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November 21, 2012

Seniors have left mark on program



Every week tends to be different in college football, but NC State has a singular purpose for the season finale — win on Senior Day against Boston College on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.

NC State coach Tom O'Brien has been encouraged by what he has seen at practice this week, but is well aware the Eagles (2-9 overall, 1-6 ACC) have won four of the last five games against the Wolfpack (6-5, 3-4 ACC). The 3 p.m. kickoff will be on ESPN3.com.

"We'll take tomorrow and make sure we'll work hard, but the kids have been focused," O'Brien said. "Senior Day is always something special for a football team. The upper class, it's their last chance to play, and it's a chance for the underclassmen to give them a going present."

The class of 2008 was O'Brien's first full recruiting class after arriving from Boston College. Eight of the remaining players from the class have started this season, and 10 remain. Three others moved on last year with two of them to NFL — wide receiver T.J. Graham and outside linebacker Terrell Manning — and three from junior college ranks ended up starting and moved on in 2010.

The group ranked No. 31 in the country in the Rivals.com team rankings.

"They have all graduated or will graduate and have a chance to win their 24th game in three years, and that's only two shy of the three-year record, which has only been done twice here," O'Brien said. "They've established something here. They will go to three straight bowl games, and four out of five years since they've been playing.

"They are 4-1 against their rivals, so a lot of good things have happened for this class."

Fifth-year strong safety Earl Wolff is a prime example from that recruiting class in exceeding expectations. NC State's coaches unearthed him at one of its June camps and locked up the former Raeford (N.C.) Hoke County High player. Rivals.com ranked Wolff the No. 24 overall player in the class of 2008, and a three-star prospect. He played both wide receiver and defensive back in high school, but quickly settled in at safety and has been a four-year starter with fellow senior Brandan Bishop.

Next year will have a different look without players such as Wolff, who leads the team with 123 tackles.

"I don't know, but it's going to be less jovial and he's such a great kid and fun to be around," O'Brien said. "It will take something away from the defense and the football team. That's the great thing about college football is that someone will step into that role. I don't know who it is going to be, but someone will."

Wolff had 19 tackles against Clemson last Saturday and has had at least 17 tackles in four games this season.

"His calling card is great effort, whether he is banged up or completely healthy," O'Brien said. "He's out there playing and giving everything he has. That's the type of football we want to establish here. We want everybody to play that way. The more guys we have like that, the better we will be as a football team."

The Wolfpack have gone 3-2 in season finales under O'Brien, which include the annual feast at Angus Barn for Thanksgiving.

The Wolfpack famously fell behind 41-14 last year against Maryland before rallying for a 56-41 victory. Maryland had previously 38-31 on Nov. 27, 2010.

NC State came through for a big 28-27 victory over North Carolina on Nov. 28, 2009, and became bowl eligible with a 38-28 win over Miami (Fla.) on Nov. 29, 2008. However, the Wolfpack failed to become bowl eligible after the Terrapins cruised to an easy 37-0 on Nov. 24, 2007.

"We'll be going to the Angus Barn tomorrow night and they'll take care of us," O'Brien said. "We do pay for NCAA regulations, but they do a fabulous job. We get there just about the tail end of shutting down all the other 1,000s of people they serve. These kids love it and it's a great deal for them."


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