Position review: Tight ends

With the 2009 season behind NC State, it's only natural to take a look back at the year and analyze the roster. The Wolfpacker does just that, taking a position-by-position look at the squad, and figuring out what went right and wrong in 2009, and how the future shapes up. We continue with the tight end position.
Season Breakdown
Preseason spin
The Pack knew they had a good starter in redshirt sophomore George Bryan. He was pressed into action as a rookie and responded with 18 catches, including four touchdowns. Bryan was even being considered by some as a potential All-ACC candidate.
NC State fans were also excited by redshirt freshman Mario Carter, who was one of the stars of the spring game in 2009, and fifth-year senior Matt Kushner was hoping to make a return from a devastating knee injury he suffered his junior year. With Carter and Kushner on the roster, it was hoped that State could redshirt their two promising recruits - Asa Watson and Anthony Talbert.
Bryan lived up to his hype, but injuries derailed the position's depth. Bryan would indeed make first-team All-ACC after catching 40 passes for 422 yards and six touchdowns this year.
Kushner though was slow to recover from his knee injury, and Carter would tear his ACL in the preseason, forcing the Pack to burn the redshirt on Watson, who in hindsight was probably not ready to play this season. Watson caught a six-yard pass, which was the only catch by a tight end not named Bryan this season.
The lack of depth hurt NC State. Last year the Pack effectively utilized the two tight end set with Bryan and Anthony Hill, but they were unable to use that formation much this season.
Analyzing Recruiting Trend
The Supposed Foundation
By the foundation, we mean high school players that were signed in the Classes of 2005, 2006 and 2007 that have been in the program for at least three years. We did not include junior college recruits or major college transfers in this list.
Matt Kushner, Class of 2005
Rashad Phillips, Class of 2006
George Bryan, Class of 2007
Analysis: There was not a strong foundation to build the tight end position on in the 2009 team. Fortunately for State, Bryan turned out to be an emerging star. Kushner could have been a solid role player at the position for State, but the Pack will never know since he injured his knee just when he got his chance to make an impact. Phillips' career ended before it even began when he suffered serious leg injuries in a car accident during his redshirt season.
The Pack did sign junior college transfer R.J. Armstrong in 2007 to add depth at the positon, and Armstrong was a solid blocker for the 2007 squad but left the team after one season.
The Future?
The future are high school players that signed in 2008 and 2009 as well as non-binding verbal commitments from the 2010 class.
Mario Carter, Class of 2008
Anthony Talbert, Class of 2009
Asa Watson, Class of 2009
Analysis: Carter certainly looked like a keeper in the 2009 spring game. He has made one successful recovery from ACL surgery before when he tore the ligament in his knee before his senior season in high school. A healthy and fully recovered Carter could be a nice boost to the tight end position.
Watson is probably the most athletic tight end on the roster, and the coaches remain very excited about his potential in a Wolfpack uniform. Talbert redshirted last fall and will look to make an impact this spring and fall. Do not be surprised if the Pack tries to sign one more for the 2010 class.
State Of The Position
A lot depends on Carter's knee and Watson's development. Both have the potential to be pretty good tight ends. Bryan is already a star and has a chance to be one of the nation's best. Overall the position has good possibilities for the foreseeable future if the can reach their potential.