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August 8, 2012
NC State held its first two-a-day practice on Wednesday, and a pair of faces that had not practice with the Wolfpack yet were out on the field - defensive tackle A.J. Ferguson and junior college transfer linebacker Robert Caldwell.
Head coach Tom O'Brien, who addressed the media following the morning session, said the team is still waiting on grades for redshirt sophomore running back Mustafa Greene.
"Ferguson's grades have posted, Mustafa's haven't yet," he said. "As of 8:30 this morning, his grades weren't in, so he's working on his own. Ferguson was also working on his own, but his [grades] posted yesterday. I checked Monday night before I talked [to the media after the scrimmage] and neither had posted, but his posted finally. They've been able to work out because they've still been eligible. That's where we are right now."
The addition of Caldwell is a nice reinforcement, following the loss of sophomore linebacker Michael Peek for the season, due to a torn ACL.
"Caldwell was cleared finally, and he's out here," the coach said. "NC State finally accepted all of his paperwork."
The head coach envisions the transfer to line up at either middle or weakside linebacker this fall.
"Somewhere in the box, he's not a field guy," O'Brien said of the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder.
O'Brien addressed the loss of Peek and said it was a big blow, for more than just the obvious reason that the team has limited numbers at the position.
"That's one of the spots that we could ill afford to have an injury, especially to a kid like Peek," he said. "Even though he was listed behind Dowdy starting off, he's a physical kid that played a lot last year. He was the only freshman on the two-deep when we started the season at the linebacker spot, so he probably had a little more experience than anybody coming into this year, as far as his class.
As O'Brien said after the first scrimmage, the Pack was able to play three full teams in the contest for the first time during his tenure in Raleigh.
"We did three teams, the third team is basically all the freshmen, so they got 23 plays, which is pretty good," he said. "That's the most we've ever got them. We'll try to get them some more in the second scrimmage, then we'll make some determinations on which guys we think can help us going forward into the third and fourth scrimmage."
The obvious rookie that will have to be prepared to play will be back-up quarterback Manny Stocker, who ascended to No. 2 on the organizational chart following the departure of Tyler Brosius. The coach was asked if any of Stocker's classmates have a chance to see the field, as well.
"Yeah, but I don't know who they are," he replied. "I can't give you a definitive answer, but there's certainly enough talent in that class that some of them are going to find their way onto the field."
NC State had a pair of defensive tackles selected in the NFL Draft this spring, when Markus Kuhn and J.R. Sweezy heard their names called by professional clubs.
However, due to the injuries that struck the defensive line last year, several youngsters got playing time, and that will be an advantage this fall. O'Brien and his coaching staff have pointed to the depth of the defensive line as a strength on this year's squad.
"That's always the case when you play guys ahead of their time," he said. "It's not good for the immediate spot you're in, but it's certainly good for the future. We went through that with the secondary three years ago, and we went through that on the defensive line last year.
"Right now, we've got three teams worth of guys who have been redshirted or are able to play. That's where the competition comes in right now, so we have to sort it all out, but it's good to have 12 plus guys where you aren't worried about burning their redshirt year and they've played. They have some experience and we'll see where it goes, there's good competition right now. They better not miss a practice, or they might lose their spot."