Andy Leffler returns for the Wolfpack, but don't be surprised to see true freshman Wil Baumann lining up at punter in 2011. Rated a three-star prospect and the No. 3 punter in the country by Scout.com, Baumann also earned an offer from the Pack at a summer camp. As a junior he averaged 44.8 yards per punt with a net of 44.6 yards and 29 downed inside the 20.
Reportedly Baumann is pushing 6-foot-7 and was rated the No. 2 punter in the 2011 class nationally by Chris Sailer Kicking. He held an offer from Northwestern when he committed to NC State last summer.
"Wil is an outstanding punter," said Sailer. "He has the size, leg strength, and skill to be a dominating D1A punter. Hits many balls 40+ yards with 5.0+ second hang time."
"I think he'll challenge greatly [for the starting job at punter]," O'Brien said of Baumann. "He was a kid that was in our kicking and punting camp. He has a very strong leg and gets a lot of elevation on the ball. He's a tall kid so he has a good range of motion and whip, he gets a lot of power into the ball.
"He might not only challenge, but he'll probably be the punter this year."
Mentored by former North Carolina kicker Dan Orner, Niklas Sade earned his reputation by starring at various kicking camps and combines.
"I would put him up against any kicker in the country right now in the class of 2011," stated Orner. "He's ready to kick off the ground back to 55 yards and he's as good as it gets.
"He went to Nebraska over the summer and Nik hit 19-of-20 field goals with Bo Pelini watching. He knocked in kicks all the way back to 57 yards, which was his longest, and he also kicked 6-of-10 touchbacks from the 30-yard line. Nebraska offered him on the spot.
"That is the type of ability he has. Like I said, I believe he's arguably the No. 1 kicker in the country, and I would put him up against anybody."
Sade also camped last summer at NC State, earning an offer from Wolfpack special teams coach Jerry Petercuskie. However, Nebraska was the first to offer and kicking for a national power intrigued Sade, which led to him committing to the Cornhuskers.
He began to have second thoughts following a fall official visit, and Sade switched his commitment to the Wolfpack in late January. O'Brien believes he has the potential to start right away for his team.
"He was at our camp here this summer," O'Brien said of Sade. "We have a kicking camp and he was coach Cuskie's first choice coming out of camp. For some reason he committed to Nebraska. He went and visited Nebraska, and he wanted to come back and stay in Wake county. We were very fortunate that worked out for us.
"I think he has a strong leg, and he will be an improvement on kickoffs where we have to get better. I think that he can handle the kickoff chores and certainly be the field goal kicker for us."
Perhaps the most surprising scholarship offer NC State made this year was to long snapper Scott Thompson, but O'Brien stated that having a snapper on scholarship isn't out of the ordinary for his program. In fact, the Wolfpack had two on scholarship last fall in Corey Tedder and Michael Maurer, both of whom enrolled as walk-ons. Tedder and Maurer handled the snapping duties for four seasons.
"We allot [a scholarship for] one punter, one kicker, and one long snapper," said O'Brien. "We had two [long snappers] on scholarship last year. Corey Tedder we had on scholarship, and Mike Maurer was going into his senior year... I had a scholarship so I gave it to Mike last year. Both of those guys handled the long snapping for us."
Thompson, rated as the second-best long snapper in the country by special teams guru Chris Rubio, has handled snapping duties for three years at Trabuco Hills (CA) High School.
"Scotty is phemonenal," Rubio recently said of Thompson. "Flat out great long snapper. Blocks well and his ball is extremely fast. Lefty is so smooth it is amazing. NC State picked a good one with Scotty. Should easily go in and start. Legs are massive. Creates an immense amount of power. Won the competition with five straight threes!
"Kid is so ready it is amazing. Steps up to any challenges. Never backs down from competition. Killer instinct with his Long Snapping. Ball is beyond smooth and fast. Blocks very well. Flat out great."