The Wolfpacker

July 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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WOLFPACK FOOTBALL New Rules Changes Could Lead To Increase In Touchbacks, Fewer Injuries F ormer NC State star return man T.J. Graham might have a record that proves tough to break after new rules changes this offseason. Graham, who the Buffalo Bills selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, set an ACC record with 3,090 yards on 134 kickoff returns, two of which he brought back for touchdowns. With the NCAA trying to create a safer environment on kickoff returns, play- ers might not get the chance to create magic in the return game as often. The NCAA approved three new rules changes that could lead to more touchbacks, or bring in different kickoff strategies, and ultimately lead to fewer injuries. Kickoffs have been moved up from the 30-yard to the 35, the same as the NFL. Some kick return- ers such as the Chicago Bears' Devin Hester still were able to shine on runbacks, but not as often. The NCAA also now requires coverage guys to line up no farther than five yards behind the ball on kickoffs, which will help eliminate a head start for tacklers. The third rule change has touchbacks going out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. "I think you are going to have more touch- backs with the ball going out to the 25," NC State special teams coach Jerry Petercuskie said. "If you have a great returner back there, the 25 isn't a bad start." Graham's ACC mark could prove incred- ibly difficult to break. "I would think so because a guy like Gra- ham would have the reputation where you'll want to bang the ball out of the end zone if you can," Petercuskie said. "Not every kicker ■ 2012 NC State Football Schedule Nov. 10 Wake Forest Nov. 17 at Clemson Nov. 24 Boston College * at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Oct. 27 at North Carolina Nov. 3 Oct. 20 at Maryland Virginia 100 ■ THE WOLFPACKER Sept. 15 South Alabama Sept. 22 The Citadel Sept. 29 at Miami Oct. 6 Sept. 8 Florida State Date Opponent Aug. 31 vs. Tennessee* at Connecticut 7:30 p.m./ESPNU 12 p.m./ESPN3 6 p.m. 6 p.m. TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA Time/TV "It just a matter of how deep will guys take it out," Petercuskie said. "If you kick it 70 yards and it's five yards deep, if they want to bring it out, it's up to them. "There will be times depending on who the returner is, that you'll want to kick the ball up in the air and have it be near the goal line. We'd hang it up around 4.0 to 4.2 seconds and play defense." Petercuskie knows opponents would have gladly had the Wolfpack start out at the 25- yard line rather than tempt fate by kicking the ball to Graham the last four years. Se- niors Tobais Palmer and C.J. Wilson, and sophomore Bryan Underwood are among the kickoff return candidates to replace Graham. The goal is less returns will lead to less injuries. "Player safety is always an issue," Peter- cuskie said. "The new punt rule where you can't jump on top of the shield [blocking] and all those things are for player's safety. I'm 100 percent behind that." Troy Walters Named New Wide Receivers Coach for a long time, given recent rule changes. PHOTO BY ERIC LUSK will be able to do that just because they moved it five yards. There are some dynamic kickers who have 75-yard ability in their leg. The kid that can kick it 68 yards will still get some returns." The five-yard head start limit could coun- ter-balance some of the rules. "That five-yard start will reduce by two or three yards the amount of space we can eat up before a ball is caught," Petercuskie said. Petercuskie visited with the Denver Bron- cos during the offseason and learned how they handled the new rules changes last year. The trend became that most return men would still bring it out five yards into the end zone, while the Hesters of the world might do it from near the back end line. NC State sophomore kicker Niklas Sade had five touchbacks on 70 kickoffs last year, while opponents who were kicking to Gra- ham had eight touchbacks on 62 attempts. Sade averaged 62.4 yards on his kickoffs. "I think we'll have a lot more touchbacks, definitely," Sade said. "I'm going to try and get more out to the back of the end zone. When I heard about the new rule, I was kind of excited. I'll try to get deeper balls and more touchbacks. I didn't do too good last year with my touchback percentage." Petercuskie estimates Sade's touchbacks will increase by 30-40 percent under the new rules. T.J. Graham totaled 3,090 yards on 134 kick returns, setting an ACC record that may stand Former Fred Biletnikoff Award winner Troy Walters was named the new wide re- ceivers coach at NC State June 27. The former Stanford wideout spent eight seasons in the NFL with five different fran- chises before he got into coaching. Walters worked one year at Indiana State, where he served as the offensive coordinator and also mentored the quarterbacks and wide receivers. The 35-year-old Walters was the wide receivers coach at Texas A&M from 2010-11 under former coach Mike Sherman. "We are excited that Troy has agreed to be a part of our staff," NC State head coach Tom O'Brien said. "He has outstanding ex- perience as a player on the collegiate and professional levels and as a coach. He will be a great mentor and leader for our young wide receiver corps." NC State offensive coordinator Dana Bi- ble previously served as the wide receivers and quarterbacks coach. Walters and new running backs/tight ends coach Desmond Kitchings will join Bible and offensive line coach Jim Bridge as the new offensive staff. The spots opened on the staff when run- ning backs coach Everette Sands left for the same position at South Carolina and tight ends coach Don Horton retired from coaching. Horton is now the Pack's assistant director of football operations. "I'm excited to be a part of the Wolfpack family," Walters said. "NC State has a great staff, great players and great fans, and I like the direction that Coach O'Brien has the program headed. I'm looking forward to — Jacey Zembal

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