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May 26, 2011
This week saw the first significant heat wave hit the Triangle as temperatures soared into the 90s. The highs for the past three days over 90 degrees is a blunt signal that summer has arrived, and with that comes the countdown to the start of college football season.
Thursday marks 100 days until Sept. 3, when NC State opens the season at the friendly confines of Carter-Finley Stadium against Liberty at 6 p.m. Preseason camp is likely to start either in late-July or early-August.
Here are five goals for the NC State football program over the next two months as the preparations begin in earnest for the start of the 2011 season.
Develop the team chemistry
Last year NC State head coach Tom O'Brien invited former Marine officer Eric Kapitulik, CEO of The Program, to lead the Pack football team through his leadership training and teamwork building exercise. To a man, players and coaches credited The Program with helping bring the team together and instill an attitude that helped propel the Pack to its 9-4 season and final poll ranking of No. 25.
Summer is a time where players take ownership of the program while they work on their conditioning in offseason workouts under the tutelage of strength and conditioning coordinator Todd Rice. Summer is also when leaders step up and the team unites around the common goals of the upcoming season. How well the team bonds over the next few months could help determine how the 2011 campaign unfolds.
Get quarterback and receivers on the same page
If the world did not believe it in February when O'Brien announced then that the offense was being turned over to redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon, they know it now after O'Brien granted Russell Wilson his release from the team.
One of the reasons O'Brien cited for moving on with Glennon is a relatively inexperienced receiving corps. Although NC State has quite a few upperclassmen among the pass catchers, including three seniors, the Pack must replace its top three receivers from the 2011 squad in Darrell Davis, Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams.
The spring game on April 16 proved that Glennon and the new set of receivers still have work to do to get on the same page and get the timing down. Coaches obviously cannot supervise a workout over the summer, but nothing stops Glennon and the wide outs from getting a few throws in every now and then.
Heal the injuries
The most notable injury that will be monitored over the summer is sophomore running back Mustafa Greene, who hurt his foot late in spring practice and missed the Red-White game. As a rookie last fall, Greene led NC State in rushing with 134 carries for 597 yards and four touchdowns and also caught 30 passes for 272 yards and two scores.
Although O'Brien expressed confidence that after foot surgery Greene would be ready for the start of the season, there have been some rumors that he could be questionable for the start of preseason camp. The return of fifth-year senior Curtis Underwood, who had originally been expected to transfer, has added fuel to the Greene speculation.
Other injured players this spring included redshirt sophomore defensive end Sylvester Crawford (knee), sophomore defensive tackle A.J. Ferguson, senior linebacker Sterling Lucas (knee), redshirt junior offensive guard Andrew Wallace (knee) and redshirt freshman fullback Logan Winkles (knee).
Welcome the special teams recruits
NC State did not even have a punter in the spring game, and senior walk-on transfer J. Ellis Flint did not have a good scrimmage kicking. That's why it's important to get incoming recruits like punter Wil Baumann from Hoggard High in Wilmington, N.C., kicker Niklas Sade from Wakefield High in Raleigh and long snapper Scott Thompson from Trabuco Hills High in Mission Viejo, Calif., acclimated to college life quickly this summer when they are likely to arrive for the second summer session.
It's not known how much time or what exactly the trio can do on the fields working on their crafts this summer, but at the very least getting a few credit hours under their belt should help ease the classroom burden of the fall semester when the three are likely to be counted on to produce right away.
Have a productive high school summer camp year
There's not a whole lot that can be done to drum up excitement over the summer for football. Fans have known since the spring what the team is going to look like, especially after Wilson's release. The Pack's perceived strengths and weaknesses are well documented on paper.
That's why a lot of attention is given to recruiting over the summer. The evaluation period is coming to an end shortly, and the focus will then shift over to the camps. Traditionally under O'Brien camp has been when the Pack will pick up quite a few football commitments and also narrow their focus on potential quarterback targets.
A successful few months in recruiting could help drive up the buzz about the 2011 season.