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NC State continues its quest for standouts in defensive backfield

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 01 East Carolina at NC State Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Recently I was pondering why NC State hasn’t had much success in developing good defensive backs during the Dave Doeren era. The Wolfpack has had some good individuals in spots, but in general the secondary has lacked for depth, and it hasn’t been an area of strength for the defense.

Attrition and recruiting account for a lot of that, certainly, but it also occurred to me that maybe the advantages of an excellent strength and conditioning program aren’t as beneficial in the secondary as they are elsewhere. You can probably unlock more potential in the big guys up front, where the efforts in the weight room go more hand-in-hand with the demands of a lineman’s job.

In the secondary, adding strength and increasing quickness is helpful, but probably not to the same extent as it would be for an edge rusher, say. So how you fare in the secondary is arguably more directly tied to the pure talent you recruit—and NC State hasn’t done as well at landing blue-chip players in those spots.

But there is still quite a bit to like about the back five heading into 2019. I’m not here to be a downer, mind you.

Production Lost

Player/Total Tackles TFL PBU INT
Player/Total Tackles TFL PBU INT
Dexter Wright (S) 50 3.5 3 1
Tim Kidd-Glass (S) 31 4.5 2 0
TOT 81 8 5 1

Wright had a decent year at safety and Kidd-Glass played a lot in a reserve role, but neither is irreplaceable, and a short list like this of noteworthy losses is a nice thing to see. The Wolfpack its starters at nickel, both corner spots, and one of the safety positions. And a good number of young kids who showed some flashes as reserves in 2018.

Production Returning

Player/Total Tackles TFL PBU INT
Player/Total Tackles TFL PBU INT
Jarius Morehead (S) 81 0 4 3
Tanner Ingle (S) 44 3 1 0
Isaiah Stallings (S) 9 0 0 0
De'Von Graves (S) 3 0 0 0
Stephen Griffin (NIC) 41 1 5 0
Tyler Baker-Williams (NIC) 5 0 1 0
Chris Ingram (CB) 39 0.5 9 1
Nick McCloud (CB) 51 0 8 2
Teshaun Smith (CB) 11 0 1 1
Kishawn Miller (CB) 8 1 0 0
TOT 292 5.5 29 7

The above may be the complete two-deep come week one, with some ordering yet to be determined. Nick McCloud and Chris Ingram will be your opening-week starters at the corner positions, barring an injury or some other unforeseen development. McCloud has 19 career starts, while Ingram grabbed hold of the other spot in week two and never looked back.

Jarius Morehead will be a leader at safety once again, and he may end up playing alongside Tanner Ingle, who spent 2018 at nickel, where he made seven starts before giving way to Stephen Griffin. Griffin is the presumptive starter at nickel after starting the final six games of 2018 in that spot.

All together, NC State has lots of returning starts in the back five, and with some offseason maturation, this should be a solid group. One that hopefully will be a bit more disruptive—the secondary accounted for only eight interceptions last season and it sure would be useful if they could improve on that figure.

Of course, they’ll need help from the rest of the defense to create more opportunistic situations. And it remains to be seen what sort of impact new co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tony Gibson will have on the playcalling side. I wouldn’t mind seeing a secondary and a defense that takes a few more risks.