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NC State’s quick rebuild at defensive line ready to pay off in 2019

The line should set the tone for an improved defense.

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - North Carolina State v Texas A&M Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

On paper, NC State’s defensive line was due a step back in 2018, because no matter how much depth you have, it’s pretty difficult to replace losing four players to the NFL Draft. But as it turned out, the Wolfpack’s new front four held up fine with a mix of solid veterans and talented youth. They lacked the same star power, but they were effective.

Heading into 2019, the situation is reversed, with little gone and plenty of experience returning.

Production Lost

Player/Total GS GP Tackles TFL Sacks
Player/Total GS GP Tackles TFL Sacks
Darian Roseboro (DE) 12 12 37 7.5 1
Earndraus Bryant (DT) 11 11 25 4.5 2.5
Shug Frazier (DT) 0 9 9 0 0
TOT 23 32 71 12 3.5

Darian Roseboro never did quite meet the expectations that came with being a four-star recruit, though he had a fine career that included a pick six, and he was important to the bridge year for this unit in 2018. Eurndraus Bryant also was an important holdover and a significant reason why the line was good in short yardage.

On running plays, NC State ranked 23rd in efficiency, 18th in opportunity rate, and 50th in stuff rate. The Pack’s standard-down sack rate ranked 54th—not great, but certainly not a problem. That’s a solid year, all told.

Production Returning

Player/Total GS GP Tackles TFL Sacks
Player/Total GS GP Tackles TFL Sacks
James Smith-Williams (DE) 12 12 37 9.5 6
Larrell Murchison (DT) 13 13 34 8 4
Alim McNeill (DT) 1 13 24 5.5 3.5
Deonte Holden (DE) 2 13 21 9.5 3.5
Ibrahim Kante (DE) 1 13 13 3.5 1
Val Martin (DT) 0 4 6 0 0
Xavier Lyas (DE) 0 6 4 2.5 2.5
Joseph Boletepeli (DE) 0 3 2 0 0
TOT 29 77 141 38.5 20.5

Holden, Smith-Williams, and Murchison finished 2-3-4 in the TFL category last season. With those three back, and with both Val Martin and Joe Boletepeli poised for more impactful seasons, depth looks like a real strength. Alim McNeill may not even start in week one, and State also signed a stellar group of prep defensive linemen to bolster the unit. The rebuild up front, such as it was, came together nicely for 2019.

Perhaps NC State’s biggest problem defensively last season was the high rate at which it allowed explosive plays, both on the ground and in general. That’s hardly a problem specific to the line, but they need to be a lot better there, and they obviously can be. If they clean that up while improving on already-solid sack and stuff rates, we’re not going to have too many complaints about these guys.