Golden Flashes Offensive Moves in Pack's First Practice
Aug. 3, 2002
By Tony Haynes
Raleigh, N.C.-Barely a week ago, Greg Golden figured he would have a good chance of lining up as one of NC State's starting cornerbacks this season. But in the Pack's first full squad practice on Saturday morning, the speedy sophomore from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. found himself working with the first team offense as a tailback.
The dramatic position change has been in the works for a few weeks. The combination of senior Cotra Jackon's uncertain status due to academic questions and an overall lack of depth and experience at tailback forced head coach Chuck Amato's hand.
From all indications, Golden, who saw very little time at tailback in high school, passed his first test with flying colors on Saturday.
"I mentioned last week that we were discussing it and Greg was the one that jumped all over it; he wants a chance to go over there and play running back," Amato said. "He's really got good running skills, he's strong legged and he's got good hands. He's a youngster than can make a lot of big plays. We told him that we weren't going to take him from first string defense to third string offense, so we put him out their with that first group and coach [Dick] Portee (running backs coach) is giving him a crash course."
Another cornerback that was also considered for the switch was sophomore Lamont Reid, who rushed for 1,746 yards and 18 touchdowns in his senior year at Central Cabarrus High School. But in the end, Golden was the choice after the idea was discussed with both players.
"It all comes back to teamwork," Golden said. "My team needed a running back so I felt excited when coach asked me to step up and take the position. Since winter workouts, I'd been teasing coach Portee about putting me back there at tailback. When I heard we needed a tailback, I had actually been talking to Chris Murray about it. I talked to my father about it after coach Amato approached me and he told me to pray about it and to go with whatever the team needed. Coach Amato always told me that I looked like a tailback at cornerback. I feel like a tailback when I'm sitting back there behind the huge offensive linemen. If those guys make the blocks then I'll make the right cuts and we'll make some spectacular things happen."
The word spectacular certainly describes the 90-yard kickoff return that Golden turned into a touchdown in last December's Tangerine Bowl in Orlando. His switch to offense should take some early pressure off of freshman sensation T.A. McLendon, who comes in with tremendous credentials but no experience on the college level. Josh Brown, a sophomore from Raleigh, is also competing for playing time at tailback.
Asked if Golden would return to defense if Jackson and Carlos Doggett were able to get their academics in order, Amato wasn't sure.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Amato said. "I told them both (Jackson and Doggett) that academics is the most important thing. There's no sense of them being out here when they can be looking at a book."
So as for right now, NC State's options at tailback are Golden, McLendon and Brown. The sum total of those three players' game experience at tailback adds up to zero.
"We had three backs out there today that have never taken a snap at running back in a varsity game," Amato said. "But they are three pretty good people. We'll take our time; our running game isn't that complex. The biggest thing that they've got to learn is the passing game. Having been here in the spring, Josh has the jump on the other two as far as the terminology and that part of it. I really liked what I saw out of all of them and really, I'll be honest with you, I really liked what I saw out of Golden. We're going to bring T.A. along as slow as we can at a fast pace. Does that make sense?"
There's a line that somehow escaped Yogi Berra's latest book. However, the move of Golden from defense to offense should help McLendon develop at a more comfortable pace.
"It takes a lot of pressure off of T.A.," said Portee, who will be working overtime this preseason to get his tailbacks ready for the August 24th opener against New Mexico. "I think T.A. is highly touted but he's starting over now. He's the third guy, not the first guy."