- William Beasley...6-2, 225 pounds...Milton (Fla) High School
- Sterling Lucas...6-2, 220 pounds...Orangeburg (SC) Wilkinson High School
- Dwayne Maddox...6-2, 220 pounds...Crest High School...Shelby, NC
- Terrell Manning...6-3, 215 pounds...Scotland County High School...Laurinburg, NC
How important was this spot in relation to other positions: Critical...
Did the Pack meet their needs based on sheer numbers: A+
The Pack missed on: Kevin Reddick
How many may the Pack target for the class of 2009: 2-3
Along with the QB and offensive line positions, the linebacker spot was one of the most crucial for the NC State coaching staff in the class of 2008. When all was said and done the Wolfpack landed, at least on paper, one of the most impressive collection of ‘backers in years.
The quartet that would eventually sign with State actually began with Dwayne Maddox. He had made a solid connection with the Wolfpack coaches very early in the process and it was clear from the beginning that State would be the team every other program would have to chase. With offers from State, UNC, Alabama, Clemson and South Carolina among others, Maddox would narrow his list down to the Pack, Heels and Tigers in early May. Several weeks later, he and his family would make the drive from Shelby to Raleigh to make his commitment in person to Wolfpack LB coach Andy McCollum and head coach Tom O’Brien.
Under former head coach Chuck Amato, NC State routinely targeted smaller, athletic players that could be plugged in at LB. Under O’Brien, the Pack went back to the more traditional approach of landing players with solid size and speed who also happened to be very good football players. Instincts and knowledge of the LB position were key and Maddox personified those traits.
The three-star linebacker has great size and dominated on the high school level with his toughness and hitting ability. Equally important is his knowledge of the position and instincts that allow him to quickly diagnose a play and make a stop. The fact that he enrolled at State in January will give him a leg up on the other three signees and State’s dire need for depth will certainly afford Maddox every opportunity to earn playing time in 2008.
One of the common denominators in all four linebackers ultimately signing with State was LB coach Andy McCollum. Perhaps he, more so than anyone else, knew how much his position needed immediate help and as a result, his efforts were key with this position all year long. Along with Maddox, McCollum was also the lead recruiter for Florida standout William Beasley.
McCollum and State extended a very early offer to Beasley and he wasted no time in following up on that with an unofficial visit to Raleigh. From that point forward, the Wolfpack became the standard for every other school. While nearly committing to State on his initial visit, Beasley decided to wait and think his options over. However, it was only a couple of months before he would make another 700 mile journey to NC State and this time Beasley would make his commitment to the Pack official.
In a lot of ways, Beasley is very similar to Dwayne Maddox. Size-wise, the two are very comparable and on the field, boast tremendous instincts and an overall knowledge of the position. Beasley is a player that could line up in the middle or strong side and has a reputation for being extremely effective against the run. He thrives on contact and that mind-set should sit well with the Wolfpack coaching staff as they try to improve their run defense. Just like with the other three LB’s that inked with NC State, Beasley will have a chance to come in and compete for playing time from day one and a spot on the two deep at some point in 2008 is a definite possibility.
A recurring theme among the four linebackers signed by the Pack was that they were able to get in early with all and establish themselves as a major player from day one. This was especially important with South Carolina-native Sterling Lucas.
After a breakout performance at the Shrine Bowl, NC State, along with Michigan State jumped on the Lucas bandwagon first. In the Pack’s corner was the fact they had actually hosted Lucas for the Maryland game earlier in the year. Despite this, many still felt that a South Carolina offer would be a huge obstacle to overcome.
The Gamecock offer would come but interestingly, it was UNC that gave State the biggest battle for Lucas in the end. The Pack entered it’s final in-home visit with Andy McCollum and tight end’s coach Jim Bridge heading up State’s effort. Once there, it was the Heels Lucas seemed most interested in which was probably a surprise to the Wolfpack coaches. However, that visit solidified State in Lucas’ mind and the next day he would announce for the Pack- shocking those in the South Carolina football community.
Lucas turned out to be one of those hidden gems that don’t seem to get noticed until given the right opportunity and he made the most of his chance. He plays with a high-octane motor and just seems to be in the right place at the right time on most plays. Lucas has good size and talent but most of all, boasts a tremendous amount of upside. He may be a little rawer than the other linebackers in this class but his addition in January was the icing on the cake at this position.
The most highly-acclaimed and gem of the LB class was Terrell Manning. His commitment to NC State was important for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the Wolfpack’s need to land a big-time, blue-chip ‘backer. That was something that had eluded State for several years under Chuck Amato.
On a national level, we never felt Manning received the recognition he deserved. His size, ability, instincts and talent level was very reminiscent of Virginia Tech LB Xavier Adibi- a player that State coveted several years ago.
What the Pack got in Manning was a cat-quick, aggressive linebacker who plays the position with a passion. He is a tremendous hitter that shows no reservation in sacrificing himself to make the stop. Despite teams that routinely tried to run plays away from him, Manning’s instincts and amazing reaction time still allowed him to amass an eye-popping 200 tackles in 2007.
Were it not for a season-ending knee injury, Manning was a good bet to see major playing time and certainly the opportunity to even compete for a starting spot in 2008. As it is, he will likely be completing the rehabilitation process during next season which means the Wolfpack coaches will try to avoid playing him for just a few games. Should Manning be able to come back 100% from the knee injury and return to his form of old, he is a player that has the potential to be a four-year starter at NC State.