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Kevin Keatts has been late too often this season and it’s costing NC State.

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You know I hate to write this.

I’m a Keatts guy. I’ve written article after article defending him. I believe in the culture he’s building. I believe he’s a great motivator and that guys will run through walls for him. I believe, now that the fear of NCAA sanctions is gone, you’re finally going to see that he’s an elite recruiter. I believe he’s eventually going to make NC State into an ACC contender.

But sometimes you just gotta call it like it is.

I know, I know. Manny Bates is hurt. Ross is hurt. Morsell was down for a while. Cam Hayes is struggling, etc. The guy has excuses he can pull, but he doesn’t want to use those (respect that!), and neither should you.

NC State has 10 losses. 5 of those have been by 6 points or less. I’ll say it another way. 5 of their losses have been 2 possession games. Another one, against the best team in the country at the time, was tied at the end of regulation (or just a one-possession game).

That’s 6 games that came down to just a couple possessions. 6 very winnable games. And winnable games should be won.

This is why I’m pointing the finger at Kevin Keatts. It’s time for him to be accountable. I’ve sat back and watched this team and they are not a bad team. In fact, you have to first credit Keatts for getting this team to play so hungry and with so much ‘want-to’ before you can criticize him for his in-game mistakes.

I’m just going to be blunt. Keatts is coaching reactively and that alone is costing NC State a few points here and there, which this season, is the difference between a 9-10 team and a 14-5 team.

Let me give you some examples.

Late on moving Seabron to primary ball handler

I told you that to get this team to its full potential they needed to move Seabron to the point. Cam Hayes has struggled all year, the offense was stagnant and it was costing this team games. I didn’t want to write that article. You never want to write an article that recommends sitting a kid down. You never want to dig into the stats that show why that recommendation holds merit. These kids are 18 years old. I had the stats. I saw that it was necessary, and it’s likely a lot of you did too. But nothing was changing. State was dropping games. So I wrote the piece. The next game, Seabron was at point. And it’s not because of any article, it’s because it was becoming all too obvious.

But why did it take that long?

I started to note that maybe Cam needed a role change after the Nebraska game. We hinted at it again after the Louisville game. I noted it again after the Purdue loss. Finally, after the Miami game, I had seen enough. I put out a clear and concise argument for moving Hayes off the ball and moving Seabron to the point.

Look, hindsight is 20/20, but I’m going out of my way and putting my a#* on the line in these columns. If Hayes turns it around or Seabron falls apart as the PG, I look like an idiot. People lose trust in this site. This site makes less money. And the guys that run the site fire me. That’s why you don’t see many sportswriters write these types of articles. You can’t be wrong if you don’t have a strong opinion!

But why live like that? No one wants to read the same old regurgitated synopsis. They want to know how to fix a problem. Is there something there that the staff is missing? Is there a way that a few decisions or adjustments could fix our team?

Usually, the answer is no. Usually, the answer is you just don’t have the talent.

However, in this case, during this season, I think the answer is yes. And that, folks, is why I’m writing THIS article.

Late on increasing minutes for Ernest Ross

Let’s move on to the Ernest Ross example, which at this point is moot, but worth noting.

The kid is done for the year with an ankle fracture, just as he was about to break out.. But Ernest Ross had been showing signs of being ready to contribute. All while Dowuona and Gibson were building a track record of struggling against bigger, more athletic bigs. There was a noticeable difference in Ross during the Miami loss. I noted that and suggested it was time he start to see more playing time in my post-game recap.

However, he then didn’t see a single minute vs. Florida State, a 2 point loss in which Dowuona and Gibson combined for 39 minutes, zero points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Would it have made a difference? We’ll never know.

Then came the first Virginia Tech game where Ross played 15 minutes, had 4 points and 3 rebounds. I again hinted that it was time to start getting Ross more minutes and figured the staff was seeing the same thing. But again was dumbfounded as he only saw 4 minutes vs. Clemson (a game NC State lost by 5.) In that one, Dowuona and Gibson combined for 35 minutes, 2 points, 2 rebounds, and one block, all while allowing PJ Hall to drop 20 points, almost all from the paint.

