RALEIGH – Could James Franklin’s move from Vanderbilt to Penn State been one of the best developments for N.C. State in the offseason? The answer appears to be a resounding yes, at least for the cornerback position.
Franklin took much of his staff from Vanderbilt with him after he changed jobs, but one coach who did not get retained, for reasons unknown, was defensive backs coach and defensive recruiting coordinator George Barlow. Barlow had come to Vandy after serving as New Mexico’s defensive backs coach and interim head coach when Mike Locksley was let go during the 2011 season.
It so happens that Barlow was a natural fit for N.C. State. Dave Doeren’s staff had a never-formally-explained opening at cornerbacks coach. Richard McNutt coached the position in 2013. The Wolfpack never released a statement announcing McNutt’s departure, but word eventually got out in early-January.
One of McNutt’s primary recruiting areas was the Maryland-D.C.-Virginia region. Barlow has an extensive background in that area after serving as an assistant coach in various capacities at James Madison from 1999-2008.
The same day Barlow was announced as cornerbacks coach, Jan. 16, he was on the road with Doeren in what appeared to be a fruitful night of recruiting. A pair of cornerbacks from the state of Maryland verbally committed to the Wolfpack.
The first was Elliott Davis from Quince Orchard High in North Potomac. The second though was another apparent gift from Franklin to N.C. State.
Troy Vincent Jr. is rated as high as four stars by Scout.com. The son of longtime NFL star Troy Vincent Sr., the younger Vincent was recruited by many of the game’s biggest names. The star of Baltimore’s Gilman School chose to verbally commit to Penn State last summer.
That pledge was to Bill O’Brien however, and O’Brien is now coaching for the Houston Texans. When Vincent met with Franklin in early-January for the first time, he was reportedly encouraged by Franklin to take some other visits.
“Coach Franklin and his staff wanted to go in a different direction,” Vincent told Rivals.com. “It’s a great program and a wonderful school. He wants his guys, and it didn’t work out.”
Vincent’s father played his college football at Wisconsin, and it’s there that the connection to NCSU was established. Doeren is a former assistant at Wisconsin and has a prior relationship with the Vincent family.
Davis and Vincent are needed commitments. NCSU returned just four scholarship corners off last year’s team. With three set to sign in the 2014 class, depth is less of a concern, and Franklin indirectly gets some of the credit for it.
Young Team Reeling Early In ACC
Timing is everything when it comes to navigating through a basketball schedule. N.C. State thus far has not had good luck when it caught teams. The Wolfpack opened ACC play at home against Pittsburgh, which has clearly emerged as one of the top three squads in the league play and took the top dog in the conference, No. 2 Syracuse, to the final minute in the Carrier Dome before coming three points short.
After a solid win at Notre Dame (missing star Jerian Grant), a victory that actually started a losing skid for the Irish, N.C. State lost a lopsided game at home to Virginia, playing the Cavs just when Virginia began hitting its stride and playing like the preseason Top 25 team they were.
Then the Pack had to play at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, a venue where the Deacons always play tough. Wake is undefeated at home, although the Deacons needed some last-second heroics from sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre against N.C. State to stay that way.
Next came at Duke, arguably the most talented team in the ACC. Freshman forward Jabari Parker, the top NBA prospect in the conference, broke out of his recent mini-slump with a renewed aggressiveness attacking the basket and scored 23 points in just 26 minutes.
Thus N.C. State quickly found itself near the bottom of the ACC. The schedule turned out not to be ideal for a young, inexperienced squad trying to gel together, but the early league games have also exposed serious flaws in head coach Mark Gottfried’s squad.
Perhaps the most major problem that Gottfried is facing lies in the makeup of his team. Only one scholarship N.C. State player, junior wing Ralston Turner, is shooting over 30 percent from three-point range. The two halves against Wake Forest exposed this flaw.
N.C. State efficiently carved up Wake Forest’s man-to-man defense in the first half and led 43-35 at the break. Deacs coach Jeff Bzdelik switched to a 2-3 zone exclusively throughout the second half, and the result was the Pack shooting 7-of-24 from the field and scoring 26 points, 12 of which came from the free throw line. With only one threat to shoot over the top of the zone (and Turner was just 2-of-9 in Winston-Salem from long range), NCSU became bogged down in the halfcourt.
In its 35-point loss at Duke, N.C. State made just a pair of three-pointers compared to 11 for the Devils. The Wolfpack had a lot of other significant problems against Duke (especially losing the turnover margin 21-8), but giving the Blue Devils a 27-point edge in three-pointers made is a difference that few teams are going to overcome.
N.C. State has shown it can be a good basketball team. The win at Tennessee was a quality one. The Pack took a good Missouri team to the final seconds, performed solidly in a victory at Notre Dame and nearly pulled one out at Wake Forest.
The margin of error, as blowout losses to the Cavs and Duke and a lopsided second half deficit to Pittsburgh showed, is thin. With N.C. State having shown it simply is not going to be a good perimeter-shooting team this year (help should arrive next year in the form of Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey, who made 62 threes as a sophomore for the Tide), the Pack must click on all cylinders elsewhere, especially when the schedule eases up some.