Last week we previewed the offense, which you can read if you click here. This week, we’re previewing the defense, which you can read by starting at the next line.
Things you should be excited about
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but NC State will have a really talented defensive line. No position has been recruited more effectively than the defensive line since Dave Doeren arrived in 2013, and State continues to reap the rewards of that.
The middle of the line is going to be terrifying. Alim McNeil is a superstar in the making, and Larrell Murchison lining up beside him makes one of the best tackle combos in the conference. This could also be a big year for James Smith-Williams at end.
Deonte Holden, the last remaining member of the 2014 recruiting class, could finish one of the better stories in the program in a while. After being injured for a large portion of his career and recording snaps in three games total over four years, Holden came back last year and contributed. This year he might be a difference maker.
There’s also a boatload of young talent on the defensive line, which feels like a constant at this point. At least some of the Pack’s monster defensive line recruiting class last season will be cracking the rotation this year. The line of scrimmage is going to be a problem for some opposing offenses this season.
Things you should be cautiously optimistic about
State has had pretty good linebackers every year of the Doeren era. It never had a superstar linebacker until Germaine Pratt last season. After his departure, State is likely going back to have pretty good linebackers, but there’s an extremely high ceiling with this group.
Almost every start in the group belongs to redshirt sophomore Isaiah Moore, but Brock Miller is now an upperclassmen and he did pretty well in his first start against UNC. Those two could make a decent tandem.
Two blue-chip recruits in Payton Wilson and Levi Jones (eligibility pending) will have their first shot at playing time this year. Both are uber-talented and will join last year’s backup middle linebacker Louis Acceus in competing with Miller and Moore for snaps.
State is pretty inexperienced at linebacker, but it’s very talented and it’s starting to build some real depth. There’s definitely a lot to be excited about in the long term here, and how far this position can come this year will mean a lot to the defense.
This you should be concerned about
The secondary has been almost overwhelmingly the biggest thorn in the side of NC State for the last several years. The back end of the defense has been downright awful for a while now, despite seeming to have some pretty decent talent, and last year might have been the lowest point. Ted Roof is gone, which is good, and it’s tough to see it being worse, given that it returns most everyone, but it’s tough to see it being a lot better too, and it needs to be a whole lot better.
Nick McCloud is not a bad corner, and he should have a starting spot locked in for his senior season. The spot opposite him is much scarier. It may go to Teshuan Smith, who has to be better at running with receivers than Ingram was last year. In an ideal world, one of the youthful talents like Taiyon Palmer or Shyheim Battle could earn a starting role and immediately be Charles Woodson, but what are the odds of that?
State needs to have a different plan at Nickel, which was an uncontained nuclear meltdown last year. Tyler Baker-Williams did move there, and State seems to want to get him on the field, which has to mean he’s got some ability. Something has to be different though, because you can’t cover a speedy slot receiver with a guy who is much bigger and slower. That’s like chapter 2 of How to do Football Smartly, my new book on how to not do stupid shit in football. I have never played football though, so don’t buy it. 14 of the chapters are about not running the wildcat.
Tanner Ingle is a safety now, and that does seem like a good landing spot for him. He couldn’t play man coverage to save his life last year, but he seems to have some natural ability to read the field and he’s got excellent closing speed, hence why this move might work for him.
There seems to be some coaching deficiencies back here as well, and that’s a lot of issues to try and address in one offseason. Overall, the secondary should be able to improve a little bit, but it’s hard to believe it will improve enough. I sure would love to be wrong.