RALEIGH – The popularity of football recruiting on the internet happened to coincide with the arrival of Chuck Amato as N.C. State’s head coach. Amato injected life into the Wolfpack’s recruiting effort, especially from the state of Florida.
NCSU fans quickly grew accustomed to recruiting classes being dominated by players from the states of North Carolina and Florida. That’s because Amato was a strong believer in the Sunshine State’s talents. Amato was a long-time assistant at Florida State prior to taking over at his alma mater, and he helped the Seminoles build a powerhouse program with a stable of South Florida stars.
One of Amato’s first hires was Doc Holliday, who had a big reputation recruiting in South Florida when he was at West Virginia. Together they pounded Florida, almost at the expense of in-state recruiting at times.
When Amato was let go, replacement Tom O’Brien worked to re-establish those in-state ties that eroded toward the end of Amato’s tenure. O’Brien also decided to branch out with NCSU’s out-of-state efforts. One of his crucial hires was Andy McCollum, an assistant rich with connections in Georgia.
O’Brien wanted to increase NCSU’s presence in the Peach State, and McCollum started with some unheralded recruits, some of whom turned into valuable performers such as three-year starting guard Zach Allen and a pair of key seniors on this year’s team in receiver/returner Rashard Smith and linebacker D.J. Green.
After McCollum left to become the recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach at Georgia Tech, then-Wolfpack secondary coach Mike Reed picked up the bulk of the state and helped build on what McCollum started. The Pack started getting higher caliber players, including sophomore running back Shadrach Thornton, who had heavy attention from second-tier SEC schools such as Vanderbilt and Ole Miss and was also a prime target of McCollum at Georgia Tech.
Most impressively, N.C. State landed defensive end Kenderius Whitehead over Georgia and Clemson in 2012, stunning the recruiting world. Whitehead did not work out in Raleigh, leaving after just one season and never playing a snap, but Reed’s coup helped him quickly land on his feet with a job at Clemson when O’Brien was fired last winter.
Doeren Continues Push
Under first-year head coach Dave Doeren, N.C. State can be expected to go back to Florida, especially considering Doeren has a lot ofconnections to the state from his days as an assistant at Wisconsin. But the Wolfpack has not abandoned what O’Brien’s staff started in Georgia. In fact, Doeren’s staff has taken it even further.
Under the direction of assistants Frisman Jackson and Ryan Nielsen, N.C. State may be enjoying its best success ever in Georgia. The latest addition from the Peach State was offensive lineman Tyler Jones from Stone Mountain’s powerful Stephenson High.
Jones is the sixth commitment from Georgia in the 2014 class for the Pack, which has 22 pledges overall. Jones had verbally committed to Mississippi State in June, but he decided to switch to NCSU on Sept. 30 after taking a visit to N.C. State the previous Saturday to watch the Wolfpack blow out Central Michigan.
Jones is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 48 prospect from the state of Georgia. He becomes the fifth player in the Rivals.com top 85 from the state to cast his lot with Doeren’s building program. For perspective, the top 85 in Georgia is comparable to the top-35 list that Rivals.com puts out for the state of North Carolina.
The highlight of N.C. State’s Georgia haul is four-star defensive lineman Justin Jones from South Cobb High in Austell. Rivals.com lists Jones as the No. 19 player in the state. He would represent the highest ranked player from Georgia signed by N.C. State since Rivals began rankings players in 2002. Whitehead had been the previous high at No. 25.
Two other recruits are in the top 50 in Georgia. Tight end Cole Cook of Carrollton High is ranked No. 47, and he turned down an offer from Florida State among others to pick NCSU. Two spots below Cook is offensive lineman Terronne Prescod of Columbia High in Decatur.
Prescod, who is good friends with Tyler Jones, became a top target of Auburn, his reported dream school, when he won the offensive line MVP at the Tigers’ summer camp. Despite that, Nielsen was able to convince Prescod to commit to N.C. State instead, and he has held firm even after taking an official visit to Auburn in September.
The fifth Wolfpack commitment ranked in the top 85 is defensive end Bradley Chubb from Hillgrove High in Powder Springs. Chubb, rated No. 78 in Georgia, could have joined his older brother Brandon at Wake Forest, stayed close to home and played for Georgia Tech or taken reported offers from Duke, Mississippi State, Texas Christian and West Virginia, but he chose N.C. State. Impressively, N.C. State had only offered Chubb a scholarship about five days before he committed.
The Pack’s sixth commitment from Georgia is punter A.J. Cole from Woodward Academy in College Park. There are no kicking specialists in the Georgia top 85, but Cole is listed by kicking guru Jamie Kohl as the third best punter in the country in the 2014 class.
Currently Clemson and North Carolina are the only other programs outside of the state of Georgia to have five commitments sitting in the top 85. Clemson’s haul is far more impressive, with all five of their pledges among the top-15 players in the state, a haul that even Georgia is probably envious over.
Of North Carolina’s five pledges, only one is ranked in the top 50, meaning that at the moment, N.C. State can credibly claim that only Clemson has done better job invading Georgia this year.
That’s the type of recruiting that can get fans excited, creating the buzz and energy that NCSU athletic director Debbie Yow was searching for when she hired Doeren.