Posts Tagged 'nc state'

New Big Ten. New Favorite?

Wisconsin was already in good position to challenge for a Big Ten title this season, but one of many replacements head coach Bret Bielema had to contend with was the quarterback position, which had been vacated by Scott Tolzien.  As consistent as Tolzien was last season, the Badgers just upgraded this afternoon, when former NC State three-year starter Russell Wilson announced that he will be suiting up in Madison this fall.

Russell Wilson adds a new dimension to the Wisconsin offense (google images)

Wilson, who also plays professional baseball in the Colorado Rockies organization was released from NC State by head coach Tom O’Brien.  O’Brien wanted to have his team focused on the 2011 season, and he felt that Wilson’s baseball obligations hindered that focus.

This, despite overwhelming success in his three years as the Wolfpack’s starting signal-caller.  In his time in Raleigh, Wilson amassed over 8,500 passing yards and over 1,000 yards rushing, while throwing for 76 touchdowns, compared to just 26 Int’s.

His presence at Wisconsin should make a very immediate impact.  Unlike the spread offense at Auburn (which was reportedly the other finalist Wilson considered), Wisconsin is a more traditional offense, similar to the one he ran for three years when he starred at NC State.  The only difference is that Wilson never had a running game to rely on like the one he will join in August.

Although bruising tailback, John Clay is no longer there, the Badgers will once again boast one of the top rushing attacks in the nation, led by sophomore James White and junior Montee Ball.  Ball fell just four yards short of breaking the 1,000 yard mark, while White tallied 1,056 yards as a true freshman.  The tandem put up those numbers, despite splitting carries with Clay.

Cynics will point to the departure of both offensive tackles, including Gabe Carimi in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Badgers will only reload in 2011 on a unit that has been a hot-bed for the NFL.  Expect senior guard Kevin Zeitler to be the next high draft pick to lead another smash-mouth running game this fall (and you can also expect to hear Zeitler’s name early in the 2012 NFL Draft…mark it down).

If the Wisconsin defense, led by safety Aaron Henry can hold up their end, Wilson and the Badger offense will be much more explosive than in year’s past.  Wilson is quite possibly at his best when the pocket breaks down–just ask Florida State, who gave up three rushing TDs to Wilson last season.

He adds escapability and play-making ability to an offense that only lost one game in the Big Ten last season.  Add talented wide out Nick Toon to the equation, and Bielema may just have the formula for a Big Ten title run and a shot at being a top 5 team.  Although one player doesn’t make a team, a smart, athletic quarterback who is a proven winner will only make Wisconsin better.  At the least, the Badgers will be favored by many to lock up the newly expanded Big Ten.

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NFL QBs: Here’s to the Underdogs

For the elite high school quarterbacks in the country, the opportunity to play quarterback at one of the bigtime college football programs is a dream come true.  One major factor in making the final decision on which program gets the signature on the letter of intent is the degree to which that individual player will be prepared for the next level (the NFL).

The high-powered programs like Florida, Oklahoma, Miami and USC are just a few of the major BSC schools that elite high school quarterbacks consider, and why not?  These teams are known for their juggernaut offenses, and they are consistently in the hunt for a national championship.  College FootBlog takes a deeper look into the progress of the top performing quarterbacks from the NFL and where those QBs played their college ball.

Drew Brees has continued to relish the underdog role in the NFL, much like he did when he played QB at Purdue (google images)

If you are a coach or a parent of an elite QB, the you may want to take a hard look at the numbers because you’ll probably be very surprised.  For a number of reasons, which we will cover later, the major programs typically do not groom their top-tier signal callers for the NFL.  Let’s take a look at the passer ratings from the last season.

Of the top ten quarterback ratings, only two, Peyton Manning (Tennessee) and Tom Brady (Michigan) went to perineal BCS power houses, and Manning was ranked sixth, with Brady at #9. 

