Sophomore offensive tackle Robert Crisp entered NC State as a five-star prospect out of Raleigh (N.C.) Athens Drive High. The highly-touted prospect wasted no time breaking into the lineup once on campus, either; nabbing the start at left tackle in the season-opener against Western Carolina for a suspended teammate.
The 6-foot-7, 312-pounder admits he wasn't really sure what he was doing out there during his debut, but he logged a career-best 62 snaps and performed admirably for a true freshman. Crisp went on to appear in all 13 contests and logged a total of 122 snaps during the 2010 campaign.
This year, Crisp has flipped to the right tackle position and plays behind fifth-year senior Mikel Overgaard. However, Crisp has seen the field quite a bit since his older teammate sees time at left guard during games, opening a slot for Crisp to slide in on the edge. The Raleigh native logged a season-high 36 plays from scrimmage against Virginia and has notched at least 20 snaps in the past four contests, something he did only once last year. He has already been in on 147 snaps from scrimmage this year.
"Virginia was definitely a lot more than I had been playing this year," he said. "I've been working hard, doing extra stuff with Coach [Todd] Rice and the strength and conditioning program. It was something new for me, getting as many snaps as I did, so I have to continue working hard in the weight room and on the practice field so it will hopefully happen again.
"It felt like I played even more [against Virginia], maybe because I actually knew what I was doing this time. Of course I played the whole game against Western Carolina but I felt more comfortable in what I was doing against Virginia, which made me feel like I played more."
Saturday's win over Virginia also marked Crisp's first extensive playing time in an ACC road game, something that was not lost on the big man.
"You could definitely feel it in the atmosphere," he said. "Every time we play an ACC game, we're going to get fans on their feet, cheering as loud as they can but it was definitely a new experience for me, it was different on the road."
Crisp, Overgaard and the rest of the road graders up front played a solid game against the Cavaliers, allowing no sacks and paving the way for 114 yards on the ground. Crisp contends that run blocking is still his strength, but added that his pass blocking is getting there.
"Our offensive line has put in a lot of work the past few weeks and Coach [Jim] Bridge has been doing an outstanding job with us," Crisp noted. "We've been working hard and the main thing we're doing is paying attention to what he says. If we do the small things, it leads to bigger things like big plays and doing well in the run game helps to establish the passing game. We've just been putting in the work on the practice field and it's showing in games."
Putting in the extra work has been something the line has been focused on since the game against Cincinnati, when the Pack finished with minus-26 yards on the ground and were embarrassed on national television, 44-14.
"Coach [Dana] Bible puts a big emphasis on you win game during the week," he said. "I think for the Cincinnati game, as an offensive line, we really didn't put in as much work as we should have in order to get a win. I guess it was a wake-up call and we've been putting in the work ever since then and it has showed on the field."
Overgaard has helped ease Crisp's transition to the right side after the youngster played on the blind side last year. The two have an excellent working relationship, although they are in direct competition with one another.
"I feel really comfortable on the right side now," Crisp said. "Mikel is very versatile but he's doing a great job of playing both positions. He's been teaching me things I didn't know at right tackle. Playing behind Jake Vermiglio at left tackle last year, there's still some things I don't know at right tackle. As a senior, Mikel is showing his leadership towards me and helping me out with a lot of things. The coaches decide [when Overgaard plays guard, bringing Crisp into the game] but I'm real comfortable with their decision because I feel like they are making the best decision for the team. They know what guy should be in the game in a certain situation."
Crisp is looking for the Pack to finish the season strong and reach the postseason for the second-straight year. They need wins in three of the last five games and the next step in getting bowl eligible comes against Florida State, who boast one of the nation's top defensive lines, led by star end Brandon Jenkins.
"They have a good defensive line, they've been known in the ACC for having a fast, physical defensive line the last couple years," Crisp said. "We've been working hard this week to prepare for them. Jenkins is fast, he's one of those guys that doesn't stop after his first move. A lot of guys, if they do one move and an offensive lineman beats them, they just quit. He's always still going and he's definitely going to be a challenge, for not just me, but the whole team.
"We have to put all of the games that we played in the first-half of the year behind us. We can't let the first-half have any control over what we do in the second-half, we have to look at it as a brand new season. That's what Coach [Tom] O'Brien puts a big emphasis on. We have to play the rest of the season one game at a time and eventually it should culminate in a bowl game, but we're taking it one game at a time."