NC State’s early national signing day went off without a hitch, with 12 high schoolers sending in their letters of intent to enroll with the Wolfpack. Head coach Dave Doeren inked the most talented class of his tenure, pound-for-pound, his first with an average recruit rating above 87, according to 247’s composite ratings.
Due to the way the NCAA handled scholarships for players given so-called COVID years, teams across college football have less ability to take in full classes. The NCAA has mandated that teams should be back at or below 85 scholarship players for the 2022 football season, a move that has forced college coaches into a predicament as they can’t take full classes of high school players or fully utilize the deluge of college players entering the transfer portal.
“I think the NCAA has completely failed us as coaches, with our roster management,” Doeren said. “I personally feel like the model we had last year that allowed our super seniors to not count in our 85 was the right model. To say that that's a one year deal, but you awarded it to five years of players, is not a good situation to be in as a football coach. … The NCAA really screwed this one up, that's just my opinion.”
The move forced Doeren and his staff to take a class of less than half its normal take, and while its average rating was a best for Doeren, its national rank — which is heavily impacted by the number of players in a class — is 50.
On the offensive end, NC State took just five players: one at each skill position and two linemen. Running back Michael Allen, a composite four-star and the top player in the class, may make an impact sooner rather than later if sophomore back Bam Knight heads to the NFL. Doeren praised him as a runner and receiver, saying he’s “powerful, quick, fast, [with] good vision, good balance.”
“[We] felt like we needed to get maybe not as much of a developmental player at that position; someone that could come into play a little earlier if need be,” Doeren said. “I think he fits that. Obviously it'll come down to his mental part, which we feel good about, but, until you get them on campus and see him react to the speed of the game, that’s the biggest unknown, I guess you’d say, with any recruit.”
The rest of the offensive recruits will have plenty of time to develop. Quarterback M.J. Morris will come in at four on the depth chart next year behind redshirt sophomore Devin Leary, second-year freshman Ben Finley and true freshman Aaron McLaughlin. In back-to-back years the Wolfpack picked up a dual-threat quarterback, Beck’s preferred QB prototype.
Wide receiver Terrell Timmons Jr. has the length of a prototypical NC State receiver at 6-foot-2 with long arms, but at 180 pounds he’s a bit more speedy. Timmons’ high school footage will remind some of senior receiver Emeka Emezie; Emezie had better ball skills coming out of high school, but Timmons does a great job of high-pointing balls and making contested catches.
Jacarrius Peak, the last addition to the class, will develop into a tackle for NC State, while Rylan Vann, younger brother to freshman defensive tackle Davin Vann, can play any of the interior positions. Peak’s massive 6-foot-5 frame means he has great potential to grow into a force on the outside, but don’t discount Vann. Just like his brother, Rylan wrestled in high school, and is explosive for his size.
“Jacarrius is a very athletic young man, he’s a long wingspan, tall kid that plays basketball, shot and disc, multiple-sport athlete that we feel has tremendous upside,” Doeren said. “Hard worker, comes from a great program in Valdosta. It was a good fit for what we do, he’s very athletic, offensive lineman with a long wingspan. … Have to get some guys in the program that we can develop, and [I] feel like he's one of those guys.”
Defensively, the Wolfpack took three in the trenches, two in the secondary and two linebackers. Torren Wright, the other four-star recruit for NC State, and Daejuan Thompson join one of the top linebacking units in the country as the rich get richer. Wright and Thompson are both 6-foot-2, but Thompson is just 195 pounds. Between the frame he could fill out, and his style of play — best described as similar to redshirt junior Vi Jones but with junior safety Tanner Ingle’s love of contact — Thompson is probably the most intriguing defensive prospect.
“The two linebackers we signed today, they're gonna play with Isaiah Moore, Drake Thomas, Peyton Wilson, Levi [Jones] — they get some really good mentorship in that first year,” Doeren said. “To me that's a positive for a freshman coming in the door is to have that kind of player in front of you to learn from.”
With Isaiah Crowell and Jackson Vick, NC State picked up the two best cornerbacks in the state. Crowell is the younger brother of freshman receiver Micah Crowell, while Vick played at Southern Nash, where Knight went to high school. Both will have plenty of time to develop in a top-heavy cornerbacks room.
While North Carolina recruits constitute most of this recruiting class, on the defensive line, NC State was forced to look elsewhere. That’s partially due to the Tar Heels taking the top defensive tackle and top two edge rushers in the state.
Still, there’s always talent to be found, especially in Florida. Tampa’s Brandon Cleveland, the team’s highest-rated lineman recruit, looks like he’ll grow into a defensive tackle for NC State, while Lake Minneola’s Nick Campbell could grow into a defensive end-tackle hybrid similar to Larrell Murchison, who could play both spots. D.J. Jackson out of Sumter, South Carolina, rounds out the defensive line signees as a developmental defensive end.
With the small class, the coaching staff can ill afford to miss on any player. Each of the 12 who signed can contribute for NC State, and for the most part they will have ample time to develop. NC State’s winning right now, and with many of its best players coming back for another year, the focus is likely just to win now and pad out any open scholarships through the transfer portal.
“That's in some ways taken over the excitement of our football team, the run it back thing, and now we got fans even saying they're coming back, it's kind of funny seeing their messages,” Doeren said. “I love the guy that broke his leg, putting his stuff out there on social media [that] he's recommitted to the Pack, so it's interesting times man. But with recruiting, I think this is a really good class and I hope it just doesn't slip through because of [the] fact [that] there’s not 25 guys in it. There's 12 really good players.”