilson. A year ago, Wilson led the ACC in touchdown passes, passing yards per game and total offense per game. Replacing Wilson will be junior quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon was marked as the quarterback of the future when he first arrived on campus, but has been stuck in the shadow of Wilson until now.
Entering his fourth year with the Pack, Glennon is a completely different field general than Wilson was. Glennon is a more traditional pocket passer with deadly accuracy, holding a career .634 completion percentage. Glennon may not be as mobile as Wilson, but he will be able to throw the ball all over the field. NC State’s top two receiving threats from last season have since graduated, but there are plenty of young raw talents waiting to step up in their place and Glennon will be connecting with them all season.
Mustafa Greene: Sophomore, RB
In 2010, Mustafa Greene led the team in rushing as a true freshman. This season Greene will be asked to take on more of the workload with the departure of Russell Wilson, who was second to Greene in total rushing yards as a quarterback. Greene is a quick, bruising back with exceptional vision out of the backfield. He is also a receiving threat, with close to 300 yards and a touchdown through the air last year. Brandon Barnes and Taylor Gentry will also see carries this season, but Greene will be the workhorse.
Quintin Payton: RS Sophomore, WR
Quinton Payton is going into his third season with NC State. He played sparingly last season after an early hand injury, but still managed to get playing time behind three senior receivers. This year, Payton has a chance to break out into the national spotlight. He has a great combination of size and speed, he runs great routes, and with Mike Glennon’s more traditional style of play at quarterback, Payton will see additional targets. Payton will have competition from other receivers on the roster, but he will be starting by the first game of the season.
Bryon Underwood: RS Freshman, WR
If Quintin Payton is the thunder at wide out for the Pack, Bryon Underwood is the lightning. An undersized receiver, Bryon relies on his speed to beat defenders. Underwood redshirted last season as a freshman but, with the departure of the teams' top two receivers, he will provide a nice deep threat for Mike Glennon. He will also be a great addition to the return game.
J.R. Sweezy: RS Senior, DT
J.R. Sweezy will be anchoring the defensive front for the Pack this season. Sweezy is coming off a great season in 2010 in which he was second on the team in sacks, second in tackles for a loss and sixth in total tackles. With the departure of Nate Irving, there will be a large void to fill in the front seven of NC State’s defense, and Sweezy will be the key to success in replacing that production. Already named a Lindy’s preseason All-ACC pick, Sweezy could be on his way to becoming one of the best defensive tackles in the country.
Earl Wolff: Junior, SS
Earl Wolff led the team in tackles last season, and will most likely repeat his performance in 2011. Wolff is a dynamic player at the strong safety position. He will also have to take on a larger leadership role along with J.R. Sweezy. Nate Irving was the heart and soul of this defense and, now that he is gone, someone else must take his place. Brandan Bishop will also be a force in the secondary for the Wolfpack, and the combination of Wolff and Bishop will give NC State one of the best safety tandems in the ACC.