Purdue’s Drew Brees was the Superbowl MVP and the top-rated QB in the NFL last year, with a QB Rating of 109.6.  Brett Favre was a close second and is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer, and he played at Southern Miss.  

Phillip Rivers was the 3rd-ranked QB last year and has been a dominant player since his arrival in 2004, but NC State is not exactly known as Quarterback-U.  Aaron Rodgers was #4 and played at Cal, which doesn’t have the glamor of USC, but he outperformed his former rivals from LA last season.  Matt Schaub was ranked seventh and hails from the University of Virginia. 

The other three QBs in the top ten really dispel the idea that you have to go to a bigtime program to prepare for the NFL.   Fifth-ranked Ben Roethlisberger went to Miami–no, not that ‘Miami’…Miami of Ohio.  Eighth-ranked Tony Romo and 10th-ranked Kurt Warner played Division IAA (or FCS for those who are up on the new abbreviations) at Eastern Illinois and Northern Iowa, respectively.

Now, let’s take a look at the lowest ranked QBs from last year’s NFL season.  Five of the worst eight QBs in the NFL last season were from major programs, including #32 (the worst) first-round bust JaMarcus Russell from LSU.  Former USC quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez were numbers 25 and 28.

Former Notre Dame star Brady Quinn came in at #27 and rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled in his first season out of the University of Georgia, ranking 29th.

When digging into the numbers it really should not come as a huge surprise.  Afterall, the quarterbacks at the major programs typically have a bigtime advantage with their receiving corps versus the opposing secondaries.  For example, in Stafford’s last season at Georgia, he had 6’2″ and 2nd round pick Mohamed Massaquoi and soon to be first rounder AJ Green, who is 6’4″ and could be the best wideout in the country this year.

Even in the SEC, which is widely known for being the best conference in college football, the dominant programs have bigger, faster and stronger WRs, creating bigger windows to throw into and much more room for error. 

In the NFL, it is typically the cornerbacks that are the fastest players on the field, and while they may be at a disadvantage in size, the talent pool is much smaller, and those large windows to complete passes are not only smaller, but they also close very quickly.  In the NFL, a ball delivered a split-second too early or too late is the difference between a completion and a pick-six for the defense.

The QBs at the lesser-known programs have to deal with a more balanced and level playing field and often do not have this colossal advantage with their receivers, forcing them to make better reads and to thread the needle, instead of throwing to an area.

In the end, there are a few low-ranked QBs that could easily turn things around.  After all, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford were only rookies last season, but the trend is quite staggering when you take away all the glamor and simply look at production on the field.  For the time being (and seemingly for the immediate future), it is the underdogs that continue to lead the way.

2010 College Football ACC Preview (Atlantic Division)

The summer time is rapidly approaching, and that means fun in the sun for most, but for college football enthusiasts, it’s like entering a bit of a black hole.  Summer workouts begin, but until two-a-days begin in August, coaching staffs are not allowed to be directly involved with the player drills and workouts (unless, of course, Rich Rodriguez is at the helm…sorry, we couldn’t resist). 

As we enter this dead period, College FootBlog will take a look at each major conference and will provide preliminary power rankings.  Our first conference breakdown will be the ACC.  We first take a look at the Atlantic Divison, and we will take a peek at the Coastal Division later in this week. 

All-American guard Rodney Hudson anchors FSU's offensive line, which will be one of the top OLs in the nation (google images).

1. Florida State:  After several years of underachieving, look for FSU to back it up this season.  The Seminoles return all starters on the offensive line, which has two All-American candidates in guard Rodney Hudson and tackle Andrew Datko.  The issue that needs to improve is the Seminole defense, who finished last season 108th nationally in total defense.  While a revamped coaching staff on that side of the ball will probably not lead to a top 25 defense, there is every reason to believe that they will be much improved this fall.  Throw in Heisman Trophy candidate Christian Ponder at QB, and the ‘Noles should have the inside track at representing the Atlantic Division in this year’s ACC Championship Game.

