N. C. State football coach Dave Doeren met with the media after practice today and pointed out Jarvis Byrd and M.J. Salahuddin as players who have stood out to him on defense.
"He's playing safety right now with the ones," Doeren said of Byrd, a senior whose career has been marred by multiple knee injuries. Doeren indicated that Byrd is not showing any ill effects from his past injuries and that the converted corner's cover skills fit well with what the new defensive regime envisions for the position.
Doeren applauded Byrd's enthusiasm for the game, noting that "he's lost football" due to injury in the past and that has made him appreciate football all the more.
A sophomore, Salahuddin also "really loves playing football," according to Doeren, who also remarked about the linebacker's speed and hitting ability. At 6-2, 220 pounds now, the once undersized Salahuddin has also shown a love for the buffet table and weight room since coming to Raleigh as an undersized 190-pound prospect.
If Byrd and Salahuddin have the inside track on starting positions, at least nine of the Pack's 11 starting defenders would seem to be set. Holdovers T. Y. McGill and Thomas Teal are back to anchor the middle. Darryl Cato-Bishop and Art Norman, who combined for 12 sacks last season, return on the ends, though both could see challenges from speedy underclassmen Kenderius Whitehead and Mike Rose. D.J. Green is back from suspension and manning the middle linebacker spot. Salahuddin would play on the edge, probably at the weakside position. Byrd would join rangy playmaking corners Dontae Johnson and Juston Burris in the secondary.
The third linebacker and second safety spot remain less clear, though Rodman Noel and Brandon Pittman split time at one LB spot last year and at least one of the two will likely claim a starting role in 2013. Playing behind Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop, Hakim Jones saw snaps sparingly last season but did appear in all 13 games and record an interception. He will try to hold off challenges from redshirt freshmen J.J. Jones and Josh Sessoms, as well as Penn State transfer Tim Buckley, to start alongside Byrd.
The depth chart should become even more clear Saturday when the Pack take part in the annual Kay Yow Spring Game at 1:30 p.m.