RALEIGH — Much of N.C. States pre-bowl practice time has been spent on preparing for Louisvilles pistol/wildcat offensive formation.
In Tuesdays Belk Bowl at Charlotte (8 p.m., ESPN), the Wolfpack (7-5) will face a Cardinal team that started 2-4 but finished 7-5 after making several mid-season offensive adjustments.
That process began when head coach Charlie Strong fired offensive coordinator Mike Stanford and gave the job to Shawn Watson.
The team then went to a pistol alignment and flourished behind quarterback Ted Bridgewater and a committee of running backs.
The pistol is a modified shotgun formation that basically works on the same principles as the single wing of the 1940s 50s and 60s. The quarterback and a running back line up 3-6 yards behind the line of scrimmage, often behind an unbalanced offensive line. It puts pressure on linebackers to react to running plays that at first resemble passes, and vice versa.
Wolfpack coach Tom OBrien said after Tuesdays practice that the pistol/wildcat offense requires quick reactions by defensive players.
No. 1, you have to recognize the formation, OBrien said. You have to recognize whos in the game and you have to find the eligible receivers and you have to do all of that quickly. Our defense worked a lot these past two days on Louisville and well do it again tomorrow. The focus is to get lined up right. If you dont do that, youve got problems.
MORE FOCUS: OBrien also special teams play has been emphasized during the week.
Kick protection has been a priority.
MANNING: OBrien also cited junior linebacker Terrell Manning as the team and defensive leader for 2012.
But thats assuming the talented 233-pounder from Laurinburg Scotland returns for his senior season. Manning said after late-season wins over Clemson and Maryland that he had no plans to enter the 2012 NFL Draft but would wait until after the last game to make a final decision.
Many of the mock drafts have Manning going as high as the third round if he declares.
MOVING PLANS: The team will bus to Charlotte on Thursday and remain through Wednesday.
In Charlotte, a quick decision will have to be made by team members as to who will serve as the Wolfpacks official Santa Claus helper for various Christmas Eve and Christmas Day functions.
Since Santa helpers usually wear Santa suits, some size restrictions could factor in the selection process. Jolly rocker-blocker Rob Crisp, for instance, is 6-feet-7, 312 pounds. Thats big even by elk/reindeer standards.
There are a few of our guys who might be too big to qualify, OBrien said. But well see. Its an important job, so itll get a lot of thought. Im sure.
Christmas Day ceremonies will include religious ceremonies for those so inclined and what OBrien described as The Christmas Feast.