2.  Clemson:  The loss of the electric running back, CJ Spiller will leave a huge void in the Tigers offense.  We will find out in a few weeks whether or not quarterback Kyle Parker will be taking snaps this fall, or if he will pursue a professional baseball career.  The question marks on offense are somewhat offset by the playmakers on the defensive line, most notably DE Da’Quan Bowers.  The other thing going against Clemson is that they play ACC Atlantic favorite Florida State in Tallahassee this year.

After missing all of last season, Mark Herzlich is now cancer-free (google images)

3.  Boston College: The big story out of BC is the return of 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Mark Herzlich, who is now cancer free.  The offense that struggled quite a bit last season returns four of five starters, and after some growing pains last season, quarterback Dave Shinskie will be looked upon to provide more consistency to an offense that ranked 93rd in passing offense last season.  Everyone will be rooting for Herzlich to have a good season, but it may be difficult to return to his ’08 form this quickly after aggressive treatment of the illness that forced him to miss all of last season.  Still, he should provide a jolt to a solid defense that ranked 26th nationally last year.

4.  NC State:  Defensively, the Wolfpack lose seven starters, which includes all four starters on the defensive line.  The good news for the ‘Pack is that linebacker Nate Irving, who missed all of last season due to injuries sustained from  car accident is back and participated in spring ball this year.  His absence last year, however, actually helps the depth going into this year, as some younger players gained valuable experience filling that void.  The strength of NC State should be at quarterback.  Head coach Tom O’Brien already knows what he will get from althetic QB Russell Wilson, and because Wilson used this spring to focus on baseball, back up Sean Glennon got valuable reps all spring to help with depth.

5.  Wake Forest:  As great as head coach Jim Grobe has been at Wake, he has his work cut out for him this season, after the loss of Riley Skinner, who started four years at quarterback in Winston-Salem.  The Deacons also have to replace three senior starters on the offensive line and five senior defensive players, including cornerback Brandon Ghee who went in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft.  Grobe is a great coach and has added some talented recruiting classes, but this year’s youth and inexperience will be a difficult hill to climb.

6.  Maryland:  There is a very good possibility the head coach Ralph Friedgen will not make it to see the 2011 season, at least in College Park.  Much of Maryland’s issues last season could be attributed to the poor play of their offensive line, which gave up three sacks a game last season.  The outlook for this season is pretty bleak, with the loss of Bruce Campbell.  The ‘Terps are coming off a miserable 2009 campaign that resulted in a 2-10 record, and unfortunately for Maryland fans, all signs point to another sub-.500 year this fall.

Look for College FootBlog’s breakdown of the ACC Coastal Division later this week!

College Football Week 9 Prediction: NC State at Florida State

This weekend, Russell Wilson and the NC State Wolfpack travel to Tallahassee to take on the very unpredictable and inconsistent Florida State Seminoles.  A lot is at stake in this ACC match up as FSU will look to stay alive in the hunt for the ACC Championship Game, and NC State will look to snap their current three game skid.  As always, College FootBlog will break down each team, analyze the upcoming game and make a score prediction.

Christian Ponder has quietly put together the best passing stats in the ACC (google images)

Christian Ponder has quietly put together the best passing stats in the ACC (google images)

Florida State

Strengths:  The 2009 season has not been good to the ‘Noles, but the play of quarterback, Christian Ponder, has been the only constant they have had.  Ponder currently leads the ACC in total offense and is fourth nationally.  Ponder’s passing yards per game is tops in the ACC and currently ranks fifth nationally.

In addition to the yardage, Ponder has also managed to throw 12 touchdowns, compared to just one interception.

The only time Ponder has had trouble finding the end zone was against the South Florida Bulls, but even in that match up, he threw for 269 yards and did not throw a pick.

Despite an inconsistent running game and an atrocious Seminole defense, Ponder has kept his team in each game until the final whistle.  He will have to continue his great play if FSU has a shot this Thursday.