What was going on? Why, while Ross was showing promise in his small amount of minutes, was he seeing games where he barely got off the bench? Was I seeing things? The stats were showing that Ross was being more productive, but they really weren’t convincing enough to come out and really question anything publically.

Then came the Louisville game. NC State won on the road in blowout fashion. I analyzed the game from a number of different perspectives and the most obvious difference was the impact Ross had on the game. He played a season-high 18 minutes, had 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. But the stats didn’t tell the whole story. The game was different when Ross was in. He was altering shots inside and this was forcing the Louisville guards to play a little more hesitant on their drives. It changed the game. I went back and manually tracked his minutes.

When Ernest Ross was on the floor (18 minutes). NC State won 47-21. 

When Ernest Ross was not on the floor (22 minutes). NC State lost 32-42.

This tracked with what we had started to see vs. Miami and what we saw in the Virginia Tech game. Just his presence was creating a net positive for NC State. This seemed clear 4 games prior, but you still had the 2 games in there where he barely played. What gives?

That’s why I put out the “The numbers don’t lie. It’s time to hand Ernest Ross the starting role.” Again, I didn’t want to write that piece and a lot of you criticized me calling for him as a starter. It seems risky to sit down your starting big and bench your other big for a freshman that was just emerging, but it had become too clear. The numbers were telling the story and low and behold, Keatts, in last night’s press conference said “If Ernest Ross was going to playing this one, he was going to fight for starter minutes.”

Keatts is making the right moves, he’s just making them too late. Your current bigs provided a clear and large data set. They weren’t producing. Ross was trending in the right direction, and you were losing games where he wasn’t seeing significant time.

Now, would major minutes for Ross have changed anything against Duke or Virginia Tech? We’ll never know since Ross was lost to an ankle injury right after that piece. But that question should have been answered during the FSU-VT-Clemson-Louisville stretch.

Now, NC State has lost two in a row. And I’m back to pointing out another trend.

Late on moving Casey Morsell back into the starting role

Casey Morsell is a guy I’ve loved since Keatts landed him as a transfer from UVA. After watching his high school highlights and his games at Virginia, it was clear to me that Morsell would be the team’s best defender and would likely become a pretty good scoring option in this offense. He started strong. Keatts was starting him and he was averaging 12 ppg, then he went down with an ankle injury.

I thought Keatts did a good job at trying to get him back in the mix, but he just didn’t look the same. He wasn’t defending at the same level and he couldn’t buy a shot. He wasn’t right, which eventually led Keatts to turn to Thomas Allen.

This worked out well as Allen went through a stretch of being red-hot. He had a great game vs. Miami, a good game vs FSU, an ok game vs. VT and then a good game against Clemson. He was helping NC State on offense, but they lost 3 of those 4 games and their defense was struggling.

During that Clemson game, Casey Morsell logged 22 minutes and seemed to look like his old self. He was defending well, and 2 of his 4 3s fell. I expected Morsell to start carving out his role again, but one game wasn’t enough to provide real confidence. The next game vs. Louisville Morsell only logged 12 minutes and didn’t score. Smith was hitting everything so he wasn’t coming out and Allen was 4-10 and had 4 assists with no turnovers. I get it, but Hayes was 1-7 and got 19 minutes (although he did have 4 assist). Morsell is your best defender and looked like he was starting to get things back on track, why wasn’t Keatts getting him more run? Still, NC State won and the offense was buzzing, so it glossed over any problems that were lingering under the surface.

The Duke game is where it became clear for me. Morsell logged just 11 minutes and only hit 1 of 4 shots (another 3), but he had 2 steals and a rebound in his time. But it was how he looked in that game that made things obvious. Morsell was locked in defensively. He was moving so well, badgering the Duke guards, and was the only guy keeping his man out of the paint. He was playing physical, and never gave up, barking at his team to play harder, even as the game had surely slipped away.

