By Dave Glenn, ACC Sports Journal
January 31, 2005 Catching up with ACC football commitments in the days leading up to the Feb. 2 national signing day, led by an avalanche of late January pledges to N.C. State: Jamestown (NC) Ragsdale RB Toney Baker, rated one of the top five tailbacks in the nation, committed to N.C. State over UNC, Tennessee, Virginia (runner-up) and Virginia Tech. A Parade All-American and the leading rusher in the history of North Carolina high school football, he also had offers from Boston College, Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, FSU, Georgia, LSU, Maryland, Nebraska, Penn State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and many others. As a senior, Baker rushed for 3,030 yards and scored 36 touchdowns, building his career rushing mark to 10,201 yards. The previous record was held by N.C. State's T.A. McLendon, formerly of Albemarle (NC) High.
A three-time all-state selection, Baker rushed for 3,411 yards and 41 touchdowns as a junior, 2,007 yards and 32 TDs as a sophomore, and 1,753 yards and 25 scores as a freshman. His father, Toney Sr., played running back at ECU. Toney Jr. bench presses 420 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. He has a 2.9 GPA. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is quarterbacks coach Curt Cignetti.
"I wanted to stay close to home, and State is less than an hour away. I wanted my family and friends to be able to see me play without a long trip. My dad is a big part of my life, and I didn't want to worry about him driving all over the place every weekend," Baker said. "I've been comfortable with State from the very beginning. I like the coaching staff and the facilities and the players there. They've won a lot of games under Coach (Chuck) Amato. I decided I wanted to be a professional football player when I was about 11 years old, and I think N.C. State will give me a chance to make that happen."
Richmond (VA) Varina DT Alan-Michael Cash, rated one of the top 30 seniors in Virginia, switched from Michigan State (visit) to N.C. State after the Wolfpack came through with a late scholarship offer. He also had a very early offer from UNC. A first-team Class 3A all-state selection, Cash had 56 tackles and six sacks as a senior. He had 76 tackles and six sacks as a junior, when he was a second-team all-state pick. He benches 350 pounds, squats 450 and runs the 40 in 5.0 seconds. He has a 2.4 GPA. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is safeties coach Manny Diaz.
Fayetteville (NC) Smith OL Curtis Crouch, rated one of the top 25 offensive linemen in the nation, picked N.C. State over Florida (visit) and Oklahoma (visit). He also had offers from Clemson, ECU and Virginia Tech, plus serious interest from dozens of other top programs. His former teammate Tank Tyler, whom he calls "like a brother to me," is a defensive tackle for the Wolfpack, and the NCSU campus is just an hour from his home. Crouch was a Shrine Bowl selection as a senior but did not make the AP all-state team. He benches 335 pounds, squats 555 and runs the 40 in 5.2 seconds. He has a 2.6 GPA but still needs a qualifying SAT score. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is offensive line coach Mike Barry.
"I really liked what I saw at Florida and Oklahoma, but I was hoping I could find something closer to home, and I felt comfortable with everything at N.C. State," Crouch said. "(Tyler) is one of my best friends, and Coach Barry probably got to know me more than anybody else (during the recruiting process). I was going to visit more schools, but some said they wanted to wait on my (academic situation). I don't think they know that (in the fall semester) I had almost straight As."
Wilmington (NC) Ashley WR Geron James, rated one of the top 30 seniors in North Carolina, selected childhood favorite N.C. State over Virginia Tech. He also had early offers from ECU and UNC, plus late interest from Georgia and LSU. His teammate Levin Neal previously committed to the Wolfpack, and the NCSU campus is two hours from his home. As a senior, James had 42 receptions for 920 yards and 17 touchdowns. As a junior, he had 23 receptions for 309 yards and two TDs, with 47 tackles and three interceptions on defense. He benches 225 pounds, squats 315 and runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds. He must improve his academic credentials to qualify. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is defensive backs coach Greg Williams.
Bethlehem (PA) Catholic DT/DE Matt Kushner, rated one of the top 50 seniors in Pennsylvania, chose N.C. State over Boston College. He also had an offer from Division I-AA Villanova. His teammate Kyle Newell also committed to the Wolfpack, and his former teammate John Bedics signed with NCSU in 2004. As a senior, Kushner had 65 tackles and 10 sacks. He benches 325 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is defensive backs coach Greg Williams.
Fort Myers (FL) High LB Ray Michel, rated one of the top 150 seniors in Florida, picked N.C. State over West Virginia. He also had an offer from UNLV, plus late interest from Iowa State. He's from the same high school and lives in the same neighborhood as Richard Washington, who's now a wide receiver for NCSU. As a senior, Michel had 65 tackles and six sacks, and he will depart Fort Myers as the school's all-time leader in both categories. He runs the 40 in 4.65 seconds. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is defensive line coach Todd Stroud.
