There is no comparison between where N.C. State’s offensive line was in the spring and where the group is now.
“Physically and mentally, we’ve all come miles from where we were in the spring,” sophomore guard Garrett Bradbury said.
Chaos ruled in the spring with a new offensive system being installed, a new line coach and with the loss of three starters from last year’s successful group. Even coach Dave Doeren described the depth chart as “a mess” before the spring game.
But the offensive line, tabbed by new position coach Dwayne Ledford as a “Band of Brothers,” has made as much progress in the offseason as any position group on the team.
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The addition of graduate transfer Joe Scelfo at center has helped. So has the return of junior right guard Tony Adams from injury and sophomore right tackle Will Richardson from suspension.
Sophomore left tackle Tyler Jones (6 feet 3, 300 pounds) and Bradbury (6-3, 293), at left guard, round out a rebuilt starting unit, which helped the Wolfpack average more than 200 yards rushing in both 2014 and ’15.
Offensive line had been an annual problem for the Wolfpack, which went from 1992 until 2014 without rushing for an average of 200 yards per game and from 2003 until last season without an All-ACC blocker.
From last year’s group, Joe Thuney, an All-ACC tackle and a third-round pick of the New England Patriots, has to be replaced and so do veteran starters Quinton Schooley and Alex Barr.
We finally had all five of those guys out there together. So that’s been fun just to see the chemistry coming together.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren
Asked if he felt better about offensive line and its depth compared to the spring, Doeren said, “definitely.”
“We finally had all five of those guys out there together,” Doeren said. “So that’s been fun just to see the chemistry coming together.”
Just getting all the players in the fold was a chore. Scelfo (6-1, 300), a two-year starter, was an all-conference pick at South Alabama last season. He graduated in the spring and got to N.C. State in June for offseason workouts.
Adams (6-2, 315), a two year-starter, missed the spring with a knee injury. Richardson, who started nine games, served university suspension during the spring semester for a DWI charge in November.
Ledford, a former NFL linemen, was hired from Appalachian State to replace former offensive line coach Mike Uremovich, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois.
Ledford has put his new linemen through the wringer on the field. They are almost always the last position group off the practice field. He has also stressed the importance of a group mentality at football’s most selfless position.
“It’s the group,” Ledford said. “That has to be the mindset. What’s best for the group?
“And these guys have done a great job of coming in with open arms. It has been fun to sit back and watch those relationships form.”
The multimedia arm of the football program has put together a series of videos about Ledford’s “Band of Brothers” concept. Ledford adopted the name from the HBO miniseries about a U.S. army unit during World War II of the same title.
There’s a caring and loving element to the concept which might not be the first thing you think of when you think of the macho world of football, but the players have taken to Ledford’s teachings.
“We’ve seen how much better we are when we are playing for each other and not for ourselves,” Bradbury said.
Not that there isn’t still work to be done. The group hasn’t played in an actual game together. Time and reps are an offensive line’s best friend.
“The first few days we were off a little bit but now we’re starting to get it,” Scelfo said. “It’s starting to click for us, you know, us five together. We just have to stay on the right path and keep climbing.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio