Redshirt sophomore Anthony Talbert saw the most extensive action of his college career at tight end last weekend against South Alabama. He logged 11 plays in the 35-13 victory at Carter-Finley Stadium and there couldn't be a more perfect time for him to see increased game action because this week's Thursday night contest comes against the college in his hometown, the University of Cincinnati.
"I have about 20-25 people coming to the game, people that I have given tickets to," he said. "I also have a lot of friends who said they're going to be there. I'll have some people there rooting for me. I don't get to see my family too much so I'm definitely excited to see them and I keep in contact with them everyday. They're excited to see me play.
"I am going home, I've got a few people coming to the game and I am playing against some old teammates. Maalik Bomar plays will linebacker and Chris Williams plays nickelback. Both of them play defense and I play offense so I'm going to be looking for them, hopefully we can get out there and compete with each other."
Talbert teamed with Bomar and Williams at Cincinnati (Ohio) Winton Woods and all three were members of the class of 2009, although Talbert's high school classmates were immediately pushed into action at Cincinnati. This year, Bomar is listed as a starter at linebacker while Williams is listed as the Bearcats' top nickelback.
"I saw them both this past summer and spring," he said. "I haven't talked to them since the season started but we definitely keep in contact throughout the offseason."
Meanwhile, Talbert is just beginning to scratch the surface of his immense potential at tight end. He appeared in every game last year, but played mostly on special teams and logged five snaps at tight end against Western Carolina. Through three games this year, he has been in on 21 special teams snaps and seen tight end action in every game. He logged three plays against Liberty, one snap against Wake Forest and set his career-high with 11 last Saturday.
"That was a good experience," Talbert said. "Backing up George [Bryan], when they call my number, I have to do what they ask me to do. I have to make my blocks, run the right routes and make the right reads."
The 6-foot-4, 246-pound tight end is not the only player in the Red and White heading towards home for the Thursday night contest, which will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. The Wolfpack has clearly made Ohio an area of focus for recruiting with head coach Tom O'Brien, offensive coordinator Dana Bible and tight ends coach Don Horton calling Cincinnati home. Talbert says that all of the Ohio products share a bond, thanks to their northern roots.
"It's not even just the Cincinnati guys, it's all of the Ohio guys, period," he explained. "We've got [linebacker] Ryan Cheek from Lancaster, [guard] Andy Jomantas from Dayton, [receiver] Bryan Underwood from Cleveland then there's myself, [tight end] Benson Browne and Jeff Rieskamp from Cincinnati. There's always an Ohio camaraderie and we stick together because there's not too many of us."
True freshman offensive lineman Joe Thuney also hails from Centerville, Ohio.
Talbert was drawn to NC State because of the weather and the coaches. New tight ends coach Don Horton, who previously served as the former offensive line mentor, recruited the two-star prospect to Raleigh and the youngster is taking advantage of learning under his new position coach after being tutored by Jim Bridge for his first two years on campus.
"NC State was just the best fit for me," Talbert, who chose the Pack over offers from Ohio, Miami (Ohio), Akron, Buffalo and Cincinnati, remembered. "I loved the program, loved the coaches and everybody seemed like they cared. There were good people here, good players and it was better weather than Cincinnati, it's always a little warmer here so it was a great fit. I thought it was best for me and my family.
"Coach Horton was recruiting the Cincinnati area at the time, so he was my recruiter. He definitely showed that he cared and knew the game. He knows how to relate a game to his players and he's a great coach, knows what he's talking about and he's getting me better as a player."
Talbert is also taking advantage of playing behind Bryan, a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection. According to Talbert, the starter pushes everybody in the position group and they do their best to return the favor.
"It's a competition everyday and we're trying to make each other better," he said. "But if George is in the game, we root for him; if Mario [Carter] is in the game, we root for him; when I got playing time this past game, everybody was rooting for me. It's a competition but it's like a brotherhood. We're not trying to pull anybody down, we want to bring each other up through good, brotherly competition."