NC State Preview 2006 - Defense
North Carolina Tar Heels
Posted Jul 31, 2006

NC State Wolfpack Preview 2006 - NC State Defense

What you need to know ... Expect this to be another aggressive D with plenty of blitzing and plenty of big plays despite the loss of several key players. You don't quickly replace a trio of defensive linemen like Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and John McCargo, but the Wolfpack has plenty of size, speed, and talent on the front seven to get in the backfield on a regular basis. Tackles DeMario Pressley and Tank Tyler should be fantastic right off the bat, while Pat Lowrey and LeRue Rumph are nice linebackers to work around. The secondary has the potential to be among the ACC's most productive led by the safety tandem of Garland Heath and Miguel Scott.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Garland Heath, 84
Sacks: Several at 1
Interceptions: Garland Heath, 5

Star of the defense: Senior CB A.J. Davis
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior LB Reggie Davis
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DE Willie Young
Best pro prospect: Senior DT Tank Tyler
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Davis, 2) S Garland Heath, 3) DT DeMario Presley
Strength of the defense: Tackles, safeties
Weakness of the defense:
Experienced defensive ends, overall experienced depth

Defensive Line
Many will assume the line will go in the tank after losing Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and John McCargo, but don't be stunned if this turns out to be one of the ACC's better front fours after a little bit of time. The starting tackles, Tank Tyler and DeMario Pressley, should be excellent, while Willie Young, Little Wright, and John Amanchukwu are big, talented pass rushers on the outside. 
The key to the unit: Don't set the expectations low after the big loss of star power. This is a big line that will get into the backfield, but if it's not the second coming of the best front four in school history, that's fine. Even so, there's enough talent to have a big year.

Defensive Line Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- DE Willie Young, RFr.
All Young has to do is replace the number one pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Mario Williams. While he's not the physical freak of nature that Super Mario is, He's 6-5 and 230 pounds with decent speed and pass rushing skills. He was ready to play last year, but got banged up in spring ball and ended up redshirting. He's not going to put up 14 sacks and 23 tackles for loss, but he'll be a good one.

- DT DeMario Pressley, Jr. - 43 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL
Pressley got the starting nod last year and played at a high level by the end of the year. He's a strong 6-4 and 293 pounds with next-level talent once he gets a little more time. He has gotten better and better since his true freshman season and should be a rock wherever he plays. Needed at tackle, he'll stay on the inside unless the ends start to have problems.

- DT DeMarcus "Tank" Tyler, Sr. - 41 tackles, 2 sacks, 4.5 TFL
Part of the starting mix last year seeing time over the second half of the year when John McCargo got hurt, the 305-pound Tyler turned into decent performer with all the attention paid to the stars up front. Now he'll have to be the main man early on with all his experience needing to translate into a special season. He's one of the team's strongest players and should be a rock against the run.

- DE Littleton Wright, Jr.
The fantastic JUCO transfer will take over for Manny Lawson on the right side and should make a name for himself right away. He's a speedy 6-6, 244-pound playmaker who made 9.5 sacks for Lackawanna CC last year. Bigger and stronger after taking last year off with a redshirt, he should be a dark-horse for a double-digit sack season.

Top Backups
- DE John Amanchukwu, Sr. - 1 tackle
A huge end and a possible tackle, the 6-4, 283-pound senior and former offensive guard saw a little bit of time last year after transferring from St. Augustine's College in North Carolina. He could end up taking over a starting spot, but will likely start out the season behind Littleton Wright on the right side.

- DE Martrel Brown, Jr. - 10 tackles
Able to play tackle or guard, the 290-pound junior will be moved around where needed providing size and decent pass rushing skills. He'll start out playing behind Willie Young at left end and will spend more than a little bit of time in the tackle rotation.
- DT John Bedics, Soph. - 2 tackles
Bedics spent last year as a reserve seeing a little bit of garbage time. Now the 283-pound sophomore will spend time rotating behind Tank Tyler on the right side. The coaching staff really likes his potential and will make sure to find him meaningful playing time.

The potential is there for this to be a productive crew, but it'll hurt to lose 250 tackles of Stephen Tulloch and Oliver Hoyte. Pat Lowery will be more than fine for Hoyte in the middle, while the fast LeRue Rumph should be productive on the strongside. And then things get sticky with former running back Reggie Davis providing a big, quick replacement for Tulloch on the weakside. James Martin II is an interesting prospect who'll see time inside and out, while Ray Michel will be a big part of the mix behind Davis.
The key to the unit: This group will have to make more plays on its own without the all-star front four to play behind that last year's corps got to work with.
Linebacker Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- LeRue Rumph, Jr. - 61 tackles, 1 TFL
The extremely active former safety was fantastic last season starting most of the season on the strongside. He had problems with a rib injury over the last few games of the season and missed a few games, but he still finished sixth on the team in stops. At 225-pounds, he he's a fast defender who should be better now that he has a year of experience.

- Pat Lowery, Sr. - 39 tackles, 1 sack, 4.5 TFL, 2 quarterback pressures
Lowery is a seasoned veteran who should be solid taking over for Oliver Hoyte in the middle after seeing a little bit of starting time.
It's asking a lot for anyone to replace Hoyte's 101 tackles and 12 tackles for loss, but the 6-1, 242-pound senior should come close. He has been a special teams superstar over the past few seasons and puts up huge numbers whenever he has seen time at linebacker.

