The NC State Wolfpack football team is ready to start the 2011-2012 season.
The Wolfpack kicks off at home on Sat. Sept. 3 at Carter-Finley Stadium as it takes on the Liberty University Flames, an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team that finished last season 8-3 overall and is the defending four-time Big South Conference champion.
Pack head coach Tom O’Brien set the tone for his team’s first game by giving the team’s upcoming opponent some respect as a team that has strong leadership from the quarterback position.
“Offensively they return a lot of skill people. The quarterback is an All-American, their wide receiver’s an All-American. Their offense is centered around the quarterback. Last year, when they upset Ball State, he had the ball 55 out of the 66 plays that they ran, so everything goes through him.” – Tom O’Brien, NC State Wolfpack coach
With the challenge put forward by his coach to pay attention to a talented quarterback and offense, Wolfpack senior linebacker Audie Cole gave his conservative and direct assessment on what the defense will need to do during the team’s season opener.
“As long as we take care of our assignments and play the way we’ve been taught, we should put together a good game. We have to bring the right mindset into it. I think [the linebackers] are at a good point right now, we just need to stay focused and do what we need to do.” – Audie Cole, NC State Wolfpack linebacker
Carrying momentum from last season
Heading into this season, preseason prognosticators have placed NC State to finish third in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Atlantic Division play.
The Wolfpack finished last season with a 9-4 record overall and capped it off with a 23-7 win over Big East opponent the West Virginia Mountaineers to claim the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl title.
Before starting training camp in August, coach Tom O’Brien emphasized how important it was for his team to stay focused when asked about it at the 2011 ACC Kickoff that took place in Pinehurst, N.C.
“We have to concentrate on playing one game a week,“ O’Brien stated.
Focus and health are keys to success
O’Brien and his staff have had to retool the offense as it lost veteran quarterback Russell Wilson who transferred to Wisconsin while receivers Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams both graduated.
Keeping his team on track while making such changes will be the key to carry a winning momentum into the first game of the season.
In addition to effective weekly preparation, staying healthy is another factor that O’Brien has stressed to being successful this season.
However, that has already become an issue since training camp began as the team will begin the season without returning defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy and running back Mustafa Green who both recently suffered foot injuries.
Pack fans will get to see how 6’6” quarterback Mike Glennon will do in taking over the offense’s leadership.
In Glennon assuming the starting quarterback role he has new personnel to throw to and will have T.J. Graham in his sights as well as tight end George Bryan to look to.
On the ground, Mustafa Greene’s injury will allow back Taylor Gentry and James Washington to show what they have in helping to gain valuable yards on the ground.
The loss of linebacker Nate Irving will be the most notable difference on the Wolfpack defense that fans will see.
Returning linebacker Audie Cole is ready to fill that spot as he leads a group of eight returning starters, including Terrell Manning and C.J. Wilson, who will look to match and improve up the team’s defensive performance which finished 31st overall in the country in last season.
“This defense is going to be as good as it was. We have all the talent we need. The thing about what we need to change this year is to learn to put games away – when we got a team down, we need to keep them down.” – Audie Cole, NC State Wolfpack linebacker
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