NC State isn’t starting from scratch at the linebacker spots, which is helpful, but it does have the task of replacing the best player on the 2018 defense. Germaine Pratt, alas, is a member of the Cincinnati Bengals—he’s the sort of sure tackler that doesn’t exactly grow on trees.
NC State didn’t rotate a lot of bodies at linebacker last season, keeping Pratt and fellow starter Isaiah Moore on the field a lot. Pratt was on the field for 79% of State’s defensive snaps, and that was despite sitting out a pair of games. Moore was out there for 78.3% of the plays and he also missed a game because of injury.
Moore, who was the team’s third-leading tackler in 2018, is back to anchor this group, and he should help quite a bit in accounting for Pratt’s departure. And while Pratt will be conspicuous in his absence, at least the Wolfpack has the luxury of returning a guy who is a potential all-conference player.
Linebacker shapes up similarly to other positions on this roster—there is a lot of unproven talent here, but the group is probably more talented than it was last season. That’s because Payton Wilson is finally healthy and ready to contribute, and because they have one of the top defensive prospects in the state joining the fold in Drake Thomas. There’ll be a learning curve for both of those guys, but given their natural ability, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re making significant contributions by the second half of the season.
Brock Miller and Louis Acceus are both coming off their first college football season as regular contributors. They were the second string last season, though both had to step in for the injured guys ahead of them on occasion—Acceus started in week two for Moore, and Miller replaced Pratt in the UNC and Texas A&M games.
Acceus might be in the best position to start alongside Moore to begin the season, and Miller will at minimum be a reliable regular. If Wilson of Thomas really take off this fall, the linebackers could be a strength of this defense.