Key Concerns:  FSU’s defense has been downright horrible this season.  Whether it has been against the run or the pass, there have been too many holes to count in Mickey Andrews’ defense.

How bad is it?  The ‘Noles’ defense currently ranks 99th in the FBS in total defense, giving up just over 413 yards per game.  That breaks down to 98th in the country in rush defense (182.43 yards/game) and 79th in the nation in pass defense (231.14 yards/game).

russell wilson

Russell Wilson has quietly put up great numbers for the Wolfpack for the second straight season (google images)

NC State

Strengths:  As with FSU, the Wolfpack also has a great quarterback who has been overlooked nationally, due to the team record.  Russell Wilson was the first team All-ACC quarterback last year as a freshman.

This season, Wilson has avoided the sophomore slump.  With very few dynamic players to distribute the ball to this season, he has thrown for 1659 yards, but more importantly, he has thrown for 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions.  Wilson has also added 249 yards and another three touchdowns on the ground this season, while averaging over four yards per carry.

Key Concerns:  Although statistically, the NC State defense does not appear that bad, stats can sometimes be deceiving.  The Wolfpack currently rank 59 nationally in passing defense, but they haven’t exactly faced the best passing attacks in the country.

The Wolfpack have gone up against two FCS opponents this season and have yet to face, and they also took on Steve Spurrier’s anti-Fun & Gun offense in South Carolina, which ranks 47th in the FBS.  The ‘Pack will have their hands full this weekend.

NC State Offense vs. Florida State Defense

Unless FSU’s defense pulls a 180, this weekend will be much of the same for the ‘Noles.  As much as the Seminoles have struggled on defense this season, mobility and athleticism at the quarterback position has given them even more fits–see Jacory Harris and Josh Nesbitt, who were both able to rack up huge days against FSU in Doak Campbell Stadium

Russell Wilson provides a nice blend of those two athletic QBs.  Wilson may be an even better passer than Harris–he just does not have the stable of WRs that Harris has at his disposal.  And Wilson has the ability to make plays with his feet as well.  Look for him to have a very big day.  EDGE:  NC State

Florida State Offense vs. NC State Defense

As previously mentioned, NC State’s defense, especially against the pass is not as good as the stats may indicate.  Look for Christian Ponder to continue to add to his great season and distribute the ball to all of his weapons on offense.  This Seminole offense will present the biggest challenge the Wolfpack has faced so far this season.  Ponder should also have a very big day.  EDGE:  FSU

Special Teams

NC State’s TJ Graham is a solid returner and has already brought one kickoff back for a touchdown this season, and kicker Josh Czajkowski has converted on 7 of 9 field goal attempts. 

Florida State counters with a couple of solid return men, including freshmen phenom Greg Reid.  Reid has not brought a kick back for a touchdown this season, but many teams have stayed away from him on kick offs.  Freshman kicker Dustin Hopkins has been inconsistent on extra points and field goals, but he rebounded nicely last week against North Carolina.  Hopkins has done a solid job, however, of kicking the ball into the endzone on kickoffs, which has helped with field position.  Slight EDGE:  FSU

Prediction

Predicting games in the ACC this season has been a crap shoot, and the outcome of this game could easily go either way.  Russell Wilson is an outstanding athlete, and he will keep the Wolfpack in the game.  FSU showed last week that they can actually win a game down the stretch, and Christian Ponder has proven that with a little bit of protection, he can keep his team in the ‘Noles in any game.  Look for Ponder to have another solid outing this weekend, and that should prove to be the difference in this one, but it will likely go down to the wire. 

Score Prediction:  FSU wins 34-31

Has Bobby Bowden Lost Control of the Program?

Over the past five years, Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden and his close friend, Penn State coach Joe Paterno have not only battled for the most major college football wins, but they have also battled boosters, analysts and the media, who has questioned whether or not the game has passed them by.

