How good can 2013 Pack be? Yow, O’Brien disagree there, too

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 27, 2012 

— Debbie Yow and Tom O’Brien didn’t agree on how to build N.C. State football into a top 25 program, the N.C. State athletic director said Sunday.

The AD and coach also didn’t agree on the outlook for the 2013 season.

In the news conference to announce O’Brien’s dismissal Sunday, Yow said next season would be a "rebuilding" year for the Wolfpack and that she will have "candid" conversations with candidates about the state of the program.

The previous day, in his final comments in his final press conference as N.C. State’s football coach, O’Brien went through the depth chart on offense and defense for the players returning and offered hope for the 2013 season.

"You’ve got a lot of guys coming back on the two-deep," O’Brien said after the 27-10 win over Boston College. "And bowl practice will be important for the young guys that we’ve redshirted."

Yow pointed to the departure of this year’s senior class, which included nine starters in Saturday’s win, and 16 players in all, as a reason for the timing of the coaching change.

"We all know that we have a very important senior class that is getting ready to leave here," Yow said Sunday. "This is going to be a rebuilding process and that will be part of the conversation with the people who are interested."

Quarterback Mike Glennon, who threw for 3,648 yards and 30 touchdowns, will be the biggest missing piece for the new coach. Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas and freshman Manny Stocker were expected to compete for the starting job this spring.

Thomas had to sit out the season because of NCAA transfer rules but started for two seasons at Colorado State.

Three offensive linemen, the tight end and dynamic receiver Tobais Palmer also must be replaced.

Still, five starters on offense from Saturday’s game will be back next season, including freshman running back Shadrach Thornton, who led the team in rushing with 655 yards, and junior receiver Quintin Payton, who led the team with 48 catches and 761 yards.

Three senior linemen will have to be replaced but freshman center Joe Thuney gained valuable experience because of injuries this season and junior guard Duran Christophe, who missed the last three games with a concussion, has two seasons worth of starting experience.

On defense, the Pack will have to replace three senior starters from Saturday’s game, including All-ACC safety Earl Wolff, plus defensive end Brian Slay, who missed the game with a rib injury.

Junior cornerback David Amerson had previously considered going to the NFL but after a subpar season, he hasn’t made a decision about his future.

With or without Amerson, there will be changes in the secondary. Both safeties, Wolff and Brandan Bishop will have to be replaced. But freshman Juston Burris will be back at one cornerback position and junior Dontae Johnson can play corner or safety. Freshman safety Hakim Jones showed potential in a limited role this season.

The linebacking corps, which was an issue this season, will lose senior Sterling Lucas but will get starters Rodman Noel and Rickey Dowdy back.

D.J. Green, a starter in 2011 who was suspended for the season by the NCAA for failing a drug test, will also give the defense a boost.

The defensive front returns six of the top eight players from this season, including ends Darryl Cato-Bishop and Art Norman, who tied for the team lead with five sacks.

Yow didn’t get into the specifics about the personnel the next coach will inherit. As she did during the search for men’s basketball coach Mark Gottfried, Yow said she will "have a very candid conversation about where we are as a program and what they are inheriting and the challenges they face."

As a post-script, Gottfried’s first season, with players he inherited from Sidney Lowe, ended with 24 wins and in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

With a 24-14 record the past three seasons, the football program is in better condition than the basketball program was when Yow made a coaching change.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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