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Is the 2017 NC State defensive line the best in Wolfpack history?

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2005 vs. 2017

NCAA Football: Miami at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

With all due apologies to our 1927 team, for all I know the D-Line that year may have been "lights out" as evidenced by a sterling 9-1 record . . . and I'm sure our 1967 D-line must have been good, anchored by All-America Dennis Byrd (backed by an LB later known as Chuck the Chest) . . . and Dick Sheridan fielded some strong D-lines, which included one of my all-time favorite beasts, Ray Agnew, who went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL . . .

ESPN rates our current D-Line as 5th best in the nation (AHEAD of Alabama); Bleacher Report asserts the same ranking (although behind Alabama – where are they getting their information?).

Given the national attention paid to our D-line phenoms, it begs the question . . . which NC State defensive line is our school’s all-time best?

I offer up for discussion that all future arguments may likely come down to the 2005 vs. the 2017 teams.

It may be too much to ask of the 2017 group to compete with the 2005 version, when you consider the 2005 D-line had three NFL first-round draft choices (you may want to read that again slowly . . . Three NFL f – i – r – s – t – r – o – u – n -d draft choices on the same team from the same position group in the same year).

Nevertheless, the 2017 folks have a shot at it . . . let’s take a look . . .

2005, with 2006 first-rounders noted

# 1 Overall (Texans) – Mario Williams (Jr) – DE

· 6’7”; 285 lb

# 22 (49ers) – Manny Lawson (Sr) – DE (49ers drafted him as an OLB)

· 6’5”; 245 lb

# 26 (Bills) – John McCargo (RS-Jr) – DT

· 6’2”; 295 lb

Tank Tyler (Jr) – DT (#82 Rd 3 NFL Draft 2007)

· 6’2”; 294 lb

Avg = 6’4”; 280 lb

Key Contributors: DeMario Pressley (So), Renaldo Moses (RS-Sr)

2017

Bradley Chubb (Sr)

· 6’4”; 275 lb

Kentavious Street (Sr)

· 6’2”; 282 lb

B.J. Hill (Sr)

· 6’4”; 315 lb

Darian Roseboro (Jr)

· 6’4”; 287 lb

Avg = 6’3.5”; 290 lb

Key Contributors: Justin Jones (Sr), Eurndraus, Bryant (Jr)

Metric #1: Size

Winner: Draw

The 2005 line was marginally taller, 2017 slightly heavier; it is interesting to note that although it seems players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger every year, the 2005 and 2017 lines are essentially equal in size, even though sports science and nutrition has made significant advances in the past 12 years. Given this reality, perhaps the 2005 version deserves a small edge.

Metric #2: Record

Winner: Draw; lean 2005

2005 = 7-5 (3-5), Won Meineke Car Care Bowl over South Florida, 14-0

2016 = 7-6 (3-5), Won Independence Bowl over Vanderbilt, 41-17

Numbers don’t lie, so you have to give the nod to 2005, due to their higher winning percentage – 58% to 54% (plus, since we are talking defense here, 2005 pitched a bowl game shutout). Nevertheless, I grade it a draw/lean . . . the way the 2005 season went, the odds were probably high that if we played a 13th game that year, we would have lost it.

Metric #3: Rushing Defense

Winner: 2005

2005 = 107 ypg; 2.8 ypc

2016 = 109 ypg; 3.4 ypc

Historical perspective: 1976 Steelers of Steel Curtain fame (many analysts consider one of the greatest defensive lines of all time on one of the greatest NFL defenses ever)

· 1976 Steelers Rushing Defense: 104 ypg; 3.2 ypc

Although the yards per game are pretty much a wash, the 2005 squad allowed more than half a yard less per carry – a significant difference. Furthermore, when a line gives up fewer yards per carry than the Steel Curtain, you have to crown 2005.

Metric #4: Individual Stat Totals

Winner: 2005

In all key stats, the 2005 line is superior while having played fewer games:

Best D-Line in Pack History

2005 Games Solo (Tackles) Assists (Tackles) Total (Tackles) Sacks TFL
2005 Games Solo (Tackles) Assists (Tackles) Total (Tackles) Sacks TFL
Williams 12 32 30 62 14.5 24
Lawson 12 33 25 58 10.5 19.5
Tyler 12 8 21 29 1.5 7
McCargo 7 10 14 24 0.5 9
TOTAL 43 83 90 173 27 59.5
2016 Games Solo (Tackles) Assists (Tackles) Total (Tackles) Sacks TFL
Chubb 13 32 24 56 10 21
Street 12 13 17 30 5.5 9
Hill 12 16 23 39 1 2.5
Roseboro 12 16 9 25 7 11
TOTAL 49 77 73 150 23.5 43.5

Metric #5: Bragging Rights

Winner: 2017

2005 = Beat FSU 20-15 in Tallahassee; lost at home to Heels 31-24; lost at home to Clemson 31-10

2016 = Beat Heels 28-21 in Chapel Hill; lost at Clemson 24-17 (OT); lost at home to FSU 24-20

Although 2005 defeating FSU on the road demands serious props, anytime you beat the Heels, especially in their backyard, 2017 gets the laurel wreath for allowing our fans to carry our head high at the office for a whole year.

So if 2005 leads 2017 in 3 of 4 metrics (metric #1 was a tie), why is 2017 even in this discussion?

Simple – all the metrics above compare the 2005 line to the 2017 one, based on the latter’s 2016 performance. Barring injuries, the 2017 line has the talent, potential, and camaraderie to produce a historically great season. I so enjoyed watching the 2005 line punish offenses; however, I would thoroughly relish seeing the 2017 line surpass them . . . mainly because if they do, then the likelihood of a spectacular season increases substantially.

Which line do you think is best? Is there another D-line in our history that you think should be in the running for top honors and why?