NC State have been spoiled recently. The last 3-4 years have seen some of the best play in the defensive secondary for any NC State football team in the last 20 years. Dave Doeren took the criticisms of that unit to heart and revamped by recruiting heavily to upgrade the defensive back, nickel and safety positions. However, departures and recent injuries have required young and inexperienced players to step in, to mixed results at best.
It’s necessary to caveat that it’s sort of still early in the season, though one quarter of the year is already done. On paper, NC State has not been continually torched by their opponents’ passing attacks, though there are several instances where teams have stretched the field against them.
Tanner Ingle is obviously not walking through that door. Jakeen Harris is out for the year. Ayden White was held out as a precaution against VMI. This has left big shoes to fill for the remaining players.
These gaps gave a preview of what we can expect to see as the team breaks in new and currently inexperienced players at these positions. Notre Dame had great talent at receiver, that’s understandable, so I won’t even include the (several) deep shots they successfully landed against NC State But it’s a bit concerning that a team like VMI saw opportunities to push the ball through the air. It begs the question of what can we expect when ACC play starts this Friday?
On this play, Payton Wilson saved a potential chunk play when the VMI tight end snuck out. The inexperienced NC State safety Bishop Fitzgerald kept his eyes on the QB instead of seeing the TE break away. Wilson closed on the QB to block the pass, to avoid a big gain or maybe even a touchdown.
VMI only completed one really big pass play on the day, 44 yards to Egypt Nelson. The throw and catch were spot on, but even still a VMI receiver shouldn’t be able to get that much of a step on an NC State defender. Redshirt sophomore Terrente Hinton was filling in for injured Ayden White and got done in by the double move.
Hinton again, this time on the play action, but again with the tight end. Trust that UVA and subsequent teams will look to emulate this play until NC State shows they can stop it. This would have been a huge play, but the Wolfpack defensive front collapsed the pocket and forced the VMI QB to heave the ball long of the intended target.
True freshman Brandon Cisse got thrown into the fire last Saturday. He had a really tough drive late in the third quarter. He played good coverage on consecutive long pass attempts but got handsy and was called for two defensive pass interference penalties. VMI had taken both of these passes down the sideline and then switched it to the post for their lone scoring play of the day.
The good news: Ayden White is coming back for UVA. Shyheim Battle is still here.
The bad news: Both of those guys are likely gone to the NFL after this year.
All is not lost. These players are green, but have speed and are well coached. They just need time. There’s so much youth on both sides of the ball, that we’d do well to expect bumpy times this year as these guys get reps they can hopefully leverage to big gains next year and beyond. This is not a long term issue or a talent gap and is fixable, but something to keep an eye on if further injuries occur.
Dear Dave and Tony, since I know you’re reading this.
Please work on defending against tight ends going out on a delayed roll out. Please.
Love, Wolfpack fans everywhere