Over 50 of NC State’s scholarship players are still freshmen and sophomores. There are only two seniors on defense -- defensive end Audi Augustin and linebacker Nate Irving. There is only one senior -- left tackle Jake Vermiglio -- on the offensive line.
“It’s not an old football team,” said coach Tom O’Brien.
Nor is it one favored to win the Atlantic Division -- yet. O’Brien is entering his fourth season in Raleigh, and yet the pieces still aren’t in place for the program to be regarded as a serious contender for the ACC title.
“Because you’ve only had three recruiting classes,” O’Brien said. “They’re only redshirt sophomores. You’re working to get those guys who have to be there in your program for three, four and five years to be where you want to be.”
O’Brien said the recruiting class before his arrival included one offensive and one defensive lineman (which in itself is a set-up for failure.) Of the transition class between coaching staffs, there were four offensive linemen signed and only one of them is still in school.
“You had devastation there in the lines,” O’Brien said.
If NC State is going to return to the postseason this year, that has to change. It’s going to be difficult to do, considering the defensive line lost all four starters and the offensive line is banking on three true sophomores.
It has to be a painstakingly slow process for O’Brien, who has a history of working with offensive linemen until his first offensive coordinator job at Virginia in 1991. O’Brien spent the first seven years of his career coaching the tackles and tight ends at Navy before coaching the guards and centers for nine seasons at Virginia.
“Offensive line is always a struggle because it’s such a hard position to play,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said Vermiglio was better this spring than he was a year ago, and right tackle Mikel Overgaard, a junior college transfer from Snow College in Utah, will be a good addition. Center Camden Wentz played last year as a true freshman backup, and O’Brien can now chuckle looking back on guard Andrew Wallace’s infamous false start at South Carolina.
“We had a lot of young guys make a lot of bad plays last year,” O’Brien said, “but they’ll be older and better this year.”
Just not old enough. Yet.