Tom O'Brien's 2012 recruiting class not flashy, but continues building foundation

N.C. State signed no four or five-star players, but concentrated on fortifying offensive and defensive lines

NC State Clemson  - 2nd Half - Dabo Swinney & Tom O'Brien

Photo by Mark Crammer

NC State Clemson - 2nd Half - Dabo Swinney & Tom O'Brien

Since he's been at N.C. State, coach Tom O'Brien must feel like he's been slapping recruiting band-aids on an ailing team.

A seemingly endless wave of injuries to key personnel has kept O'Brien and his staff on the defensive, plugging holes while piecing together consistently competitive teams.

Last season, the Wolfpack ended their season on a high note, thumping Clemson and Maryland back-to-back to end the regular season and then beating Louisville in the Belk Bowl to finish 8-5.

The finish reinforced O'Brien's conviction that he's on the right track in building a strong foundation for long-term success, and his 2012 recruiting class reflects his approach.

Short on star power (no four or five-star prospects to be found), but substantial in building across-the-board depth, State's class was ranked ninth in the ACC by both Rivals and Scout.

O'Brien's class is particularly solid in the trenches. He nabbed a pair of big offensive linemen out of Fork Union Military - 300-pounders Quincy McKinney and John Tu'utu - and two more Bryce Kennedy of Southern Pines, N.C. and Eddie Gordon of Boiling Springs, S.C.

On the defensive front, the Wolfpack added K'Hadree Hooker of Deep Run, N.C., Deylan Buntyn of Havelock, N.C. (out of New Mexico Military), Tyler Knox of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Desmond Owino of Raleigh, N.C., Joe Wright of Greenville, N.C., and Kendarius Whitehead of Lithonia, Ga.

Clemson tracked Hooker and Knox throughout the recruiting process, and the Wolfpack won a final-week battle with Clemson and Georgia for Whitehead.

State also picked up a defensive back that Clemson followed: M.J. Salahuddin, a former teammate of Tiger tight end Eric Mac Lain at Jack Britt High in Fayetteville, N.C.

Overall, State's class was solid, especially considering the trend that saw most of North Carolina's elite in-state players go elsewhere, including running backs Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley to Georgia, offensive lineman D.J. Humphries and defensive end Jonathan Bullard to Florida, and defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and wide receiver Germone Hopper to Clemson.

State ended up with a class that includes six defensive linemen, three linebackers, four defensive backs, four offensive linemen, two wide receivers, one tight end, one running back and two quarterbacks. The majority of the class comes from State’s traditional recruiting footprint, with eight signees from North Carolina high schools, six from Georgia and others from South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

“Our staff is very excited about the signing class of 2012,” said O’Brien. “We went into this recruiting year with the intention of adding talent at every position, on both sides of the ball. We are at the point now where we are signing to build a team, not rebuild a position, and we are adding quality depth.”

O'Brien described his group as "a long, tall, very athletic class."

“Many of these young men were team captains and team leaders, which means they are the type of selfless players who will come in here with a goal of winning a championship," he said. "Seven of the signees attended our camp, so we have really had a chance to get to know them and their character.”

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