Meanwhile, Allen played 18 minutes, scored 5 points and had 3 assists. Hayes played 8 minutes, had 4 points, but turned it over 3 times. And Breon Pass got some run, logging 10 quality offensive minutes, scored 5 points, 2 assists, but was overmatched on defense (fouling 4 times in those 10 mins).

Morsell was obviously back to 100% physically and was easily the best on-ball defender that NC State had against Duke. He was also starting to hit some shots. So I wondered why he wasn’t beating these other guys out for minutes? He can provide the same amount of offense, he gives you good size, more physicality and he’s easily a huge upgrade on defense. In fact, when I looked, sure enough, Morsell was NC State’s 3rd best 3-point shooter on the season. It was time that Keatts stopped playing around and started committing more to Morsell. Why wasn’t it in the process of happening?

Well, I gave him benefit of the doubt. He was probably going to commit to him against Virginia Tech. I was so sure that Morsell was going to break out that it was one of the keys to the game I wrote up in my pregame piece

Fast forward to last night’s game and what do you know. Morsell gets 26 minutes, scores 11 on 4-7 shooting, hits 3-4 3s, grabs 4 rebounds, and nets 3 steals (should have been 4 steals and 13 points but the refs called him for a phantom reach on his pick-pocket at half court).

Morsell broke out. It wasn’t a lucky guess. It was trending data and observations. It was clear Morsell was about to do this. So again, why did Kevin Keatts keep him out of the starting lineup? Did he not see this? Did his staff not present this?

What’s the big deal, you might ask? Morsell did get 26 minutes to Allen and Hayes’ combined 19.

Well, remember, NC State lost this game by 2 points. 5 of their 10 losses have been 2 possession games. Morsell didn’t get into this game until it was 13-0. When your season is riding on such a thin margin, you can’t keep missing like this. Every minute counts. Every substitution matters. You can’t keep being reactive. You need to see these trends and make changes before the situation forces you to.

NC State lost this Virginia Tech game by 2 points.

When Casey Morsell was on the floor (26 minutes). NC State won by 13.

When Casey Morsell was not on the floor (14 minutes). NC State lost by 15.

Would starting Morsell have won this game for you? Based on the trends and stats of this game, yeah, probably.

This isn’t just me saying these. Log onto Twitter. Look on Facebook. There are a handful of real basketball heads who are analyzing what we’re seeing and are pointing out these adjustments. Sure they’re small. A few minutes more for this guy, a few minutes less for that guy. But when you’re margins are this razor thin, they matter.

Look, I’m a Keatts guy. I believe in what he’s doing here. I want him here. I don’t think there should even be conversations about replacing him at any point in the near future… but for this issue, I gotta call it like it is. The players are responsible for their play, but the coaches are responsible for having the right guys on the court to make those plays. Keatts has made adjustments, he’s just simply been too slow to make them in a season where the difference between an NCAA Tournament appearance and going home after the ACC Tourny is just a possession or two per game.

That, folks, is another visible trend. One that, this time, we hope is dealt with proactively instead of reactively.

A pasta eatin', Wolfpack lovin' loudmouth from Raleigh by way of New Jersey. Jimmy V and Chuck Amato fanboy. All opinions are my own and you're gonna hear'em.

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Papajohn
Papajohn
8 months ago

Interesting take. Not sure I agree with it as a whole, but I do agree change is good. Seabron – When asked about moving Seabron to primary ballhandler Keatts said that Seabron had been playing some PG since the beginning of the season, but Seabron had not been involving other players – as a PG should. He coached him up, and now Seabron is leading the team in assists and minutes at PG. Ross – Ross is a forward, not a center. So he has to learn a new position. Early in the season, Ross was terrible at defense. Even… Read more »

Rev
Rev
8 months ago

Here is another, very difficult item that needs to be addressed. Keatts is a young coach. He prides himself in his relationship with his players. He wants to be loved. Afterglow was headed in the right direction when alluded to personnel issues at work. YOU CANT BE BUDDIES WITH YOUR PLAYERS (or employees). To now paraphrase what Joey is saying, “You shouldn’t hesitate so long before making decisions that look contrary to your loyalty to your players.”

brad58
brad58
8 months ago

I think Kevin is also developing as a coach, just like the players. I think we need to remain patient as he checks most of the other boxes. I would like to see him demonstrate that he can sign some top ranked players consistently. This helps with winning because you don’t have guys not showing up from game to game.

