Friday, September 17, 2010

Development of secondary will be important for N.C. State


Another factor can be that rival teams begin to see what makes a team successful, and they respond to that. This was only N.C. State's third game of the season, and you can bet the Wolfpack didn't show its hand in its easy win over Western Carolina. What we saw Thursday was a full display of the cards Tom O'Brien is holding.

Russell Wilson is a known commodity, and State should cobble together enough of a running game behind Mustafa Greene, Curtis Underwood and Dean Haynes to be effective.

But what wasn't known was how aggressive the Wolfpack would be on defense, and how active its outside linebackers would be. That's no surprise given the history of defensive coordinator Mike Archer and new linebackers coach Jon Tenuta. But given the inexperience on defense, it was hard to predict how effecive this would be.

Now, ACC teams get a chance to prepare for this new-look Wolfpack team. State has a decent defensive line, exceptional linebackers, and some real issues in the secondary. Cincinnati exploited that secondary late in the game with stunning ease, a fact that won't be lost on the offensive coordinators of other schools.

The hard part for a State opponent - or any opponent of Tenuta's schemes - is blocking for those blitzes. There's more method than madness to the scheme. If you watch State closely, you notice that the blitzes come from different angles, but the gaps are still covered. (The gaps are the spaces between the center and guard, guard and tackle, tackle and tight end. Leaving one uncovered means an offense has a lane up the field).

Offensive coordinators will start to see that, and look for ways to give their quarterback time to look downfield. There are different ways to do this, including:
  @ "Sliding" the protection, where the offensive line slides one way together; 
  @ Rolling the quarterback out
  @ Calling quick throws like slants that enable the quarterback to throw before the blitz arrives.
Cincinnati looked befuddled Thursday. The ACC isn't full of great teams, but it does have some outstanding quarterbacks, and one key to State's success this year will be handling how other teams respond to its new look.

One hunch - the Wolfpack's chances for a big year may depend on the development of that secondary. O'Brien praised it preseason, saying its growth was one reason he was comfortable moving Haynes to running back. Teams will continue to try to attack it. If the secondary begins to play with the fire and energy of the front seven, the Wolfpack could really be in for a fascinating season.

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