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September 7, 2011

In the trenches with Jacey Zembal

Jacey Zembal is the editor of TheWolfpacker.com of the Rivals Network. He has been covering N.C. State for four years.

What is the current status on N.C. State running back Mustafa Greene? And are there any significant injury updates? "Greene is out for at least a few more weeks after undergoing foot surgery in the spring. He was NC State's leading returning rusher and had the running style to thrive on 20-plus carries.



Junior James Washington and fifth-year senior Curtis Underwood, Jr., have become the 1-2 punch at running back until Greene gets back healthy. Washington has more speed and is adept in the passing game, both as a blocker and receiver. Underwood is more physical and weighs around 215 pounds. He's always flashed a hard-running style, but sometimes tries to do too much and fumbles, which is why his playing time has been scant over the years.

NC State lost backup defensive tackle Thomas Teal against Liberty. The redshirt freshman has been replaced in the rotation by true freshman T.Y. McGill. NCSU previously lost starting defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy, and both Teal and Sweezy have the same foot injury. Projected starting cornerback Jarvis Byrd went down with a season-ending knee injury in July, while starting left guard Andrew Wallace suffered a knee injury last December, and is a few weeks away from returning."

N.C. State's defense forced seven turnovers and T.J. Graham returned a punt for a touchdown Saturday against Liberty. How much does State depend on its defense and special teams to perform like that every game? Do you think the offense has what it takes yet to support the defense, and score points? "The offense will likely come around at some point, but it's going to be largely dependent on redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon. The defense is solid and Graham will always be a threat to make something happen on special teams — he has four career returns for touchdowns.

Glennon is talented and has a prototypical size and arm, but he's going to need some time based on the Liberty game. He will also need some help from the wide receivers. The Wolfpack don't have that go-to-guy yet like Chris Givens of Wake Forest."

One of the concerns for the Pack going into the season was that they lacked a true No. 1 wide receiver. Do you agree with that, or do you think someone is emerging as that go-to-guy? "That is definitely true as alluded to above. Graham can go deep and has great speed, but he was quiet vs. Liberty. Redshirt junior Tobais Palmer looked comfortable in his Wolfpack debut. The former junior college running back is elusive in the open field and has good speed. Fifth-year senior Jay Smith and redshirt sophomore Quintin Payton both have good size. Finding a dependable go-to receiver is going to take some time."



Who are a couple of State players on offense and defense that Wake Forest fans need to be on the lookout for?
"Sophomore cornerback David Amerson of nearby Greensboro is rapidly developing into a quality player, and had two interceptions against Liberty. He'll likely get matched up against Givens.

Fifth-year senior tight end George Bryan is an All-American candidate and regular on the All-ACC teams the last two years, but he didn't catch a pass against the Flames. Glennon will likely look for him early in the game to help make him be more of a factor. He has great size and reliable hands, though he did drop one in the opener."



How significantly has the style of the offense and its schemes changed with Mike Glennon at quarterback after seeing a dual threat there in Russell Wilson the past three years? "The scheme is the same and Glennon spent most of his time in the shotgun. Some Wolfpack fans were hoping to see more of a Boston College pro-style offense this season with Wilson gone, but the staff isn't going to change what they do for one player, and in this situation, a quarterback who knows the system inside-out after practicing in it for three years.

What has changed is the play-calling. There isn't going to be read options with Glennon taking off. He isn't going to roll out as much. He isn't a statue in the pocket, but he is most comfortable in the pocket."

What do you think N.C. State should be most concerned about as it prepares for the Demon Deacons? "The biggest concern comes in sophomore quarterback Tanner Price getting comfortable in the passing game, and then having Givens and sophomore Michael Campanaro coming up with some big plays to give the Demon Deacons some early momentum in front of the home fans. Wake Forest is pretty balanced when it comes to running and passing plays, but NC State will want to make the Demon Deacons one-dimensional and then tee off with blitzes from its linebackers and safeties."


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