The Wolfpacker

March 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 46 of 95

TO WORK BACK Expectations will be higher in Raleigh this fall. ESPN's Heather Dinich has the Pack fourth in her "ACC pre-spring power rankings" behind Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack, though, has several question marks heading N into next season, some of which the coaches will have a better answer for after spring drills. The Wolfpacker takes a look at some of the storylines of spring. Who steps up at wide receiver? That was a leading question heading into last spring, and it remains so this year. The Wolfpack replaced a senior trio of Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams and Darrell Da- vis from the 2010 season with a receiving corps mainly led by seniors T.J. Graham and Jay Smith in 2011. Now they are gone, Rising fifth-year senior Tobais Palmer, who hauled in 37 receptions for 496 yards and five scores in 2011, is the leading candidate to be NC State's No. 1 wide receiver this upcoming season. PHOTO BY ERIC LUSK along with reserve Steven Howard. Graham led the Pack in every receiving category last season, catching 46 passes for 757 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith added 40 catches for 391 yards and four scores, and Howard added 16 receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. Rising fifth-year senior Tobais Palmer is a strong candidate to emerge after he displayed his playmaking abilities last fall. The speedy Palmer caught 37 passes for 496 yards and five touchdowns. After Palmer, though, the options are less proven. Rising redshirt sophomore Bryan Under- Into Football's Spring Practice BY MATT CARTER Five Questions Heading C State will start spring practice March 23, looking to build off an 8-5 campaign that concluded with a 31-24 win over Big East co-champion Louisville in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. wood caught 16 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, but the fast 5-11, 170-pounder is a similar player to the 5-11, 175-pound Palmer. The Pack would love to see rising red- shirt junior Quintin Payton, a physically gifted 6-4, 203-pounder, step up. Payton caught four passes for 38 yards as a rookie, but struggled with drops last fall and fin- ished with seven receptions for 107 yards. A pair of promising freshmen who red- shirted last fall, Hakeem Flowers (6-3, 182 pounds) and Maurice Morgan (6-2, 215 pounds), will join the mix with a great op- portunity to get on the field early if they make a big impression starting this spring. Who steps up at linebacker? Audie Cole's departure from NC State was anticipated, but Terrell Manning's was not. Cole, a three-year starter, led NC State with 132 tackles and four forced fumbles and tied Manning with a team-high 14 hits for loss. Cole also had six sacks and broke up a pair of passes en route to honorable mention all-conference honors. Manning, however, was the breakout star in 2011. Despite missing two games with a knee injury, he was named second-team All-ACC, missing the first squad by just four points. He had 82 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions, two passes broken up, two forced fumbles and three fumble re- coveries. Manning also had a knack for making the big play on defense. He de- cided to forego a fifth-year senior season and go pro. Losing two all-conference linebackers is a blow, especially since NC State's top backup was Dwayne Maddox, who was a senior last year. Promising rising junior D.J. Green returns. He started seven games before a foot injury sidelined him for the year. The 6-4, 220-pound Green had 33 tackles, five stops for loss, a sack, a pass breakup and an interception. The wild card in the equation is the health of rising fifth-year senior Sterling Lucas. The 6-2, 238-pounder missed last season because of knee surgery. He has played in 37 career games and has been credited with 86 tackles. MARCH 2012 ■ 47

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