September 16, 2002
RALEIGH - Most of the time, it's easy to criticize and hard to praise, especially in a publication such as this. But here is some unfettered, unabashed praise for a player in N.C. State's program not named Philip Rivers.
Let's give all available props to Terrence Holt, who recently blocked three kicks in two weeks, setting the ACC record for most blocked kicks in a career. That gives him 12, which isn't quite a national record, as the school's sports information office clumsily claimed following the Navy game. Turns out some guy at New Mexico State had 19 in the late 1970s, but Holt's feat is no less impressive.
Terrence's story should be an inspiration to every little brother who has tried to step out of a successful older sibling's shadow. He thought he might be able to do that as a basketball player, which is why he shopped around for months following his career at Gibsonville (N.C.) Eastern Guilford, waiting for a high-level Division I basketball program to offer him a scholarship.
When none came, he decided to follow older brother Torry's footsteps to N.C. State. Trouble was, the Wolfpack had no scholarship for him, and he had to join the squad as a walk-on for the first year. That was before Torry became a first-round draft pick and multi-millionaire, and paying tuition for one year was not the easiest thing in the world for the Holt family. Remember, the Holts' mother, Ojetta Holt-Shoffner, died while Terrence was still in high school.
After Torry left for the NFL, Terrence made a spectacular debut as a redshirt freshman, when he blocked two punts (and nearly nicked another) in the 1999 season opener at Texas, which was perhaps the last highlight of Mike O'Cain's coaching career at N.C. State.
But Holt isn't just a specialist. He's a starter who chooses to play special teams so he can make big plays. Don't forget that he is in his third year as a starting free safety, and he's made some big plays on defense during his career. He already has two interceptions this year, after having only one in his first three college seasons.
Beyond his blocked field goal and interception against Wake Forest, Holt made a big play when he chased down Deacons wide receiver Fabian Davis. Holt tomahawked the ball out of Davis' hands from behind, leaving the ball on the ground for the Wolfpack to recover. Luckily for Davis, the ball popped right back in his hands. But it was still a big-time play for a big-time little brother.
Does anyone doubt, despite some of the modest rankings by the professional analysts, that Terrence will join Torry in the NFL next year? The Holt brothers of Gibsonville are special, both in talent and demeanor. They deserve whatever praise they get.
Injuries Threatening Both Lines
Anyone else wondering if Chuck Amato is regretting his push to get that 13th game added to his schedule? The Wolfpack is losing players to injury at an alarming rate. The coach may wonder if he will be able to field a full squad by the time Florida State rolls into town looking for revenge on Nov. 23.
So far, the biggest blow - if you don't count the preseason loss of starting defensive end Terrance Chapman to academics - was freshman cornerback A.J. Davis' broken ankle, which ended his first season before it really began. No one else has been lost for the year, but the nicks and cuts were mounting as the Wolfpack headed to its first game in years on artificial turf. Frighteningly, the most serious problems impacted players on the offensive and defensive lines, two areas that lack the depth found at receiver and in the secondary.
Sophomore center Jed Paulsen, who suffered an ACL injury against Navy, will miss the Texas Tech game and perhaps the Massachusetts game the following week. He could be ready after the Pack's off week to play against North Carolina.
Paulsen was replaced in the lineup by walk-on Brandon Sanders, who filled in capably against Wake Forest. There didn't seem to be any problems in the exchange from Sanders to Rivers, but Sanders is still a step down from Paulsen, a tough, hard-working kid who played last year as a true freshman.
The defensive interior also is taking a beating, with tackles Alan Halloway, Jerrick Hall and Sheldon Lewin all suffering injuries that at times looked serious against Navy and Wake Forest. Sophomore linebacker Avery Gibson suffered an ankle sprain against Wake Forest.
None of those turned out to be season-threatening, but it did put the temporary brakes on the Wolfpack's biggest defensive asset: up-front speed. The injury list remains pretty long for a team that likely still has 10 games to play.
Looking Even More Like FSU
Here's yet another sure-fire sign that N.C. State is getting closer to being on par with Florida State: excessive celebration.
The Wolfpack twice was penalized against Wake Forest for celebrating following touchdowns. When the penalties were marked off on the extra points, they created some humorous kicking challenges. One of the PATs also included a 15-yard personal foul, which made Austin Herbert's attempt equivalent to a 51-yard field goal attempt. He had virtually no shot of making that one, or the 36-yard PAT caused by the other penalty.
So far, the Wolfpack has been fairly disciplined. It entered the Wake game with the third-fewest penalty yards in the league. That was bumped up by the eight penalties for 75 yards it suffered against the Demon Deacons.
Amato said after the game that the penalties were deserved, but he also said they were fairly innocuous. Kids being kids. No big deal. That seems to be Amato's attitude toward a lot of things, from creative hair styles to gyrating tacklers to the academic and disciplinary records of some of his recruits. It's all part of a persona that endears him to many 17-year-olds but causes many in ACC circles to roll their eyes.
Nobody at N.C. State seems to care what anybody else thinks. That's Chuck's way, too. But there may come a time when those penalties could hurt, especially if they start messing with the Wolfpack's shaky kicking game. If a similarly dumb error occurs in a closer matchup against a better opponent, nobody will feel sorry for Amato or the Wolfpack if it costs them the game.
Guarded Optimism For Sendek
Another recruiting class, another guard for Herb Sendek. But not a point guard.
The coach surprised most of the people who follow recruiting casually by landing 6-4 shooting guard Engin Atsur. The native of Istanbul, Turkey, picked State after spending 10 days in early September visiting N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Siena and Texas.
For a team that already has - oh, let's count them - Julius Hodge, Scooter Sherrill, Cameron Bennerman, Justin Flatt and Dominic Mejia as guards for next year who aren't exactly point guards, it might seem curious that Sendek would go after another one.
But Atsur apparently was too good to pass up, and the Sendek/Larry Hunter offensive system can't have too many good shooters. God knows nobody wants to encourage Sendek to tell us one more time how that system relies on interchangeable parts, but it is indeed true that the Wolfpack is becoming a system team. In other words, it doesn't need to fill holes based on traditional positions.
So getting Atsur, a deadly shooter who was among the top five players in July's European Junior World Championship in Germany, was a no-brainer for Sendek and his staff. They have lived far too long with guys who were extremely athletic but extremely poor shooters.
But that does leave only one scholarship remaining for the upcoming recruiting class, which Sendek hopes to use on point guard Mustafa Shakur.