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April 3, 2012

Pack looking for new LBs, WRs



NC State coach Tom O'Brien wants to see the players ramp up their energy leading up to the Kay Yow Red-White Spring Game on April 21 at Carter-Finley Stadium.

O'Brien thought something was off Tuesday morning at practice, but saw enough progress as the session went on.

"We had been making progress, but I think we took a step back a little bit," O'Brien said. "Guys didn't seem ready to come out to work. They got it going as we went through practice, but we have to have more consistency to be good."

O'Brien pointed out that defensive coordinator Mike Archer and the defensive assistant coaches put in some new things at practice, which slowed down the players, but is necessary for down the road success.

"The defense put in a couple of new things today, but a couple guys blew gaskets, but that's all part of it," O'Brien said. "You have to test them and see if they can learn week-to-week because you have to put something new in. You might face a different offense each week. That's all part of the process, but you want to do it now, so they can be better by August."

O'Brien also announced that rising redshirt sophomore running back Mustafa Greene wasn't in attendance at Tuesday's practice. Greene injured his foot last spring and didn't play last fall as a result. He led the team in rushing in 2010.

"I guess there were rumors that he has been kicked off the team, but nothing that way," O'Brien said. "He's not practicing right now. I think he's healthy."

The wide receivers and linebackers are two areas the coaching staff hopes to find players emerge this spring.

The Wolfpack have three new linebackers on the first string after losing Terrell Manning to the NFL a year early, and sophomore D.J. Green won't be eligible to play this fall after testing positive for a banned substance.

"I don't think we'll know about them until we get through the August practice," O'Brien said. "There is a lot of experience. We planned on losing one, but not three, so things have changed. Guys are going to be rushed in playing a little sooner."

O'Brien has confidence that linebackers coach Jon Tenuta will make the best out of the situation.

"Certainly, he's the right guy to be coaching them, and he'll get them lined up and going the right way hopefully," O'Brien said. "We need the three kids that we signed come here. We have to create some depth."

O'Brien isn't sure how the backup linebacker situation will sort itself out, but he knows he needs three solid starters at a bare minimum. He also pointed out that the NC State defense isn't the easiest to learn.

"Going into the fall, whoever the three guys are, they have to stay healthy for us to have success," O'Brien said. "I don't know if you are going to have quite the experience and depth behind them."

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Bryan Underwood will be counted upon to help fill the void left by the departure of seniors T.J. Graham, Jay Smith and Steven Howard.

"Bryan has taken a step forward," O'Brien said. "He's one guy that really had a good day today. The challenge is to see if he can do it again Thursday. That is what we want."

Underwood and fellow wide receiver Tobais Palmer, and cornerback C.J. Wilson have been helping out the NC State track team this spring.

"He's a different kid this spring than at any time he's been here," O'Brien said. "The track thing might have helped his confidence a little bit. Academically, he's on top of things, which we had to pound him for in the past. He seems like he has grown up a lot."


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