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March 25, 2010NC State rising sophomore center Camden Wentz will always be able to easily remember his first play with the Wolfpack.
Wentz made his debut when NC State had the ball at Murray State's one-yard line in the second quarter at Carter-Finley Stadium Sept. 12, 2009. Wentz snapped the ball and recruiting classmate and running back James Washington scored to give the Wolfpack a 35-0 lead en route to a 65-7.
Wentz still remembers how nervous he was during that first snap.
"After that first snap against Murray State, the whole nervous thing about playing college football was gone," Wentz said. "Murray State punted the ball and T.J. Graham returned it to the one-yard line. I was like, 'Whew.' First play, one yard and a touchdown. I was like, 'We are one for one right now.'"
NCSU offensive line coach Don Horton told Wentz he might play that week, and then during pre-game warm-ups he got a little pep talk from coach Tom O'Brien. He hoped to play his first season in Raleigh but he was OK redshirting like some of his fellow freshman lineman.
"They didn't really talk to me beforehand," Wentz said. "Most offensive lineman get redshirted right away. I wasn't coming in to try and get redshirted. Coach Horton told me that they might throw me in that week and I was practicing with the two's. I was like, 'All right, here we go.'"
Wentz played 35 snaps against the Racers, and then followed with 13 the next week against Gardner-Webb. After that, playing was more sporadic. He played in three ACC games, totaling 19 plays, and finished the year with five games played and 67 snaps.
Wentz thinks the experience, even though limited, has helped sped up his learning curve for this spring. He is competing with former defensive tackle Wayne Crawford, a redshirt junior, for the starting center spot.
"It definitely helped because I don't feel like a freshman anymore," said Wentz, who is used to shotgun snapping after playing in a spread offense at Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter High. "I have that whole experience behind me now. I wouldn't call myself a vet yet, but I feel like I'm making my way there."
The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder is trying to get stronger, quicker and be more of a leader on the offensive line this spring. He is in charge of making the line calls.
"I have to know everything and get everyone going the right way," Wentz said. "[The line calls] was probably the hardest thing coming in and picking up. When you pick that up, that is when the player side comes out, the physical side.
"I started picking things up in fall camp, and then I played scout team for the first game against South Carolina, so I kind of lost a little bit. When I was back at the two [second string] during the season, that helped me."
Wentz also continues to learn from former center Ted Larsen, who is expected to be a middle round draft choice in the NFL Draft in late April.
"Ted really has helped me a lot," Wentz said. "We'd sit and just look at the playbook. He still helps me right now. He's having all these workouts with the pro teams, and he'll tell me the little tricks they have told him. We still talk all the time."
Having Horton and O'Brien to learn from is quite a one-two punch for Wentz's development. O'Brien has talked in recent weeks that Wentz could be another future NFL center, following in the lines of Larsen and Boston College's Damien Woody and Dan Koppen.
"Coach Horton teaches me a lot of technique stuff," Wentz said. "It's really good and helps me a lot. Coach O'Brien and Coach Horton have had a lot of successful offensive lineman. I feel like I'm willing to learn, and I'm going to learn. Hopefully, they can help me become a great offensive lineman as well."
Wentz said O'Brien has been active this spring in passing down his knowledge to the offensive lineman.
"He'll come in and give me pointers, like the other day while we were having dinner, he walked by and told me something to do," Wentz said.
Wentz originally committed to Stanford, but eventually picked NC State over Louisville. Rivals.com ranked him the No. 13 center in the country and the No. 58 overall player in Georgia.
Wentz has gained around 14 pounds since his arrival in Raleigh, and is glad that he has the chance to play early in his college career, if he's able to hold off Crawford.
"I wanted to go somewhere I would have to earn it," Wentz said. "I know these coaches would make me have to earn it.
"Wayne and I talk to each other all the time, and give each other pointers. We are just trying to make each other better right now. It's not a fierce competition."
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