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January 17, 2012
FB Taylor Gentry
NC State is trying to get a fifth year of eligibility for fullback Taylor Gentry, who played in five games this season before missing the rest of the year with a foot injury, but the chances of that happening are not great, as coach Tom O'Brien has admitted.
However, even if the 6-foot-2, 250-pounder is done with his college career, he should receive a look in the NFL based on his special teams prowess alone. He is also one of the best fullbacks out there in the Draft and has phenomenal hands.
The former walk-on never rushed the football during his career, but recorded 38 receptions for 313 yards and five scores during his three-plus years as the starting fullback. He appeared in a total of 43 games and started 18 times in the Red and White. He was always among the Pack's most used special teams players and he led the team in special teams takedowns in 2009, 2010 and was the leader in 2011 at the time of his injury. He was named as the team's Special Teams Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010.
Some professional teams seem to be phasing out the fullback as part of its offense, but the former high school wideout should prove versatile enough that he could fill in an H-back role, if needed. Although he's obviously not a burner, he has adequate speed for his size and he was very durable before the injury he suffered as a senior; he never missed a game in his first three seasons.
Gentry is a team-first player who will do whatever is asked of him to get on the field - when the defensive line was decimated by injuries early in his senior year, Gentry took a few snaps at defensive tackle against Georgia Tech. He has a strong, muscular frame and is a sure tackler on special teams, which is where he will make his money on the next level. However, his excellent hands out of the backfield should convince teams to give the versatile performer a long look as their fullback.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. ranked Gentry as the No. 5 senior fullback in the land on Dec. 1 while NationalFootballPost.com lists him as the No. 7 fullback available in the Draft and the No. 392 overall prospect. Pro Football Weekly lists him as the No. 3 fullback in the Draft's player pool and the No. 273 overall prospect. NFLDraftScout.com calls him the No. 11 fullback in the Draft and the No. 406 overall player.
DT Markus Kuhn
Markus Kuhn is a mature, 25-year-old defensive tackle who checks in at 6-4, 303 pounds. The redshirt senior is originally from Weinheim, Germany but he anchored the injury-plagued defensive line of the Wolfpack during his final campaign and was named All-ACC honorable mention.
Although he did not even begin playing football until he was 15, Kuhn was pushed into the defensive line rotation as a true freshman in 2007 and responded well. He earned honorable mention freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News after he totaled 33 tackles, including five for loss, one sack and three quarterback hurries in 11 games. He was in for 270 snaps that season while seeing action at tackle, as well as some brief appearances at defensive end.
The following year, he played in each of the team's 13 contests and started three times while he tallied 23 stops, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and eight quarterback hurries, as well as a forced fumble.
He redshirted in 2009 before returning to a reserve role along the interior of the defensive line in 2010. He appeared in 11 games that season and recorded 14 tackles, including two for loss and one quarterback hurry.
His senior year, though, should have caught scouts' attention. Kuhn played in 13 contests and made 12 starts while he set career-highs with 50 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hurries.
Even more important than his final numbers indicate, Kuhn was a rock for the defensive line that went through numerous changes during the season due to injuries. Kuhn is strong and has proved to be a solid contributor along the defensive line. Look for him to end up in an NFL team's training camp when all is said and done.
Pro Football Weekly lists Kuhn as the No. 37 defensive tackle in the Draft and the No. 584 overall player.
DT J.R. Sweezy
J.R. Sweezy is another Wolfpack player who should receive a long look from NFL scouts when they send out training camp invites, although some analysts think he could be on the Draft bubble.
The stout defensive tackle was playing like an all-star during his junior season but fractured his foot before his senior campaign started and missed the Pack's first four games this fall.
He clearly wasn't 100 percent when he returned to the field, but the team captain is as tough as they come and probably could not be held off the field for much longer. He started to show the flashes of where he was as a junior at the end of the campaign and his best football may still be ahead of the 6-foot-5, 293-pounder.
Sweezy is an imposing redshirt senior who was a state champion wrestler in high school. He was named the Scout Team Player of the Year while he redshirted in 2007 and then played in two games as a redshirt freshman defensive end. He worked his way into a veteran-laden rotation in 2009 at defensive tackle, appearing in all 12 games and making one start; finishing with 17 tackles, including five for loss, three sacks and 13 quarterback pressures.
His junior year was the most impressive, though, and he was named All-ACC honorable mention for his efforts. In 12 starts, he notched 46 tackles, including 13 for loss and six sacks, to go along with six quarterback pressures, three pass break-ups, one forced fumble and two recovered fumbles. He was also part of the line that helped star middle linebacker Nate Irving run free en route to All-American honors last year.
As a senior, Sweezy totaled 22 tackles, including four for loss, two sacks, 13 quarterback pressures and one forced fumble in nine games and seven starts. On several occasions this year, O'Brien noted how big of an impact the return of the senior captain made on the defense and he even called Sweezy, "the heart and soul," of the unit.
Sweezy might not have posted gaudy numbers during his career, but he was very solid in his two years as a starter and totaled 22 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in his career. He should time well for a defensive tackle in front of scouts at Pro Day and he has a high motor with good strength. He should get a look at the next level and can be one of those underrated players who gets the dirty work done in the trenches. He's still pretty inexperienced at defensive tackle - the former prep linebacker played defensive end for his first two years on campus (as well as some linebacker) before finding a home on the interior for his final three seasons - but the potential is there.
NationalFootballPost.com ranks Sweezy as the No. 25 draft-eligible defensive tackle in the country and the No. 337 overall prospect in the draft. Meanwhile, Pro Football Weekly lists him as the No. 17 defensive tackle and the No. 209 overall prospect; they assigned him a seventh-round grade. NFLDraftScout.com lists Sweezy as the No. 34 defensive tackle in the Draft and the No. 444 overall player.
Sweezy will take part in the Battle of Florida All-Star game, played Jan. 21 in Boca Raton, Fla.
More in The Wolfpacker's NFL Draft prospects series:
NFL Draft prospect: T.J. Graham
NFL Draft prospect: Russell Wilson
NFL Draft prospect: George Bryan
NFL Draft prospect: Audie Cole
NFL Draft prospect: Terrell Manning
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