Afterglow
8 months ago
Reply to  brad58

I like this idea, especially in the proactive approach to games instead of a reactive approach. I work at a job where being proactive is the difference between dealing with choir boys or a reenactment of Lord of the Flies. Every little move throughout the day dictates how well things will go. And developing that Spidey sense is possible. But I wonder if as a coach, to develop that, Keatts needs to hire some guys that can see the forest for the trees for him, whether it’s a stat guy (doubtful), or assistant coaching changes, like an offensive and defensive… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Afterglow

Opinion

Wolferetti: Chancellor Woodson was the highest paid in 2021, making some happy and some mad

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A couple of days ago I read a pretty interesting piece by NC State’s on-campus newspaper ‘The Technician.’ I’m not really sure what the public response is going to be on this, but it’s been on my mind and I figured it would be a good conversation starter.

Chancellor Randy Woodson’s salary was around $2.3 million in 2021 according to the Technician. He also brought in a $1.7 million bonus, making him the highest paid president of a public university.

Now, according to the piece, “Woodson donated $1.5 million back to the school in the form of a scholarship fund for dependents of University employees, $100k to extraordinary student opportunity fund and addition donations to other univerisy programs, including the ‘student emergency fund.”

The rest of the piece dives into the donations and how needed they were, and then talks about where his bonus money came from (which was 100% from The Board of Trustees raising money. Meaning no state funds were used.) So, this is all awesome right? A positive piece of news about NC State’s leader?

Well, I guess not everyone read it that way.

The reason I’m taking a deeper look at this article is because I’ve now been sent it twice by friends of mine. Both of whom seemed to have a negative response to Woodson getting paid so much. However, after reading it, I was wondering why they both were stuck on that point, instead of focusing on the $1.5 million he donated back to the school. I thought the piece really focused on that and that the likely response would be “Man, what a good person Chancellor Woodson is.”

I guess after reading it from their perspective, I’d want to know a little more about what makes NC State so unique that it warrants paying the nation’s highest price to it’s president. Are there some extraordinary circumstances that other universities don’t face? Size-wise, NC State is surely nowhere near the largest public university, so that can’t be what it’s about. These points aren’t discussed, but I believe would be beneficial to keep PR on the positive side as news like this starts to be reported.

I also wondered about the bonus. If Woodson is just going to donate it, then why is the Board of Trustees not fundraising specifically for those programs? I’m sure it’s easier to sell donors on funding scholarships than funding Chancellor bonuses, right?

The Technician piece leaves it pretty open-ended and that is 100% fine. The conclusion I came to was different than my friend’s, but when reading it from their lens, I understand their take.

On one hand they don’t really criticize or question Woodson’s salary in this piece and instead focus on the donation aspect. But on the other hand, the main image is an abstract version of Woodson, with money symbols in his eyes and a Scrooge McDuck pile of cash behind him…Leaving me really wondering how people are going to react to this? Is this a net positive for Woodson, or does this piece not go in-depth enough on the questions people may have, creating skepticism from some fans?

I honestly don’t know. But I’m always interested in how stories are presented and how that affects the subconscious of their readers.

If you’re an ‘ends over means’ person, then look, NC State scholarships just got a $1.5 million bump from a guy who didn’t HAVE to give it. If you’re an optimist who wants to see the good in the world, then Woodson is helping his university.

But if you’re already sour about rising tuitions for your kids attending State, still have a bunch of student loans from 10 years ago, and are feeling a little pinched on money these days, then seeing your Chancellor rake in $2.3 million per year with a $1.7 million bonus and be the highest paid in the nation, might make you frustrated.

