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August 10, 2010Sophomore center Camden Wentz was one of seven true freshmen to play last fall for NC State, and perhaps the most surprising. He made his debut with NC State on the 1-yard line and going in for a touchdown against Murray State in week two, and he played a season-high 35 snaps in the contest.
Wentz would play in five games total last year, and in hindsight he is very pleased that he burned his redshirt.
"It definitely helped because if Sept. 4 was my first time ever playing in a game it would be hitting me quickly," Wentz said, referring to State's season opener against Western Carolina. "Now I have that experience and playing in front of a hostile crowd. It's not going to be as mind-boggling. Now it's getting to be like an everyday habit."
Wentz, listed at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, said he has added about 15 pounds since he arrived at NC State, about 10 of which he speculated was muscle. Getting bigger and stronger has complimented the experience from playing last year to help him feel much more comfortable on the field.
"It's just crazy how much in one off season how much stronger you can get and so much more used to what's going on," Wentz said. "It's definitely a big difference.
"Last year, I was more focused on watching, learning everything. Now my focus is getting out there, executing and doing it all right. Last year I was still in the learning phase where if I got it wrong I'm still learning. Now it's trying to get everything right all the time, no excuses."
Wentz played center for his first three years at Lassiter High in Marietta, Ga., before switching to tackle for his senior year. He made a early verbal commitment to Stanford but backed out of his pledge and eventually signed with NC State, where he was recruited to play strictly center.
His background at the position and tutelage last year under Wolfpack center Ted Larsen, who was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, has given Wentz an understanding of what makes a good center.
"I think a good center has quick feet, can think on the move and is dedicated to the game," Wentz said. "He's the quarterback of the offensive line. He calls plays and stuff like that. He's got to be smart, and a good leader."
Wentz said he has been working hard on his foot speed, citing the footwork drills the offensive line work through in practice. Wentz's swimming and lacrosse background in high school also help him with his athleticism.
As for the mental part of the center position, Wentz feels he has a handle on that.
"If I mess up I get really mad," Wentz said. "I want to fix it so that the next time I get up there I get it right. I'm not going to get it wrong twice. Mentally I think I'm there. I know all the plays. I watch film with Ted last year, using all the resources I have, seeing good centers, how they use their feet and their hands."
Wentz does not feel any pressure to produce as he works with the first string offensive line and battles redshirt junior Wayne Crawford for the starting position. That's because Wentz has confidence in the offensive line as a unit.
"I feel that I have good enough guys around me to take the pressure off," Wentz said. "We are a group up there, and we play together. It's not like there's just one of us up there playing. I feel comfortable with the guys around me and that takes a lot of pressure off. We feel comfortable enough that it takes the pressure off."
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