FSU coach Bobby Bowden has not had much to smile about lately (google images)

FSU coach Bobby Bowden has not had much to smile about lately (google images)

While Penn State has turned the corner the past few years, in part, thanks to an Orange Bowl victory over FSU in 2005, Bowden’s Seminoles have taken a turn for the worse.  Last weekend’s loss to Boston College put FSU’s 2009 record at 2-3, the worst start for Bowden since 1983.

Doak Campbell Stadium, which saw the ‘Noles go undefeated in 54-straight home games in the 90’s has dropped to a very mediocre 14-10 at in the last 24 home games, with many of those wins coming from inferior opponents such as Western Carolina, Tennessee-Chattanooga and Jacksonville State to name a few.

What is more disturbing than the rapid decline of the win totals might be the dysfunction of the coaching staff.  Rumors have been swirling for a while now, but they have escalated recently.  Most rumors suggest a rift between the offensive coaching staff and the defensive staff.

In 2007, it was announced that offensive coordinator, Jimbo Fisher, was the “Head Coach in Waiting.”  At the time, the move was not only necessary for Florida State to keep Fisher from leaving for a different head coaching position, but it also allowed FSU to provide a sense of stability to potential recruits who were unsure what the future held at FSU.

The combination of Fisher’s title (and future) combined with a seasoned defensive coordinator who is set in his ways (Mikey Andrews) and the hiring of fired NC State coach, Chuck Amato has developed into the perfect storm. 

While the team and athletic department will not confirm anything, there definitely appears to be a disconnect on the Seminole coaching staff.  And Bowden acting as more of a figurehead instead of the leader of the program has allowed the disconnect to turn into an outright division in the staff of Fisher and the new offensive coaches (OL coach Rick Trickett, TE coach James Coley and WR coach Lawrence Dawsey) on one side, and Bowden’s contingents on the other.

How bad has it gotten?  For the first time, FSU’s Board of Trustees is calling for Bowden’s resignation at the end of this season.  The Chairman of the Board, Jim Smith, said on Monday, “I know the coaches are snipping at each other, and that’s just terrible.”

Smith went on to say, “I love Bobby Bowden, but I tell you what, I love FSU more.”

Either way, it appears there could be some answers in the near future.  Some outlets are suggesting possible changes and/or plans for these changes as early as this Wednesday.

If these changes are not made soon, FSU’s recruiting efforts, especially on the defensive side of the ball, can and will continue to suffer.  The ‘Noles already lost the commitment of stud defensive end, Corey Miller from Byrnes High School in South Carolina to Tennessee.  On the same weekend, they also lost Miller’s teammate, defensive lineman Brandon Willis, who was once considered a strong FSU lean before he followed suit and committed to Lane Kiffin’s Vols a few weeks ago.

If the necessary changes are made on FSU’s staff and they are announced quickly, the ‘Noles may be able to stop the bleeding.  If not, Jimbo Fisher may be inheriting a program with little to no defensive talent when he finally gets the reigns.

ACC College Football Breakdown Part II: Atlantic Division

A couple days ago, College FootBlog provided a breakdown of the ACC Coastal Division as part one of two brekdowns of the ACC’s college football season.  In part two of College FootBlog’s breakdown of the ACC in the early stages of this season, we will provide power rankings for the Atlantic Division and cover some of the key strenths and concerns for each team.  Here is our list from what we feel are the teams in this division from top to bottom.

1.  Clemson

Senior DE Ricky Sapp will be playing on Sundays next year (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

Senior DE Ricky Sapp will be playing on Sundays next year (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

Srengths:  The Tigers have a great defense, particularly their front four led by senior DE Ricky Sapp.  The Clemson defense had issues with Georgia Tech, but who hasn’t?  If you take out that game, the Tigers have given up an average of 247 yards per game, with their most dominant outing coming against Boston College when they held the Eagles to 54 total yards.

Key Concerns:  After what was a very promising start to the season, freshman quarterback Kyle Parker has struggled as of late. 