Either way, I get your point.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Woodson and I think he’s had a tough go of it over the past 5 years. Between trying to navigate society’s equality debates and COVID, not many of us would want the stress that goes along with running a publicly funded University these days. So take that into account. Maybe that salary is worth it? Or maybe not.

All I know is that NC State hasn’t had many PR nightmares (unlike our neighbors in Chapel Hill) and they seem to be in a good place with athletics (if Basketball can get out of this rut). Maybe $4 million the going rate for that.

I guess that’s the debate.

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Opinion

Wolferetti: Who is benefitting most from these NIL jersey sales? The players or the 3rd parties?

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WRAL investigative journalist (yes, those still exist), Brian Murphy, wrote a really great piece for WRALSportsfan.com a few days ago.

In this piece, Murphy investigates the deals signed to have players make money off of their jersey sales, and I found it interesting. I figured you might too.

First off, let’s take a step back and realize how we got here.

The NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) laws pass prior to this season and most college sports fans either agreed with the rulings or understood the argument for them. Universities are making a killing off of college athletics, and the players aren’t seeing a dime. To be fair, they are getting a free education, however, while tuition rates are rising, they aren’t keeping up with the influx of profits that major college programs have seen thanks to these new TV/Streaming deals that have been getting signed (ie. ACC/ESPN’s deal worth $1.86 BILLION over 12 years.)

So most fans were fine with players getting a cut. However, as these rules were passed, I don’t think there was enough scrutiny on how they were structured.

For instance, they insisted that schools could not directly pay players. Which on its face, seems smart, as schools and conferences argued that it would create corruption and have schools bidding for players.

What is legal, however, is 3rd party companies (which could be companies of boosters) can pay unlimited funds to a player for ‘their services.’ And sometimes those services don’t seem to match the compensation.

Here’s one example: QB Jadan Rashada was paid a reported $9.5 million for an NIL contract associated with Miami University (note the use of associated). Sure, Rashada wasn’t paid BY Miami Univeristy. That would be illegal. However, he is being paid by a company/booster whose deal almost certainly had a stipulation that he attend Miami. And what does he have to do for the $9.5 million? It’s not fully disclosed, but by the looks of it, he’ll be doing social media ads, appearances, autograph sessions, and some marketing.

For reference, note that Tom Brady, who is arguably the best quarterback in the history of the NFL previously held a deal with Under Armor that paid him around $10 million per year.

The point is, while the schools aren’t ‘paying players to attend their schools, a lot of times someone is (but in a roundabout way). And we’re supposed to pretend that the schools/coaches don’t really have a say in this? What if a company offers a huge NIL deal to a recruit that the coach doesn’t want? How are companies targeting un-committed recruits with these NIL deals? So, we’re being asked to pretend that these major NIL deals are happening without input from the coaches or the schools? Hmm. Hard for me to believe, but it’s possible.

Either way, it is convenient for the schools, no doubt, since they aren’t on the hook for the accusations of ‘buying players.’ But it’s even more convenient that they can’t pay players because it shields players from cutting into the REAL place that name and likeness are being exploited for HUGE money, and that’s in these cash cow TV deals (which, to be fair, were signed prior to NIL ruels).

Ok. That was both a little backstory and a little ranting. But hey, this is my opinion column and that is my opinion.

But anyways, back to the jersey sales.

The way they are doing this is that players are signing licensing agreements with a 3rd party licensing company to have their names and numbers listed on the product page for a custom team jersey.

Here is what the product page looks like.

Now, before we get into NC State’s deal. Let’s see what Murphy said about UNC’s deal, which has a little more transparency in the numbers.

UNC players sign with a 3rd party company called OneTeam, which deals with NIL licensing.

“The players will receive some money, likely around $4, from each jersey sold with their name and number.”
writes Murphy. He goes on to explain…

“UNC is charging Fanatics a 12% royalty fee for use of its trademarks and logos. That portion is split evenly between the university and athlete. The 12% comes from the wholesale price, not the retail figure. And of that 12%, OneTeam keeps 30%. On its website, it calls that figure customary “on the professional side” and says its for services such as managing the group licensing program, negotiating licensing deals, managing NIL approvals and protecting athlete NIL.

