A new look into spring
March 16, 2005
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH - With only a couple of weeks of intense studying, the three new members of the NC State coaching staff have most of the names secured in their memories. Now, they will start trying to find ways to make improvements.
That might be difficult for the Wolfpack defense, which finished last year ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, after allowing only 221.4 yards per game to opposing teams.
That's terrific in the eyes of new defensive coordinator Steve Dunlap, who inherits an experienced defensive line that is loaded with potential superstars like Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and John McCargo.
But he has also been through something similar before. When Dunlap was the defensive coordinator at West Virginia in 1996, the Mountaineers were ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense. The next year, however, they weren't even close.
"The difference was, we lost eight starters off that team," Dunlap said. "Then we had these young guys, who came in and thought all they had to do was show up, go out on the field and that would be it because of this great defensive scheme we had.
"It didn't have anything to do with a great scheme, it had something to do with the players in that scheme and playing well. We fell on our face in 1997. We weren't near as good. It had nothing to do with the scheme. Every year you earn your way. The trick to this whole game is developing guys and plugging them into the right spots and hoping they won't miss a lick."
So, while Dunlap won't make any significant changes to the scheme installed last year by former defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, he and Wolfpack head coach Chuck Amato have made some personnel moves, to help offset the loss of a trio of three-year starters, linebacker Pat Thomas, rover Andre Maddox and cornerback Lamont Reid. Also gone from the starting lineup are cornerback Dovonte Edwards and free safety Troy Graham.
The coaching staff has done some tinkering with the linebacking corps for spring practice, in part because junior Stephen Tulloch will miss spring drills because of shoulder surgery.
Senior Oliver Hoyte has moved from middle linebacker to the weakside position. Junior Pat Lowery is listed as the starter at middle linebacker and sophomores LeRue Rumph and Ernest Jones are splitting time at the strongside position. Rumph was recently moved from safety to linebacker.
"Our primary thing is to work on the development of the younger players, especially at the linebacker positions," said Dunlap, who came to NC State after previously coaching at Syracuse and West Virginia. "They seem to have a lot of talent, but they haven't played a lot. But they will have to next year."
There is a little more experience in the secondary, where senior Marcus Hudson and junior A.J. Davis have as much experience as most starters. At safety, however, senior J.J. Jones, junior Garland Heath and sophomore Miguel Scott have no starting experience, though they all contributed last year.
"They shouldn't be starry-eyed when they step out there," Dunlap said.
On offense, Trestman will spend more time installing his version of the Wolfpack offense with his own terminology. The former offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins and several other NFL teams plans to spend the spring teaching his system and developing more discipline on an offense that had 32 turnovers last year.
"Philosophically, we will be very similar in terms of what we are trying to do on offense," Trestman said. "The style of play will be about the same.
"But I mostly want to watch the guys play and work and try to establish discipline. That means no pre-snap penalties, no silly mistakes. I think we have enough good players to win."
New wide receivers coach Dwayne Dixon, the last of the three coaches hired by Amato, has had the shortest crash course in learning about his talented corps of receivers, which includes seniors Brian Clark, Sterling Hicks and Tramain Hall and junior LaMart Barrett .
"I have been evaluating video, seeing how they play, how they work, how they practice," Dixon said. "I am trying to get a feel for them. Then we will utilize what they are good at."
So, for the next three weeks, the new coaches will be instructing their new players, installing some new things, but mostly trying to improve on the things that prevented the Wolfpack from finishing with a winning record.
"I can't wait to watch spring practice," Amato said. "I am excited about getting into spring."
You may reach Tim Peeler at email@example.com.