NC State star linebacker Nate Irving will be returning from his broken leg at a new position this spring.
Irving is making the move from weakside outside linebacker to the middle in his return to football. Irving missed his redshirt junior season after getting in a horrific car accident around 4:40 a.m. June 28, 2009, on his return trip back to campus. He suffered a broken leg, collapsed lung, and injured his shoulder. He was cleared to resume football duties in January after the winter break.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder will likely be the story of the spring for the Wolfpack, who begin practice Tuesday. NC State went 5-7 last year and hasn't had a winning record since 2005. The Wolfpack open the season against Western Carolina on Sept. 4 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
NC State's offense will also have a new look this spring with redshirt sophomore quarterback Mike Glennon shouldering the load. Returning starting quarterback Russell Wilson, a redshirt junior, is one of 10 players who will be missing the spring. In Wilson's case, he's playing baseball fulltime with the hopes of getting drafted high in June. No other scholarship quarterbacks will be playing this spring with the move of redshirt freshman Everett Proctor to boundary safety, where he is listed at third string.
Competition will also be fierce at running back where junior Curtis Underwood, Jr. returns after redshirting this past season. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Barnes is behind him at second string, and sophomore James Washington is third. Junior starting fullback Taylor Gentry also returns.
NC State will be deep at wide receiver and tight end. Fifth-year senior Jarvis Williams and senior Owen Spencer are returning starters, while backups Darrell Davis, a fifth-year senior, and junior T.J. Graham are experienced.
Two of the top three tight ends are back, led by first-team All-ACC performer George Bryan, a redshirt junior. Sophomore Asa Watson and redshirt freshman Anthony Talbert will battle to back up Bryan.
The NC State offensive line will be reworked with only senior left tackle Jake Vermiglio returning. Starting right guard R.J. Mattes, a redshirt sophomore, will miss the spring after suffering a season-ending knee injury this past season that could also jeopardize his fall camp.
Redshirt sophomore Andrew Wallace is likely to start somewhere on the offensive - NC State plays its five best offensive linemen - and is starting off at left guard. Redshirt sophomore right guard Zach Allen and redshirt freshman right tackle Sam Jones are first string on the opposite side. Sophomore Camden Wentz will battle redshirt junior Wayne Crawford at center.
Junior college transfer Mikel Overgaard will start off at right tackle behind Jones, while redshirt freshman Denzelle Good returns from shoulder surgery and will compete with Allen at right guard.
The return of Irving highlights the defense, but the secondary and defensive line are also full of question marks. NC State will start four new defensive lineman and four defensive backs that are all redshirt sophomores or true sophomores.
Senior defensive ends Michael Lemon and Audi Augustin get first crack at the starting spots, but redshirt junior Jeff Rieskamp is back after missing last year because of injury. Also, Northeastern senior transfer David Akinniyi will bolster the depth and compete with Lemon for the starting spot. Redshirt freshman Darryl Cato-Bishop and former outside linebacker Rickey Dowdy are listed as the third-string defensive ends.
Senior Natanu Mageo, who like Lemon, is a former junior college transfer, and redshirt junior J.R. Sweezy are first string at defensive tackle. Mageo is backed up by junior Markus Kuhn, who redshirted last year, and sophomore Brian Slay backs up Sweezy. Walk-on sophomore Tyler Kloc and true freshman A.J. Ferguson are the third-string defensive tackles.
Redshirt sophomore C.J. Wilson and sophomore Rashard Smith return at cornerback, though Smith is coming back from a knee injury that wiped out his last five games of the season. Redshirt sophomore Gary Grant and senior walk-on Zach Powell back up Wilson, and walk-ons Jordan Monk, a junior, and sophomore Jesse Riley are behind Smith.
Sophomore Brandan Bishop and redshirt sophomore Earl Wolff return at safety. Both have starting experience from last year. Redshirt freshman Dean Haynes will back up Bishop, and redshirt freshmen Donald Coleman and Proctor are behind Wolff.
If Irving returns to form, the linebacking unit should be the strength of the defense. Redshirt junior Audie Cole, who led the team with 85 tackles last year, and junior Dwayne Maddox, return at outside linebacker. Backup middle linebacker Sterling Lucas, a junior, and redshirt sophomore Terrell Manning are experienced backups. Manning will push Maddox for the starting job at weakside outside linebacker, with redshirt sophomore William Beasley returning to the active roster at third string.
Redshirt freshman Hans Rice, who was injured for part of his first season on the scout team, is listed as Cole's backup, with senior Asante Cureton on the third string. Redshirt freshman Ryan Cheek, who missed his first season with a hip injury, is the third-string middle linebacker.
Redshirt senior Josh Czajkowski returns at kicker, and redshirt freshman Chris Ward will take over the punting duties.
Eight other players join Mattes and Wilson that won't be practicing this spring.
Cornerbacks Justin Byers, a redshirt junior, and sophomore Jarvis Byrd, redshirt sophomore linebacker Colby Jackson (who has moved from fullback), redshirt freshman defensive end Sylvester Crawford and freshman defensive tackle Deion Roberson, are the defensive players that will miss the spring.
Byrd suffered a season-ending knee injury against North Carolina in the season finale, and Jackson missed all of last year because of a knee injury. Byers underwent shoulder surgery and Crawford hip surgery following the season. Roberson hasn't played in nearly two years because of an ankle injury suffered in high school.
Redshirt senior guard Gary Gregory, redshirt sophomore tight end Mario Carter, and redshirt junior wide receiver Steven Howard, join Mattes and Wilson on the offensive side of the ball.
Gregory and Howard have undisclosed injuries, though Howard suffered a season-ending knee injury against Clemson on Nov. 14. Carter missed last year after suffering his second serious knee injury in the last three years.