So if Fanatics has a wholesale price of $100 for a UNC jersey, the school’s royalty fee is $12. Of that $12, One Team collects $3.60, and $8.40 is left to be split evenly between the player and the school.”

So, let me try to do some math here.

If you buy a UNC jersey online, it’s going to cost you $130 + tax & shipping. Off the top, UNC gets 12%, and Fanatics (the company selling and shipping it) and the apparel company (Nike, Adidas) get the rest? It appears so.

After UNC takes their 12% cut, OneTeam jumps in and scoops up 30% for themselves and takes half of the rest for the players, which ends up being $4.20 for the player.

Note that OneTeam is paying the players, not the university, per the NIL rules. 

Meanwhile, at NC State, the players signed a licensing agreement with The Brandr Group (which like OneTeam, deals with NIL licensing). However, NC State wouldn’t comment on the deal’s financial breakdown, telling Murphy “NC State is not and cannot be a party to the licensing agreements between our players and The Brandr Group, so I am uncertain of the financial terms on this item.”

Brandr’s president and founder, Wesley Haynes, did say this:

“Proceeds of co-branded jerseys sold with the NIL of student-athletes who have opted into our group licensing agreement is roughly $10 to $12 a jersey for the student-athletes. This approximate payment of 10 percent of the final invoice price is aligned with existing industry standard best practices, and it represents the baseline for negotiations for our jersey programs.”

Ok, so NC State players seem to be getting a better deal, but we don’t know what Brandr takes.

That said, just look at all the hands in this pot.

– Fanatics gets a cut
– Surely Adidas/Nike gets a cut
– Brandr / OneTeam gets a cut
– The player gets a cut
– The school gets a cut

Pretty complicated situation, if you ask me.

If the schools could pay the players then you’d be able to cut out Fanatics and Brandr/One Team, leaving more money for the school and the players. Which would be good for both, right?

Well, the schools/conferences aren’t going to fight that fight, because if they are able to pay the players directly, then that’s going to open discussion about the players getting a chunk of the TV deal money, and you can bet your bottom dollar, that’s what they are going to work the hardest to protect.

But what’s the alternative? Allow the schools to pay the players? Then the richest teams would just pay kids the most money, no?

Well, and I’m just spitballing here, what if they came together and created a luxury tax, sort of like how Major League Baseball does it? Schools can pay players, and offer NIL deals, but have a soft cap.

If they go over that soft cap, then they are taxed at a huge rate on what they went over. That tax funds the smaller teams that can’t afford these huge NIL deals.

It seems to have worked in baseball. Over the past 10 years, the Royals have made the World Series twice and the Tampa Bay Rays have made it once. Those are some of the smallest payroll teams in baseball.

Either way, a lot has to be worked out. NIL is opening a lot of doors for players, and I applaud that. These kids deserve a cut.

However, the structure of NIL seems overcomplicated and allows for a lot of greedy hands to get into the pot. But with the rules, as they are, I don’t see another way. However, I’d love to see the schools and the players figure out a way to get those rules changed and to do most of this themselves, without having to get so many 3rd parties involved…

Because at the end of the day, with them involved they need enough money to go around and you know who is going to bear the brunt of that. You and me. That’s why a UNC or NC State Jersey is $130, but I could grab a Patrick Maholms jersey for $100.

That said, I just picked up a Leary jersey yesterday for $130. Don’t tell my wife.

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Opinion

LOVED IT, HATED IT : From #13 NC State’s narrow win over ECU

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NC State won. I am happy. But this isn’t exactly what I wanted, however, it’s deep down what I expected.

NC State, coming in with a whole pre-season of hype and a national ranking of #13, wasn’t going to come in and dominate at ECU. At least that’s not what history said was going to happen. NC State, as a school in general, has a stigma attached to it. They’ll be at their worst when they’re ranked the best.

