NC State junior Robert Crisp is poised to live up to his considerable prep hype next fall.
Crisp is the highest nationally ranked on the Wolfpack roster. Rivals.com ranked him No. 13 in the country and the No. 2 offensive tackle behind future Miami's Seantrel Henderson in the class of 2010.
Crisp, a one-time former basketball standout, morphed into an elite football prospect during his three years at Chapel Hill (N.C.) High and senior campaign at Raleigh Athens Drive.
The jump to college football has been a steady progression for the 6-foot-7, 312-pound right tackle. He hopes to show off his improvement Saturday during the Kay Yow Spring Game at Carter-Finley Stadium.
"I don't really try to think about myself, but just us as an offensive line unit," Crisp said. "It's not so much my time, but our time.
"The spring game is always fun. We have a nice crowd coming in. We have the best fans that I've ever seen. We'll definitely compete and play Wolfpack football."
Crisp has started three games in the past while filling in for teammates. He started at left tackle in the 2010 season opener against Western Carolina after Jake Vermiglio was suspended. Crisp allowed one sack in 62 plays during his first college football game. Crisp returned to being a reserve when needed and sometimes played on special teams to accumulate 122 plays.
Crisp alternated with senior right tackle Mikel Overgaard for the majority of last year, but his role grew in importance toward the end of the season. He started against both Boston College and Louisville in the Belk Bowl last year.
The experience of recording 413 plays and not allowing a sack will be invaluable to Crisp going into the fall.
"It's going to be a big responsibility this season," Crisp said. "In the first huddle, you have to have an impact the whole time. After learning from Mikel Overgaard and Jake Vermiglio the previous year, I have to bring the same intensity that they brought."
Crisp is considered one of the "younger" guys on the offensive line for NC State. Left tackle R.J. Mattes, left guard Andrew Wallace, center Camden Wentz and right guard Zach Allen, are all seniors on the first string of the organizational depth chart. All but Wallace started last year, with Wallace a former starter, who is working his way back from a past knee injury.
"They treat me like one of the guys, but I am a younger guy, so I have to keep the intensity going like the seniors," Crisp said. "They want the best for not only the team but for the offensive line.
"R.J. has helped me since I've been here. Even on my recruiting visit during my senior year in high school, he was my host. He's had my back ever since day one, and I really appreciate that."
Crisp learned from Don Horton his freshman year, and Jim Bridge this past year when the two coaches swapped spots with Horton becoming the tight ends coach and Bridge taking over the line.
"I just will play wherever the coaches want me to be," Crisp said. "If they want me back at left tackle, I'll bust my butt there. Right now, I'm trying to be perfect at right tackle."
Another addition to NC State's coaching personnel has also made a difference. Crisp credits new strength & conditioning coach Corey Edmond for helping him improve for spring football.
"I'm really trying to get stronger and get a lot of agility stuff down," said Crisp, who has fluctuated between 315 and 320 pounds. "I want to move defensive lineman away like we did last year.
"We have a new strength program, so he's helping us get stronger and move guys off the ball. [Former strength & conditioning] Coach [Todd] Rice worked us on flexibility to help you lift. Coach Edmond is get jacked and get strong. He's about intensity, intensity, intensity."
NC State opens the 2012 season against Tennessee at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Playing an SEC opponent will help provide motivation during the offseason.
"When you play an SEC team, you know you are getting the best," Crisp said. "Ever since our last game [against Louisville], we've had the mindset that we are playing Tennessee in the first game and we need to bust our butt in offseason workouts."