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January 5, 2012

2011 review: Offensive freshmen

With the 2011 season officially in the books, it's time to take a look back and reflect on a year that saw the Pack finish strong, winning six of its last eight games, to finish 8-5 overall following a 31-24 win over Louisville in the Belk Bowl.

We start by taking a glimpse of the future of NC State. Here's a look at how the freshmen rookies on offense of 2011 performed, in alphabetical order.

Quarterback Tyler Brosius

The redshirt freshman played in six games as redshirt junior Mike Glennon's primary backup. Brosius completed 8 of 13 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown for a quarterback efficiency rating of 129.57. Brosius' most extensive action came at the end of a lopsided loss to Georgia Tech Oct. 1. In that game he threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to walk-on fullback Tyler Purvis.

Moving forward, Brosius is likely to continue in his role as the second-string quarterback behind Glennon in 2012, and then in 2013 will have his opportunity to compete for a starting job.

Offensive tackle Tyson Chandler

The massive 340-pound redshirt freshman earned a spot on the two-deep as the reserve left tackle behind redshirt junior R.J. Mattes, but Chandler's playing time throughout the season was limited primarily to special teams duty. In fact, when Mattes went down with an injury and played just nine snaps against UNC Nov. 5 and missed the first half at Boston College a week later, fifth-year senior Mikel Overgaard took over at left tackle.

Chandler played in 11 games in the regular season, missing the Maryland contest with an undisclosed injury. He saw 18 plays from the line of scrimmage at offensive tackle, including a season-high seven at Cincinnati Sept. 22. Chandler is likely to return to a reserve role next fall.

Running back Tony Creecy

A preseason ankle injury slowed Creecy's ascent into the rotation at running back, but eventually he would not be denied. When fifth-year senior Curtis Underwood, Jr. suffered a knee injury against Cincinnati, Creecy became the backup running back and never relinquished the job. He finished the season with 103 carries for 382 yards and a touchdown. Creecy also added 25 receptions for 157 yards and three scores, tying a record for most touchdowns receiving set by David Davis in 1982.

Most of his production was done after the Underwood injury. In his first four games, Creecy had rushed just six times for 21 yards and did not catch a pass. He will have to battle though to get carries next year though since starter James Washington, who rushed for 897 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011, will be back for his senior season, and sophomore Mustafa Greene, who redshirted because of a foot injury, returns to the mix.

Center Cameron Fordham

The redshirt freshman transferred into NC State from LSU during the preseason and had expected to sit out the season because of NCAA transfer rules. State though was able to get a waiver, and Fordham was cleared to play right away. Listed as the second-string center behind junior Camden Wentz, Fordham only played against Clemson during the regular season, getting five snaps in the blowout win Nov. 19.

Fordham was called into duty however when Wentz hurt his ankle in the Belk Bowl. Fordham split reps with fifth-year senior Wayne Crawford after Wentz's injury. Assuming Wentz did not suffer a serious injury, Fordham is likely to return to reserve center duties next fall.

Offensive lineman Andy Jomantas

The redshirt freshman continues to fill out his 6-foot-7 frame, checking in at 289 pounds this season. Jomantas was listed as the second-string right guard, but like most reserves on the line other than sophomore Rob Crisp, Jomantas played sparingly. He saw action in eight games, mostly on special teams.

Jomantas is likely to play as a backup again next year, but given his size could perhaps be a candidate as a reserve at either guard or tackle.

Kicker Niklas Sade

Sade was the lone true freshman on the offensive side of the ball, if you are willing to count a kicker as an offensive player. He went through an up and down season. After making his first three field goal attempts, including a 45-yarder, Sade missed five of his next six, one of them being blocked.

Sade finished strong however, making his last seven field goal attempts. He closed the year 11 of 16 on field goals, twice connecting from 45 yards for a long. Sade also handled kickoffs, averaging 62.4 yards per kickoff with five touchbacks in 70 tries.

His 11 made field goals is a record for a Wolfpack freshman, surpassing the eight made by Mike Cofer in 1982 and Damon Hartman in 1988. Sade was 46 of 48 on extra points, almost doubling Hartman's previous best for a freshman of 27 made PATs.

Sade is likely to continue kicking duties next year.

Wide receiver Bryan Underwood

After earning buzz with a strong preseason camp, Underwood had a solid redshirt freshman season. He caught 16 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. His 14.2 yards per catch was the third highest ever for a freshman receiver at State. He also became the sixth rookie to catch a pair of touchdowns in his freshman year, one behind the record of three for frosh set Creecy and Davis.

Both of Underwood's touchdown catches came in a spectacular game at Virginia Oct. 22. He caught three passes for 125 yards, including scores of 79 and 33 yards where his speed was on clear display. He became just the fourth NC State freshman to have a 100-yard receiving game and first since Koren Robinson in 1999.

With three senior receivers graduating, Underwood is a candidate for increased playing time in 2012.

Fullback Logan Winkles

Winkles tore his ACL last year during bowl practices, and the redshirt freshman did not return until after missing the first four games. After playing on special teams against Georgia Tech and Central Michigan, Winkles playing sparingly at fullback but did not record a stat each game for the rest of the year.

Winkles did have three tackles and two knockdown blocks on special teams during the regular season. Depending on if Taylor Gentry is granted a medical hardship, Winkles will have an opportunity to compete for a starting fullback job in 2011.

Players that redshirted in 2011

Offensive tackle Alex Barr
Tight end Benson Browne
Wide receiver Hakeem Flowers
Wide receiver Maurice Morgan
Quarterback Brian Taylor
Offensive lineman Joe Thuney


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