In Parker’s last two games, he has completed less than 47% of his passes (30/64) and is averaging less than 150 yards passing per game.  Possibly the more telling stat in those two games is the zero touchdowns and two interceptions.  If he does not turn it around quickly, head coach Dabo Swinney will have to make a change.

 
Strengths:  College FootBlog has been high on Chrisitian Ponder all season, and he continues to impress.  Even in last weekend’s loss to the South Florida Bulls, Ponder went 25-37 for 269 yards, and he did so with some key drops and horrible protection from what was supposed to be the best O-line in the ACC.  Overall, Ponder’s dramatic improvement over last season and his poise has been the only thing that has kept FSU in games this season.
 
Key Concerns:  Florida State’s pass defense has been atrocious this season.  Even in their stunning win over BYU, the Seminoles managed to give up 365 yards to the Cougars, despite the fact that FSU dominated the time of possession, leaving Max Hall and company just over 20 minutes to work with.  Overall, the ‘Noles rank 115th nationally against the pass.  If that does not improve, FSU will have no shot at winning the Atlantic Division as many predicted would happen this year.
 
Quarterback Russell Wilson has 12 TD's and no picks in 2009

Quarterback Russell Wilson has 12 TD's and no picks in 2009

 
Strengths:  Quarterback Russell Wilson led the Wolfpack shocked a lot of the “experts” last week when the stunned Pittsburgh by lighting up what was supposed to be a solid Panther defense.  Wilson showed why he was first team All-ACC as a freshman last year.  Here is a stat for you–so far this season, Wilson has 12 touchdown passes with ZERO interceptions.  His athleticism and gamebreaking abilities could help NC State shock a lot of people before season’s end.
 
Key Concerns:  The running game minus Wilson is still a bit of a question mark.  Senior tailback, Toney Baker has been pretty solid this season, averaging  just over five yards per carry, but his 48 carries are only 16 more that Wilson.  Last game against Pitt, Wilson led the team in rushing with 91 yards on ten carries.  If Wilson has to continue to be that important in the running game, the chance for injury goes up substantially, especially when the Wolfpack gets into the thick of their schedule, which really begins in October.  If Wilson goes, so does NC State’s offense.

 4.  Boston College 

Strengths:  Quarterback Dave Shinskie has been solid in his first year as BC’s starter.  After a dismal performance against Clemson a couple weeks ago, Shinskie bounced back last weekend, throwing for 228 yards and three touchdowns last weekend against Wake Forest.  He will have a good shot at matching or improving on those numbers this weekend when the Eagles welcome FSU’s pourous secondary (see above).
Key Concerns:  The entire defense has struggled when faced with a true FBS opponent.  In those games (which only include the last two), offenses have really had their way with BC’s defense, who lost their two dominant DT’s, including first round NFL Draft selection BJ RajiWake Forest, who has had their share of offensive issues, put up 496 yards against the BC defense last weekend.
 
 
Strengths:  Staying with the theme here, quarterback, Riley Skinner has not been as effective as he has in year’s past, but he is still the leader of this Deamon Deacon squad.  Even in a somewhat down year so far, the four-year starter has still managed to complete just under 66% of his passes and eight touchdowns. 
Key Concerns:  The Deamon Deacons lost some subtantial pieces to their defense from last year, most notibly LB Aaron Curry, who was drafted number four overall last year and CB Alphonso Smith, who was drafted early in round 2.  Wake is really missing the impact that these two players brought.  Last week, against a struggling Boston College offense, the Deamon Deacons surrendered 398 yards, which included three TD’s through the air.
 
 
Strengths:  N/A–after struggling to beat FCS opponent James Madison by three points in week 2, the Terrapins fell to Middle Tennessee for the second year in a row.  As for the two games against FBS opponents, the Terps have been dominated 52-13 to Cal and 34-13 against Rutgers.
Key Concerns:  Name it.  The Terps have been horrible in nearly every facet of the game this season.  It looks like it will be a long two months for Ralph Friedgen.