This spring the Wolfpack welcomed back to their linebacking corps a huge missing piece from the puzzle last season in Rs Jr Nate Irving. Today’s addition will breakdown the linebackers…this is a group of players NC State fans should be very excited about as they boast depth, speed, experience and youth…a rare combination. This group will need to able to both take the pressure off the young secondary and get to the QB in order for the Wolfpack D to take a step forward.
As always, don’t forget to go back and read up on the rest of our positional breakdown. Amaze your friends with your thorough and expert knowledge at this weekend’s spring game – Saturday April 17th at 1pm…lets PACK Carter-Finley! (see what I did there?)
Day 5 – Defensive Line
Day 4 – Receivers
Day 3 – Offensive Line
Day 2 – Backfield (RB and QB)
Day 1 – Overview
SLB Rs Jr Audie Cole 6-4 239
Cole led NC State will 85 tackles last season and added 4 sacks and 8 TFL in a solid campaign as a first year starter. Cole MUST improve on his consistency…hopefully his season he will able to rely more on his instincts and athletic ability, versus having to “think” about what do to. The split second to “think” was often all it took as teams went with quick drops and outs toward the middle season and never relented.
MLB Rs Sr Nate Irving 6-1 235
Projected to be one of the best defensive players in the conference last season, to say that Irving’s leadership, intensity and play-making was sorely missed by the Pack D last season would be an understatement. By all accounts his recovery is coming right along and in an effort to get the best 3 players on the field, the staff has decided to move #56 to the middle. While Nate is probably a hair undersized for the middle, there is no doubt he will make his presence felt. That impact will likely be felt mostly against the pass…Nate is athletic enough to make all of the drops and experienced enough to make the read quickly, which should limit how often Pack fans should see the opposing TE running free in the middle third (God willing).
WLB Rs So Terrell Manning 6-3 224
Manning is likely the key to the success of this season’s linebacking corps. With Cole and Irving, you have two players who have proven themselves. Manning is all potential and athleticism, which is why I think he beats our Dwayne Maddox for the job. Its no secret (as mentioned before) how the Pack was gashed in the flats and Manning is the perfect player to stop plays like that. Should he prove worthy, the Pack LBs will be a solid group.
The Pack has the luxury of having two experienced backups and will use them to keep all 5 men fresh. Jr Sterling Lucas 6-2 238 and Jr Dwayne Maddox will both see significant minutes in addition to the starters and will likely find themselves playing almost as much. Hopefully, Archer & Tenuta will also see the emergence of either Rs So William Beasley 6-3 225, Rs Fr Hans Rice 6-2 217 or Rs Fr Ryan Cheek 6-1 244 so that one of the youngsters can prepare for a larger role next season. Its likely, however, that the sixth player will be Sr walk-on Asante Cureton 5-11 214 who was second on the team last season in special teams tackles and has the reputation of being a fierce hitter.
If this group of linebackers can both read and react in the zone defense and blitz the QB in a manner equal to their athletic ability, you will see a marked improvement in the defense as a whole. If they, again, struggle with consistency the Pack will likely continue to give up large chunks of yardage. As they go, our D will go.