But that’s not a real thing, right? That’s just a myth, no?

Well, whatever it is, and whether it’s real or not, it’s obviously something that has seeped into the psyche of the guys in the locker room at NC State. It doesn’t seem to matter what sport. It doesn’t seem to matter who is on the staff. It just seems to be something that plagues the major athletic programs of this school.

But I swore it wasn’t going to happen this year. This team was too good to have an opening game lapse. They have a veteran team and a QB who’s been through the gauntlet. They have a defense full of future pros. They’ll blow ECU out of the water, which will catapult them into what will be one of the most successful seasons in program history.

But here I sit, just an hour after the game has ended, dealing with reality.

I’m so happy State won. There were a few minutes there where I was sure the worst-case scenario had come true. But man, this wasn’t exactly the way you wanted to start the season, even if the outcome was a win.

With that said let’s talk about what I loved and what I hated from this roller coaster of a win for NC State.

LOVED IT

Demi Sumo is legit – One of my biggest questions coming into the season was the running game. I knew Leary’s success was going to be closely tied with how successful NC State was going to be on the ground. And while I love Jordan Houston, I don’t think he’s the style of back that you can lean on as a workhorse. They needed a grind-it-out, physical back to compliment Houston. Today, we were assured that player exists on this roster.  Demi Sumo looked great.  He has some amazing runs, great yards after contact, and just looked like a guy that is going to break out this season. He finished with 79 yards on 14 carries and 1 TD. And while he wasn’t able to get in on 4 tries at the goal line in a big situation down the stretch, I think Sumo is going to be huge for the pack going forward (pun intended).

The Wolfpack Defense and Special Teams came up big – The NC State front line was consistent and great all day. They only allowed 59 yards on 21 carries to ECU’s running backs. The secondary could have been better, but they did come up with two big INTs. Meanwhile, Special Teams was great again, coming up with a blocked punt/touchdown. ECU’s offense isn’t all that bad, and they have some big-time weapons that NC State kept in check.

Thank you to ECU’s kicker, Owen Daffer– Not trying to kick a man when he’s down, but NC State doesn’t win this game if Daffer does his job. Thank goodness he didn’t. Daffer missed a PAT that would have tied the game, and a FG that would have won it. You gotta feel for the kid, especially in a small college town that passionate about football. But this is football, baby. You sign up for this when you sign up to play competitive sports at this level.

HATED IT

The Play Calling – Maybe you’ll disagree. I don’t know. But this is what I feared the most. NC State would come out with a conservative game plan on offense, and fall into a trance that would have them sleepwalking through the entire game. That’s kind of what happened offensively. NC State was predictable and ‘safe’ all game long. This is Leary’s year, man. Let the kid go back there and rip it. Empty that backfield, and let’s put up some points. Instead, it was the opposite. Leary was basically a glorified game manager in this one. There was almost no misdirection, no creativity, and no excitement from Beck. Heck, I saw more offense in the last 2 minutes of the UNC/App State game that came on after this game, then I saw in the whole time from the Pack.

And don’t pin this take on me, there was a lot of conversation about this on Twitter, the most notable coming from NY Post contributor, Thomas Casale.

It just seems like the pressure is always on Leary to make a play. Most of his throws are coming on 2nd or 3rd and long. It would be nice to see them just put the ball in his hands a little more, open it up and see what’s possible with this offense.

I also think the goal-line calls were awful and that stands out the most. A run up the middle with Houston (fumble) and then 4 straight with Demi Sumo (stopped). No QB sneaks, no putting the ball in your Heisman candidate’s hands to make a play. This is just my opinion here, but NC State isn’t going to reach its potential until they take the reigns off their offense. And I know it’s week 1, so maybe this gets better, but this isn’t new. This is something we’ve seen for a few years now that I’ve been concerned about. Playing not to lose instead of playing to win on offense.

