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Pack Searching For Line Recruits

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 7:32am
By: N.C. State Insider

RALEIGH – N.C. State tried to pull off what could have only been described as a stunner in football recruiting: get an offensive lineman from the state of Wisconsin committed to the Badgers to change his pledge to the Pack.

George Panos, who according to Rivals.com’s chronological order of Wisconsin commitments was the first to pledge for the Badgers in the 2014 class when he did so in April of his sophomore year of high school, surprised many when he took an official visit to N.C. State. It turned out the Pack probably could have picked a better weekend to host him.

That weekend (Oct. 11-13) was fall break for students, and the game he saw was NCSU getting handled late in the fourth quarter by an underwhelming Syracuse squad during a gray, drizzly afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium. Regardless of weather conditions and game outcomes, N.C. State probably would have been hard-pressed to pull Panos away from Wisconsin, and from all indications, Panos will stick with the Badgers.

The recruitment of Panos, however, illustrates what has become a major focal point for N.C. State recruiting over the next few months as they fill out a solid 2014 class: offensive linemen.

The Wolfpack already has four in the class, including three who were fairly well recruited. Eric Shute of Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West High spurned reported offers from Nebraska, Illinois, Syracuse, Arkansas and Virginia Tech among others. Terronne Prescod of Decatur (Ga.) Columbus High was a top target of Auburn, and Tyler Jones of Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson High was originally committed to Mississippi State.

N.C. State’s fourth offensive line pledge did not have a solid offer list like the other three, but Tony Adams performed well enough at the Wolfpack’s summer camp in front of N.C. State’s coaches to earn an offer that he immediately accepted. Adams also comes from a strong prep program at Independence High in Charlotte.

After watching NCSU’s offensive line struggle through the first half of the season, especially in ACC action, head coach Dave Doeren probably viewed getting more line help to be an easy decision. The priority has been on offensive tackles. Adams is strictly an interior line prospect and probably a center. Jones, Prescod and Shute perhaps could play tackle but also might be better suited to be guards.

The question to be answered is who will fill those voids in the class. N.C. State hosted Lukayus McNeil, a 6-7, 270-pounder from Indianapolis (Ind.) Decatur Central on an official visit in September, and the Wolfpack made the reported final five of Brock Ruble, a 6-8, 320-pounder from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic.

Beyond those two, it’s unknown who remains on the board, but if Panos is any indication, the staff is not afraid to try pretty much anywhere. A potential name to watch is in-state prospect Will Richardson from Burlington (N.C.) Cummings. Richardson, 6-6, 330 pounds, was at that same Syracuse game Panos attended despite being a commitment to Virginia.

Richardson’s visit was an unofficial one, but with Cavalier coach Mike London on a potential hot seat in Charlottesville, Richardson might be trying to keep all his options open at this point.

Anya A Weighty Worry

Basketball season has not even started yet, but there has been one troubling development already for Mark Gottfried’s squad.

Freshman big man Beejay Anya was supposed to be the anchor for N.C. State’s rebuilt low-post rotation after the loss of Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie from last year’s team. Anya came from famed DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., and chose the Wolfpack over Indiana.

Although 6-9, Anya’s ridiculously long 7-9 wingspan allows him to play as tall as a 7-footer, and he has strong hands that makes him an effective rebounder, defensive presence and finisher around the basket.

But that’s when Anya is playing at his best weight, which is probably around 275 pounds. The problem is that from the looks of it, Anya has not seen that weight in a while. He showed up at NCSU around 330 pounds, and despite being in Raleigh since midsummer, it appears he will start the season around 330 pounds.

The good news for the Wolfpack is that fifth-year senior Jordan Vandenberg went the opposite direction and slimmed down about 40 pounds to get to around 240 on his 7-1 frame. He is running the floor better than ever, and Gottfried is pleased that Vandenberg has put himself in position to have his best year.

N.C. State also still has Kyle Washington, a 6-9, 225-pound freshman who plays long and moves well. Washington is raw but has considerable potential. The pleasant surprise according to Gottfried has been Lennard Freeman, a burly 6-8, 245-pound late addition to the 2013 recruiting class.

Freeman, who played for powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., has been described by his teammates and Gottfried as a poor-man’s Howell, and he appears poised to be able to give State valuable minutes this season.

So N.C. State should still be able to have a three-man rotation in the post of Vandenberg, Washington and Freeman, but nevertheless Anya’s weight trouble has been a frustrating development.

Since Gottfried arrived in Raleigh, the Pack has played at one of the faster paces in the ACC. The team’s goal is to average at least 80 points a game, and over the past two seasons, point guard Lorenzo Brown was as good in transition as any guard in the country.

Brown is off trying to make it in the NBA, but during the Red-White scrimmage on Oct. 18, sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis appeared much more comfortable pushing the pace, even after made baskets. Freshman Anthony “Cat” Barber was also reputed to be one of, if not the, fastest point guards in the 2013 class.

Thus, Gottfried is not expected to slow it down this year, even though Brown is gone. At Anya’s current weight and conditioning level, he cannot succeed in such a system. And it may be too late for him to get there this season.