NC State Beat: For the Pack, the Time is Now

If you ever spend five minutes talking with an NC State fan about Wolfpack athletics, at one point or another you will almost certainly hear the phrase, “Wait ’til next year!” It is the signature phrase of basically every State fan alive. And who could blame them? When you are stuck in mediocrity, as the Pack have been for a while now, all you can do is hope next year is better than the previous year. I should know, I’ve been an NC State fan since the day I graced the world with my presence.

Last spring, NC State football coach Tom O’Brien gave NC State fans the ultimate, “Wait ’til next year!” O’Brien decided, against what most “analysts” deemed better judgment, to part ways with quarterback Russell Wilson. The rest is history.

Wilson went on to lead Wisconsin to a Rose Bowl, and is now in the running to be the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. Not bad for a 5-11 quarterback who everyone initially thought was better at baseball.

When O’Brien made the decisions to part ways with Wilson, because the quarterback wouldn’t commit to actually playing football in 2011 due to his professional baseball career, he wasn’t looking at 2011. O’Brien was looking to this season, 2012. He knew if he allowed the uncommitted Russell Wilson back for one season, he would lose Mike Glennon for two. The decision for O’Brien, in my opinion, was obvious. NC State was an eight or, at best, nine win team in 2011 no matter who the starting quarterback was.

What Tom O’Brien did was ensure that 2011 went well, and that 2012 would be looked at as the year for NC State to compete for an ACC title. And it is time for that to happen.

O’Brien is entering his sixth season as the head coach of the Wolfpack. He came into an undisciplined, unorganized program and used his background as a Marine to give NC State fans the type of program a school can be proud of. Under O’Brien, NC State’s APR (Academic Progress Rate) is at an all-time high. And while our friends down the street in Chapel Hill are neck deep in NCAA violations, the O’Brien-led Wolfpack are seemingly staying spotless.

However, things haven’t gone quite as well on the field.

Sure, NC State finished 9-4 in 2010, beating West Virginia in the Champs Sports bowl. And yes, State won a bowl game last year too, but it’s the way they had to get there in 2011, as well as the way they played in the other three years under O’Brien, that has people like me saying, “Show me something!”

When Tom O’Brien was hired the term “program builder” was thrown around, a lot. People looked at what O’Brien was able to do at Boston College, and thought that he could do that, and then some, at a place like NC State. However, in reality, a Tom O’Brien coached team has never won more than nine games. O’Brien’s Boston College teams never took that next step. They were good, solid teams, much like his last two at NC State. But for one reason or another, they never got over the proverbial hump.

It is time for Tom O’Brien to take the next step with NC State.

When O’Brien parted ways with Russell Wilson he was looking at 2012 to be the next step. Fans, like me, who supported O’Brien’s decision to let Wilson go, looked at 2012 being the year NC State takes that next step.

There are no more built in excuses. No one will argue that injuries did not decimate the Wolfpack in some of Tom O’Brien’s first five years, but after what is now six years of “program building” injuries should not completely derail an entire season. Mike Glennon has experience, the offensive line returns four starters, the Pack have a stable of running backs, and arguably the best defensive secondary in the entire country. There are no excuses that would justify anything short of making a run at the ACC Championship.

Some will point to State’s obvious weaknesses, linebacker and receiver, and automatically start the excuses. But there is none. Linebacker is the easiest position on the field to mask. With the highly underrated defensive line State has, and the outstanding talent and experience of the secondary, the linebackers’ jobs will be infinitely easier. And don’t worry about the receivers. All they have to do is run the right route and Glennon will get them the football.

This isn’t rocket science. In football, if you have a good offensive line, a good defensive line, an NFL caliber quarterback, and one of the best secondaries in the country, you win football games.

O’Brien has said many times during the spring and the summer that this is the deepest and most experienced team he has had in his time at NC State. During his first five years, depth and experience, along with injuries, were his main excuses for the lacking product NC State fans saw at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturdays. With those issues addressed, there is only one thing left for the Wolfpack to do: win.

Now is the time for the NC State Wolfpack under Tom O’Brien to take the next step. Despite the fact that he has never done it, I do firmly believe that Tom O’Brien can take NC State to that next level of winning 10 games, and playing for an ACC Championship in 2012. As O’Brien will quickly point out to anyone who will listen, only Virginia Tech and Florida State have won more games the past two years than NC State. It is time for that to translate into something more than a fun stat to throw around.

“Wait ’til next year” is over with. It’s done. The time for NC State is now.

This is next year.

 

Spencer Hardison has been writing about NC State athletics for over a year for various web sites, and has been talking about and passionately pulling for the Pack since the day he was born. He lives by the idea that numbers never lie, and firmly believes that defense wins championships. Spencer is one of the more opinionated and passionate people you will ever meet. Basically, he’ll argue with a wall, if said wall doesn’t agree with him. All in all, Spencer loves to be opinionated, make bold statements, and prove to everyone that he is right and they are wrong. Oh, and Taylor Swift has written three songs about him.  You can find Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerHardison.

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