The Wolfpacker

March 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 22 of 95

Thornton of Hinesville, Ga., was particularly important after not signing a back last year. Ole Miss made a late run at Thornton, but he declined the Rebels' advances. He originally committed to Kentucky. "He's an excellent player," Niebuhr said. "There is a concern, and there is only one concern, in that maybe he doesn't have home- run-threat speed. He has worked on his speed, and he runs better now than he did a year ago. He has good size, and he can run inside the tackles. If his speed progresses, he can be a guy that can get some yards around the edge as well. He is really a nice all-around running back. A lot of big schools were after him." Wide receivers Charlie Hegedus of Mari- etta (Ga.) Lassiter and Xavier Griffin of New- ark (Del.) High could both challenge for play- ing time next fall. The Wolfpack lost senior wide receivers T.J. Graham, Jay Smith and Steven Howard. "Hegedus has some of the best hands in the entire South region," Niebuhr said. "He runs great routes. He is actually sneaky quick. I think that was a steal. He gets open about as well as anybody out there in this receivers class." Griffin's prep teammate, 6-5, 240-pound David Grinnage, will get groomed at tight end for the day when rising fifth-year senior Mario Carter and rising redshirt junior Asa Watson move on. "Grinnage is a big, big kid," Farrell said. "It wouldn't surprise me if he grows into that George Bryan role, where he is a huge tight end or even becomes an offensive tackle." Two junior college transfers have a chance to immediately plug some gaps on the defen- sive side. Linebacker Robert Caldwell from the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Ca- lif., brings good size at 6-3 and 245 pounds, and will immediately get thrown into the mix due to the graduation of middle linebacker Audie Cole and outside linebacker Dwayne Maddox, along with redshirt junior outside linebacker Terrell Manning entering the NFL Draft. Caldwell had 41 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks last year. "The Manning situation changed our think- ing in a lot of respects," O'Brien said. "We wanted to get a mature body in here, a guy that has played at the college level, at the JC level. It was important to get somebody with that maturity level to be able to hopefully play right away." Defensive tackle Deylan Buntyn was on NC State's radar coming out of Havelock, N.C., but he spent two years at New Mexico Military Institute, which is the school former NCSU defensive tackle Natanu Mageo at- tended. The massive 6-4, 335-pound Buntyn had 16 tackles, three tackles for loss, one blocked kick and one fumble recovery for 2012 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE Caldwell joins prep linebackers Drew Da- vis and Salahuddin, who are both in-state products. Davis, who originally committed to Minnesota, played with freshman defen- sive back Juston Burris at Raleigh Brough- ton High. Davis projects toward the inside at 6-3 and 240 pounds, and Salahuddin played safety and outside linebacker during his career at Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt High. "The guy who stood out to me at the Shrine Defensive end Desmond Owino, who is from Raleigh, was rated a three-star prospect, but he has the potential to blossom into an impact player for the Pack. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN his 9-3 squad. ranked him as the No. 22 junior college recruit in the country. Buntyn enrolled at NC State for the spring semester, but Caldwell wasn't able to. "Buntyn is a lot bigger man than he was in high school. … He looks like he is pretty light on his feet," O'Brien said. "Balance is a big thing when we look at lineman." Caldwell and Buntyn were two of 13 de- fensive players signed by the Wolfpack. De- fensive ends Whitehead, Owino, Tyler Knox and Joe Wright, along with defensive tackle Hooker, represent NC State's future on the line. Whitehead and Knox were recruited by numerous ACC and SEC colleges and proved to be coups for the Wolfpack coaching staff. The 6-5, 210-pound Whitehead picked NC State over Georgia and Clemson in the end, while the 6-4, 225-pound Knox of Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High comes in highly regarded for his athletic ability. Owino, Wright and Hooker are all from North Carolina high schools. Owino is origi- nally from Nairobi, Kenya, and has attended Sanderson High in Raleigh since December 2010. Wright and Hooker are from the eastern part of the state, with the former a standout at Greenville Rose High. "Knox, Owino, Whitehead and Wright, all of them are 6-4 or bigger and 235 or smaller," Farrell said. "They'll have to put some weight on and redshirt them. O'Brien doesn't like to bring in kids and have them play if he can avoid it, especially on the offensive and defen- sive lines. He'll do it if he has to. These guys have the right coach for them, and they'll be high-effort guys and [defensive line] Coach [Keith] Willis will coach them up." NC State played true freshman T.Y. McGill and redshirt freshman Thomas Teal at defen- sive tackle last year. Buntyn and Hooker will be part of the next wave at the position. "I liked Hooker a lot," Lemming said. "I thought he was a big-time guy. He's not real tall, but he's explosive, strong and productive. He had great feet." Bowl was M.J. Salahuddin," Farrell said. "I think he can be a very good athlete. He's rangy and long, and he can cover a lot of field. I think he could be a bit of a surprise. He hasn't reached his potential, and in a couple of years, we could look back on him as a guy that surprises us." Davis was productive and physical at Broughton High. "Davis is not super fast, but he is a huge- sized linebacker," Farrell said. "He is a perfect inside guy for them. He is not going to run anything down at the sidelines, but he'll be very physical at the point of the attack." Cornerbacks Niles Clark and Marchez Coates, and safeties Jarnor Jones and Josh Sessoms, will help fortify the Wolfpack's sec- ondary for the future. NCSU has three senior returning starters in the defensive backfield next year, and record-setting rising junior cor- nerback David Amerson could be a candidate for next year's NFL Draft. Jones is tall and rangy at 6-4 and 190 pounds, while Sessoms is 6-3 and 186. Ses- soms, who attended Bailey (N.C.) Southern Nash, is cousins with NC State freshman wide receiver Maurice Morgan. "Sessoms is a tall, athletic kid," Farrell said. "He is in the mold of Salahuddin, but is closer to where he is going to be. I think he is more polished at this point." Jones hopes to also walk-on to the NC State men's basketball team. "He has excellent size out of the safety spot," Niebuhr said. "He is long and lean and could grow into being an outside linebacker potentially. He's very fast and comes from a winning program, which can't be underesti- mated. He really flew under the radar and got a lot of attention late." Sessoms and Clark were the first two com- mitments in the class for the Wolfpack. Ses- soms grew up a diehard NC State fan, while Clark has been a regular at the June camps the last two years. Clark also attended Lassiter High with Hegedus. Farrell likes the combination of Clark and Coates at cornerback. "Clark is probably a little more polished than Coates," Farrell said. "He is 5-10 and 175 pounds, while Coates is a little bit more put together and can come up and smack you in the run game. Clark is a little bit better in the pass." ■ MARCH 2012 ■ 23

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