State of the position: Defensive 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 defensive end position.
Season Breakdown
Preseason spin
This was supposed to be a position of strength for NC State. Willie Young returned for his fifth season and was expected to break out as a potential All-ACC candidate. On the other side, Shea McKeen was another fifth-year senior who started much of 2008, and State was supposed to have good depth with Audi Augustin and Jeff Rieskamp backing them up. For good measure, junior college transfer Michael Lemon was added to the equation shortly after the start of preseason camp.
Young started strong, but faded as more teams focused their blocking schemes on him. He finished with 54 tackles, including team-highs with 14 for losses and eight sacks. McKeen struggled with nagging injuries for much of the year and had just 28 tackles, 2.5 for losses and 1.5 sacks. Augustin failed to capitalize on the momentum he had gained at the end of the 2008 season and had just 10 tackles before dislocating his elbow against Virginia Tech. Rieskamp would miss the year with a hip injury.
That means adding Lemon was a smart move because he would arguably be State's second best defensive end in 2009. Lemon had 19 tackles, including 2.5 for losses and a sack while playing about half the snaps McKeen played.
While defensive ends were far from a weak spot on the team, they probably were not the strength fans were hoping.
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.
Willie Young, Class of 2005
Audi Augustin, Class of 2006
Jeff Rieskamp, Class of 2007
Analysis: As clearly is evident, there was not a strong foundation of defensive ends on the roster. That's why junior college defensive end additions like McKeen and Lemon and Class of 2010 transfer David Akinniyi have been very necessary over the past few years. Part of the issue was the some defensive ends signed were better suited to play defensive tackle, like J.R. Sweezy and Markus Kuhn, and Matt Kushner was moved to tight end.
The Future?
The future are high school players that signed in 2008 through 2010.
Darryl Cato-Bishop, Class of 2009
Sylvester Crawford, Class of 2009
A.J. Ferguson, Class of 2010
Art Norman, Class of 2010
Theodore Rich, Class of 2010
Analysis: The need to build for the future had to be balanced with the need to fill immediate needs for depth at defensive end. However, NC State is slowly building a foundation that should appease the need to keep going after junior college recruits and transfers down the road. Most concerning though for the Pack fans is that none of the five defensive ends signed over the past two recruiting cycles were highly regarded with the possible exception of Crawford. The good news is that both Cato-Bishop and Crawford earned good reviews while redshirting last season.
State Of The Position
State will lack star power at the position in 2010, but if Augustin and Rieskamp can make a healthy return and Akinniyi is able to play right away, that trio should combine with Lemon to give the Pack a serviceable four-man rotation at the position and buy just a little more time for the young players to develop. It would not be a shock if the Pack looks for more immediate help in 2011, but expect defensive ends to continue to be a priority on the recruiting trail.
Previous State of the Positions
- Quarterbacks
- Running Backs
- Wide Receivers
- Tight Ends
- Offensive Linemen