N.C. State got a recent double recruiting reward - landing LB Ty Linton and taking him away from UNC.
RALEIGH – One subtle difference in football recruiting for N.C. State this cycle has been the Wolfpack’s ability to go toe-to-toe with in-state rival UNC for in-state players.
The two schools actually did not seem to cross paths much during the Tom O’Brien era, but that has changed under Dave Doeren.
It started last January when Bunn High receiver Johnathan Alston picked NCSU over UNC. This summer, linebacker Coult Culler of Wilmington Laney, defensive tackle B.J. Hill of Oakboro West Stanly and safety Dexter Wright of Wilson Hunt all picked N.C. State over UNC.
The Heels certainly would have liked to been in the game with top defensive end Kentavius Street of Greenville Rose High but were never among Street’s favorites before he picked the Wolfpack in December.
That’s not to say that the Pack has not lost its share to UNC. Prized running back Elijah Hood of Charlotte Catholic and offensive tackle Bentley Spain of Charlotte Providence both would have been prime NCSU targets had they reciprocated the interest.
N.C. State lost the head-to-head dual for Charlotte Berry linebacker Cayson Collins, and Raleigh Ravenscroft tight end Avery Edwards comes from a family of Wolfpack season ticket holders and had NCSU among his early favorites before gravitating to UNC.
The latest showdown though went in NCSU’s favor, and it’s an interesting case.
In 2010, Ty Linton was a well-regarded linebacker at Charlotte Christian. He had offers from Duke, Illinois, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wake Forest, West Virginia and Wisconsin before committing to UNC.
Linton was also a two-sport star, and the lure of a $1.25 million signing bonus from the Arizona Diamondbacks, who drafted Linton in the 14th round, proved too much for Linton to pass up. Linton didn’t pan out, though, hitting just .198 and struggling to climb the minor league ladder.
With no future with the Diamondbacks, Linton decided to take advantage of a clause in his contract that would make the baseball club pay for his college tuition. Linton’s original intent was to head back to UNC, but the 22-year old then changed course.
It turned out that while being recruited by Wisconsin, the Badgers assistant that Linton dealt with was Doeren. A second coincidence is that a pair of Charlotte Christian seniors, receiver Bo Hines and tight end Garrett Bradbury, are committed to N.C. State for the 2014 class.
It was during a casual conversation between Doeren and Hines that Doeren learned about Linton’s status. That led to a chain of events that resulted in Linton now headed to Raleigh as a valuable preferred walk-on instead of UNC.
Consistent Inconsistency So Far
When NCSU hosted Pittsburgh on Jan. 4 in the ACC openers for both squads, the tale of two halves could have also been a microcosm of the season that has been and may lie ahead for Mark Gottfried’s squad.
In the first half, N.C. State played with energy and toughness, defending on seemingly every Pitt possession, dominating the glass and efficiently scoring on offense, at least until Pitt switched to a 2-3 zone defense. The result was N.C. State jumping out to a 17-2 lead en route to a 34-26 halftime advantage.
Then in the second half, after Panther coach Jamie Dixon implored his squad to get tougher, especially on the glass, Pittsburgh outscored N.C. State 48-28 while dominating all facets of the game. In the process, the Pack was outrebounded, outhustled and worn down by a tougher Pitt team. A clearly annoyed Gottfried was uncharacteristically short with his postgame press conference answers and bluntly disappointed with his team’s second-half performance.
N.C. State has the talent and personnel to win games in the ACC and perhaps even sneak itself into postseason play. The Wolfpack has a collection of shot blockers and length in the paint to be a good rebounding team that will make scoring around the basket tough. Offensively, the Pack is typically one of the most efficient teams inside the arc in the ACC.
Sophomore forward T.J. Warren is clearly one of the best scorers in the country and is a decent bet to end up leading the ACC in scoring at season’s end. Freshman point guard Anthony Barber has the talent to be one of the best at his position in the league, and junior wings Desmond Lee and Ralston Turner are capable complimentary players.
The problem facing State, though, is that neither Lee nor Turner has proven to be consistent. That’s not necessarily surprising. Lee is a juco transfer who is getting acclimated to the higher level of college basketball. And Turner is getting back into the flow after sitting out last season as a transfer from LSU.
Barber, for all of his talents, is still a rookie, too. The result is that while Warren is an immensely gifted scorer, he has little consistent help around him. Against Pitt, Turner scored some late perimeter buckets to finish with 11 points, but more of those points came after Pittsburgh had seized control of the game. Lee was held to five points and Barber added nine but on 2-of-10 shooting.
It’s also becoming increasingly clear that until N.C. State proves otherwise, zone defenses are going to be an issue for the Wolfpack. NCSU made four of 11 3-pointers against Pitt, and the problem is that was actually a good day’s work for this year’s team. After the game, NCSU improved its overall accuracy to 30.4 percent from three-point range and 65.8 percent at the foul line, ranking near the bottom of the ACC in both categories.
Only Turner among the regulars shoots over 30.0 percent from three-point range. Much like Warren needing more consistent scorers around him, N.C. State would really benefit if Lee or Barber could become much more of a threat shooting jumpers.
Until the Pack finds the solutions to complimenting Warren’s scoring and becoming a respectable jump-shooting team, the inconsistency that has plagued a team that scored a nice road win over Tennessee – and nearly upset ranked Missouri – but also dropped a home contest to N.C. Central will continue.