Sumter (SC) Lakewood WR/DB J.C. Neal, rated one of the top 10 seniors in South Carolina, opted for N.C. State over Clemson, Maryland (visit), South Carolina (visit) and Virginia Tech (visit). He also had offers from Duke, Iowa State and Vanderbilt. On signing day, he'll become the first signee ever from the Palmetto State for NCSU coach Chuck Amato. A three-year starter, Neal rushed for more than 1,400 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior, with 52 tackles on defense. A Shrine Bowl selection, he earned defensive MVP honors in the game after making five tackles and grabbing two interceptions. As a junior, he rushed for more than 900 yards and 10 TDs, with 35 tackles and an interception on defense. He benches 270 pounds, squats 350 and runs the 40 in 4.45 seconds. He has a 3.4 GPA and a 19 ACT score. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is running backs coach Dick Portee.
"I think probably the coaches and the fans made the difference," Neal said. "Coach Amato and the rest of the coaches are just real. They're easy to talk to, and it's like there's a great bond between the coaches and the players. And the fans ... on my visits up there, I got to see the atmosphere at the football games and the basketball games, and it was just crazy. Those people definitely know how to support their team."
Bethlehem (PA) Catholic TE/DE Kyle Newell, rated one of the top 10 seniors in Pennsylvania, selected N.C. State over Boston College (visit), Maryland (visit), Tennessee (visit) and Virginia (visit). He also had offers from Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Louisville, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia and Wisconsin. As a senior, Newell had 70 tackles and six sacks for a 7-5 team, with 45 receptions and three touchdowns as a tight end. As a junior, he had 80 tackles and five sacks, plus 35 receptions and two TDs. Also a basketball player in high school, he averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds as a junior, drawing recruiting interest from St. Joseph's and other Division I hoop programs. Newell, who said he expects to begin his career in Raleigh as a wide receiver, benches 280 pounds, squats 300 and runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds. He has a 2.9 GPA and a 900 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is defensive backs coach Greg Williams.
Fayetteville (NC) Byrd OL Doug Palmer, rated one of the top 50 seniors in North Carolina, picked N.C. State over ECU. He also had offers from Elizabeth City State, Morgan State, North Carolina A&T and Western Carolina, plus late interest from UNC. His coach, Bob Paroli, is a former NCSU football player and the winningest coach in the history of North Carolina high school football. A three-year starter, Palmer was an all-conference selection in a very competitive Class 4A league as a senior. He benches 400 pounds and runs the 40 in 5.1 seconds. He must improve his academic credentials to qualify. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is quarterbacks coach Curt Cignetti.
New Bern (NC) High OL Julian Williams, rated one of the top 25 seniors in North Carolina, chose long-time favorite N.C. State over ECU (visit) and Virginia Tech (visit). He also had offers from Maryland (early), Michigan State and South Carolina, plus late interest from Notre Dame. As a senior, he blocked for 2,000-yard rusher Montario Hardesty, a UNC commitment. A projected left tackle for NCSU, Williams benches 350 pounds, squats 450 and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. He has a 2.5 GPA and a 900 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is safeties coach Manny Diaz.
Lackawanna (PA) Junior College DE Littleton Wright, formerly of Georgetown (DE) Sussex Central, selected N.C. State over interest from Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri and West Virginia. He originally committed to the Mountaineers out of high school but failed to qualify academically. His teammate Garrett Kline, an offensive tackle, committed to the Wolfpack last summer. As a sophomore in 2004, Wright had 9.5 sacks for Lackawanna despite missing two games with injuries. He runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is defensive backs coach Greg Williams.
"At that spot (right defensive end), he's the best player I've ever had here," Lackawanna coach Mark Duda said. "He's fast, he's agile, and he has those long arms and a long reach. He's going to have an adjustment period. He needs to get into a great strength and conditioning program, and N.C. State has that. If he can add weight and develop his body over the next two years, he has a chance to play in the NFL because of his combination of size and athleticism."
North Carolina Finishes Strongly
Marietta (GA) Wheeler RB Richard Rich, rated one of the top 25 seniors in Georgia, selected UNC over Kentucky (visit), Minnesota (visit) and N.C. State (visit). He also had offers from Alabama-Birmingham, Duke, Louisville, Maryland, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, UCLA and Wake Forest, plus late interest from Auburn. As a senior, Rich rushed for almost 1,000 yards and five touchdowns while playing with a nagging ankle injury. As a junior, he rushed 196 times for 1,454 yards and 15 TDs. He benches 250 pounds, squats 475 and runs the 40 in 4.45 seconds. He has a 2.5 GPA and an 880 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Tar Heels is running backs coach Andre Powell.