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March 10, 2010

Spring football storylines

Each spring practice brings new storylines to follow. Here are five to watch while the Pack prepares for the Kay Yow Spring Game April 17.

Is Nate still Nate?

Before being seriously injured in a car accident last summer, fifth-year senior linebacker Nate Irving was going to be the centerpiece of the Wolfpack's 2009 defense. Irving, though, missed the entire year while rehabbing a broken leg, broken ribs, a collapsed lung and dislocated shoulder. Irving has been cleared to participate in spring practice, but conventional wisdom is that the Wolfpack will take it easy and try to ease him back into form. The biggest question the football coaches will try to find the answer to is - Will Irving show glimpses of being the dominating force he was in 2008?

Is Mike Glennon ready?

With redshirt junior Russell Wilson skipping spring practice this year to focus exclusively on baseball, that means that Glennon, a redshirt sophomore, will get almost all the reps on offense this spring. It is a crucial spring for Glennon's development. He saw limited action last fall and completed 24 of 39 passes for 248 yards, with a touchdown and two picks. Now that Glennon has game experience under his belt, NC State is hoping that he will continue to take strides this spring, especially since there is no guarantee that Wilson will be back with the football team this fall.

New coach on the field

For the first time in the Tom O'Brien era at NC State, there will be an unfamiliar face among the coaching staff at practice. Andy McCollum left Raleigh to become the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Georgia Tech. His departure left a void at linebackers coach that was quickly filled by Jon Tenuta. The veteran coach's extensive background includes stints as defensive coordinator at Ohio State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. With the exception of his work in South Bend, Tenuta has had impressive results. Tenuta has a reputation as an old-school coach that loves being aggressive on the field. This spring will give the first hints as to what kind of impact Tenuta will have on the defense.

Will the young secondary grow up?

It is entirely possible that the starting secondary could consist of four sophomores next fall. That's an extremely young unit. The good news is that all of them - Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop at safety, and C.J. Wilson and Rashard Smith at corner - gained valuable playing time during their rookie campaigns in 2009. The secondary as a whole took some beatings last year, but NC State is hoping that the young group will be better off for having gone through the growing pains.

Who's blocking for the offense?

All the pieces appear to be there for the offense to excel in 2010. The Pack has a strong quarterback situation if Wilson returns, there are talented young running backs ready to take over the reins rushing the football, and the Pack will have one of the best receiving corps in the conference. The offensive line, however, has some question marks. NC State had four seniors start on the offensive line in the regular-season finale last Nov. 28 when the Pack knocked off archrival UNC 28-27, and a late-season knee injury to rising redshirt sophomore R.J. Mattes could keep him sidelined through fall practice. The new-look line should start to take shape this spring.


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