- Reggie Davis, Sr. - 27 carries, 77 yds, 1 catch, 18 yds
The former running back will try to replace the 149 tackles, six sacks, and 20.5 tackles for loss from Stephen Tulloch on the weakside. He's a quick 246 pounds who will be one of the defense's most scrutinized players until he learns to get the hand of the position. Hitting won't be a problem, but being in the right position might be.

Top Backups
- James Martin II, Jr. - 8 tackles
Neck-and-neck with LeRue Rumph for a shot at starting on the strongside and the top backup in the middle behind Pat Lowery, Martin moved from defensive end and should be more of a force this year after being two years removed from a torn ACL. At 236 pounds he has good size and is a better fit for the inside.
- Ernest Jones, Jr. - 22 tackles, 1 sack
Jones saw plenty of work throughout last year with most of his time spent in the first few games. He's a safety-sized 217 pounds on the strongside with excellent quickness and good pass rushing ability.
- Ray Michel, RFr.
Expected to be a top special teamer as well as a key weakside linebacker, he'll need to be ready to roll right away with Reggie Davis learning the ropes. While a bit undersized at 6-0 and 224 yards, he's expected to become a disruptive force after a little bit of time; he'll be one to keep an eye on over the next few years.

Defensive Backs
Can this group carry the defense until the front seven can replace the key parts? The NC State pass defense finished fourth in the ACC in pass defense and eighth in the nation in pass efficiency defense, but it's not going to have the benefit of the pass rush it was helped by last year. Lightning fast A.J. Davis should be one of the league's better corners, while safeties Garland Heath and Miguel Scott form a big, underrated safety tandem that could be special in time. There's plenty of speed and talent among the reserves, but more experience would be nice.
The key to the unit: The corners have to be tighter without Mario Williams and Manny Lawson terrorizing opposing quarterbacks.
Secondary Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- CB Jimmie Sutton, Jr. - 23 tackles, 1 sack
Mostly a nickel back last year, Sutton will take over for Marcus Hudson on the right side. He won't be the hitter Hudson was, but he's a good athlete with enough experience with two starts and 11 games of playing time to be ready to be a steady number two corner on the other side of A.J. Davis.

- FS Miguel Scott, Jr. - 53 tackles, 1 interception, 3 broken up passes
Scott had a decent year starting in ten games, but he needs to make more big plays and has to be more of a leader this year. He's too good an athlete and has too much upside to not grow into a star. He was productive as a hitter despite having a few problems with an ankle sprain.

- Rover Garland Heath, Sr. - 84 tackles, 1 TFL, 5 interceptions, 5 broken up passes
Easily one of the nation's most underrated safeties, the 6-2, 225-pound senior finished third on the team in tackles and was a tremendous ball-hawker. He's not just a strong defensive player, he was also named the team's special teams player of the year. There are few more consistent defensive backs in the conference.

- CB A.J. Davis, Jr. - 53 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 interceptions, 9 broken up passes
Davis went from being a nice reserve to the steady rock at left corner last season. He's the team's fastest player who won't get outrun by any ACC receiver, and he's not afraid to get his nose dirty and make a few big tackles. 40 of his 53 stops were solo.

Top Backups

- Rover DaJuan Morgan, Soph. - 46 tackles, 1 interception, 2.5 TFL

Morgan had a strong season after returning from a disappointing 2004 thanks to a hip injury suffered in a high school car accident that wasn't 100% yet. Now that he's bigger and stronger, he has All-ACC potential once he can crack the starting lineup, but for now, he'll be one of the team's best special teamers and a key backup behind Garland Heath at Rover. 
- CB Phillip Holloman, Jr. - 6 tackles
Mostly a special teamer so far, Holloman will start out as a bigger option behind Jimmie Sutton at right corner. He's a big, 4.32 fast defender who's overdue to start making plays on defense.
- CB Levin Neal, Soph. - 11 tackles
Fast, fast, fast. With 4.25 speed, the 191-pound sophomore will soon find his way on the field in some form after a decent year as a true freshman special teamer. He started getting more and more work as the season went on and should see work on the left side behind A.J. Davis.

- FS J.C. Neal, Soph. - 8 tackles
Mostly a special teamer last year, Neal saw some work on defense at the end of the season getting his most playing time in the bowl win over South Florida. He's a decent-sized hitter who should be even more of a special teams standout this year.

Special Teams
NC State special teams are always dangerous, and they should be tremendous again with John Deraney a rock-solid all-around kicker and good speed i
n the return game with Darrell Blackman back. He was one of the nation's best kickoff returners last season averaging 29.1 yards per kick, but he could stand to get more pop as a punt returner after averaging a mere 6.7 yards per try.
The key to the unit: Better coverage. Deraney is a strong punter, but NC State finished tenth in the ACC in net punting and allowed 21.7 yards per kickoff return.
Special Teams Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- PK/P John Deraney, Sr. - 15-20 FGs, 28-28 extra points, 72 punts, 2,884 yds, 40.1 yards per kick, 23 inside the 20
Deraney is back for his third season as the team's main all-around kicker hitting all 62 of his extra point tries in his career and putting 40 kicks inside the 20. He has a big leg with decent range in all areas; he'll be a strength.

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