Devin Leary’s performance
I won’t say I hated Leary’s performance, but it wasn’t a good look for game 1 from a kid who wants to be in the Heismann conversation. ECU’s defense did a good job against him, but ECU’s defense shouldn’t slow down a guy of Leary’s caliber. His 211 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT performance (17/33) wasn’t what I was hoping for and part of it was his fault, but part of it I hit on above (the play-calling). I don’t really think the staff put Leary in a position to succeed in this game, and maybe that won’t be a popular take, but it’s that’s how I saw it.

The NC State WRs (beside Thayer)
Thayer Thomas aside, I was hoping to see more from this group.  I wanted to see someone like Julian Gray, Keyone Lesane or Anthony Smith step up. Instead it was just Thomas who really stood out. No other receiver had more than 2 catches and the guy Leary hopes becomes his major deep threat, Devin Carter, dropped another catchable ball (that would have been a TD). This might be the reason for Leary’s performance, or maybe Leary’s performance was the reason for the lack of WR production. Who knows, either way, it’s got to get better in the next couple of weeks.

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Don’t get me wrong. I am ecstatic that NC State came away with a win. I’m so thankful the season is still intact, and I hope this was an aberration, a game that we’ll look back on and laugh at. But I think the reality is that this squad has some work to do, and some growing to do before we see them at their final form. I think there will need to be adjustments made by the players and some by the coaches as the season progresses. I think NC State fans, myself included, thought this team would hit the ground running. They didn’t, but at the end of the day, it’s a win and that’s all that matters.

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Opinion

Money Ruins Everything, Even the Legend of Tommy White

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The world of college sports is WILD right now. In just the last year, any athlete can transfer penalty-free and everybody can get their bank accounts padded. The problem is, my head is stuck in this double-edged sword scenario; For far too long, universities have been crooks, abusing students by using their likeness and misleading them into bad situations.

But now, “innocent” athletes are being made into the crooks.

Don’t Go Tommy…

There is obviously more to every story than what’s spread around Twitter. Maybe coaches, playing time, position, change of scenery, whatever it may be, played a factor in their decision to leave. In the case of Tommy White, it seems to be a series of objections.

What we know for sure is, there was a line of schools sitting on a whole pile of cash (and let’s be honest, better ballparks) just chomping at the bit to sign him a check. Which turns this into a personal question for every reader, “You get hired by Company A. One year later Company B shows up in your email saying that you can work remotely, have all these extra benefits and oh yeah, how about a 40% raise?” Every. F*cking. Person. Would. Take. The. Deal. I don’t think Tommy’s a bad guy at all. He’s a really good baseball player that is seeing things elsewhere that look greener. Just like every one of us would do.

It’s a super tough pill to swallow in the case of Tommy White. He can’t say he didn’t feel the love. When WPN latches onto you as a legend, you’re set for life. Tommy Tank shirt sales were crazy, he was the lead convo on social daily, people in Raleigh loved Tommy and showed it. All that to say, Tommy, you need to show up to exit interviews. Some level of professionalism (and frankly respect), no matter how upset, needs to be shown.

There are going to be people on social media that will vilify Tommy White. Others will go after Boo (more on that later), Avent and others. The NCAA will once again get their steady stream of hate, although we can tell you with certainty, the chances of transferring weren’t all on missing out on the Tourney.

 

Moving Forward

And this is now the world we live in. The NCAA has minimal oversight. Programs are going to be crowned champions because their wallet was much, much deeper than State’s. Players will forgo relationships, support and fans for money and the promise of more.

Here is when I rile a few folks up…Give a lot of praise to Doeren, Moore and some to Keatts, as well. The 2022 football team is returning just about everyone, which after this week is beyond impressive. Wes Moore has gained far more than he’s lost each and every transfer period. And Keatts? He has done well building back up the roster and brought BACK a top-20 NBA pick.

All I ask is this…Support these programs and the players while they’re here. Don’t go bashing and calling out athletes if they go elsewhere (seriously, you clowns). Understand that State sports is on the rise, across the full spectrum of teams. We’re the underdogs and always will be.

#GoPack

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