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NC State’s linebacking corps looks ready to anchor the defense

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The Pack needs ‘em to do just that.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

NC State went into the 2019 season hoping to build depth at linebacker while at the same time replacing Germaine Pratt, who was a third-round pick in the NFL Draft that spring. The latter effort didn’t go so well, but we did see some of the unproven guys in this group begin to show they can hack it at the FBS level.

Just about everybody is back for 2020, and we should expect the linebacking corps to have a larger impact on games week in and week out.

Production Lost

Player 2019 Starts Tackles TFL Sacks
Player 2019 Starts Tackles TFL Sacks
Brock Miller 11 40 7.00 1.00
TOT 11 40 7.00 1.00

You never want to lose a solid veteran player, and Miller was an important part of last year’s defense, but I also wouldn’t say he’s a huge challenge to replace. Miller spent the majority of the year starting ahead of Payton Wilson, but it was Wilson who ended up leading the team in tackles anyway.

The linebackers included three of the Pack’s top four tacklers in 2019, and Miller was not among them. All three return.

Production Returning

Player 2019 GP 2019 Starts Tackles TFL Sacks
Player 2019 GP 2019 Starts Tackles TFL Sacks
Payton Wilson 11 1 69 5.00 0.00
Isaiah Moore 11 11 53 5.00 2.00
Louis Acceus 8 8 50 7.00 4.50
CJ Hart 11 2 35 5.50 1.00
Drake Thomas 12 3 34 4.00 2.50
Jaylon Scott 6 0 10 0.00 0.00
TOT 59 25 251 26.50 10.00

The linebackers were not immune to State’s significant injury problems last year: Louis Acceus missed the final four games of the season, while Wilson, Isaiah Moore, and CJ Hart each missed a game apiece. Continuity was a problem at times, as it was just about everywhere else on the roster.

Drake Thomas earned valuable experience as a true freshman, seeing the field for more than 300 snaps. Hart, a redshirt freshman in 2019, played more than 200.

Moore led all NC State linebackers with 591 snaps and will log a lot of time on the field again, Acceus took a step forward in his development last season—he’d only started one career game to 2019—and will be difference-maker this year. And Payton Wilson has a lot more potential than the dude he’s replacing.

In addition to these returning contributors, NC State is also adding Vi Jones, a former blue-chip prospect who sat out last season after transferring from USC.

On paper, this group looks substantially deeper than it did a year ago, making it one of the biggest reasons for optimism about the Wolfpack defense.