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January 13, 2011

State of the position: Running backs

With the 2010 season behind NC State, it's only natural to take a look back at the year and analyze the roster. The Wolfpacker does just that, taking a position-by-position look at the squad, and figuring out what went right and wrong in 2010, and how the future shapes up. We continue with the running back position.


Season Breakdown


Preseason spin
Running back was the major question mark on offense entering 2010. NC State had to replace the departed Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene, the duo that dominated the Pack's rushing attack in 2009. Conventional wisdom focused on redshirt junior Curtis Underwood Jr. and sophomore James Washington.

Underwood had redshirted in 2009 after playing the role of the third tailback the previous two seasons. Washington was a speedster who impressed in limited action before hurting his knee as a true freshman in 2009. A serious ankle injury to redshirt sophomore Brandon Barnes last spring meant that true freshmen Anthony Creecy and Mustafa Greene were also in the mix.

At fullback, the position was manned by junior Taylor Gentry.

Reality
Reality was far from the preseason spin. For whatever reason Underwood never figured into the mix at running back in 2010, and a hamstring injury sidelined Washington for much of the first half of the year. So when the season started, NC State went with Greene and redshirt freshman Dean Haynes, a converted defensive back who started preseason camp fighting for a starting spot at cornerback.

Greene would be one of the top freshmen running backs in the ACC last year and perhaps in the country. He ran 134 times for 597 yards and four touchdowns and caught 30 passes for 272 yards and two more scores, including one in State's Champs Sports Bowl win over West Virginia.

Haynes was the starter early in the year and finished with 83 carries for 320 yards and three scores and had 13 receptions for 118 yards and one more touchdown. A concussion against Florida State though opened the door for Washington to reenter the rotation, and by the end of the year Washington was starting for the Pack. He finished 2010 with 71 carries for 215 yards and a touchdown and caught 27 passes for 185 yards and another score.

Gentry continues to be a solid fullback for the Pack. He never runs the football, but he did make 14 catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns and was one of the Pack's top special teams performers.


Analyzing Recruiting Trend


The Supposed Foundation
By the foundation, we mean high school players that were signed in the Classes of 2006, 2007 and 2008 that have been in the program for at least three years. We did not include junior college recruits or major college transfers in this list.

Cedric Hickman, Class of 2006
Curtis Underwood Jr., Class of 2007
Brandon Barnes, Class of 2008
Taylor Gentry, Class of 2008

Analysis: After a stellar recruiting class of running backs in 2005 that included Baker, Eugene and Andre Brown, the Pack was not quite as lucky in the following years. Underwood has failed to materialize at this point into a rotation running back, while Barnes was beat out by Washington for the third running back job in 2009 before dislocating his ankle and missing the 2010 season.

Hickman showed early promise as a fullback, but he was dismissed from the team by Tom O'Brien after an off the field incident. Gentry though has made sure that the Pack has not missed Hickman.

The Future?
The future are high school players that signed in 2009 and 2010 as well as non-binding verbal commitments from the 2011 class.

Dean Haynes, Class of 2009
James Washington, Class of 2009
Anthony Creecy, Class of 2010
Mustafa Greene, Class of 2010
Logan Winkles, Class of 2010

Analysis: The future has already at running back for NC State. Washington, Haynes and Greene figure to carry the load over the next few years. Winkles was brought in to be the heir apparent to Gentry, and he redshirted this past season.

NC State had a verbal commitment in the 2011 class from Anthony Knight from Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass., but the two parted ways in December, and now Knight looks destined to play for Nevada. That means recruiting a running back in the 2012 class will be a high priority.


State Of The Position


The development of Greene, Haynes and Washington over the next year will tell the tale about how the position will be in the future. They all showed flashes of being very good running backs in 2010. If they can continue to improve, NC State should be in solid shape at the running back position.


Previous State of the Positions
Quarterbacks


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