The Wolfpacker

July-August 2020 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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42 ■ THE WOLFPACKER DEFENSIVE LINE Young Group Aims To Break Out BY MATT CARTER N C State defensive coordinator Tony Gibson believes in the potential of the defensive line. "We have a lot of young guys, but we have a lot of really good depth and some guys who have played as well," Gibson said. "I feel good about our defensive line. We just have to stay injury-free, obviously, there." The anchor is expected to be junior tackle Alim McNeill, a potential all-conference per- former if he plays up to his full ability. Last year, McNeill contributed 28 tackles, 7.5 stops for loss and 5.5 sacks, with the latter two ranking second on the team. Redshirt junior end Ibrahim Kante started six games last season and finished with 15 tackles (three for loss). End Daniel Joseph was added as a graduate transfer from Penn State, where the former touted recruit had 29 stops, 5.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 24 appearances. Also returning is fifth-year senior tackle Val Martin, who started three games on the interior while splitting time at the position with McNeill. He finished last season with 11 tackles (1.5 for loss). It is the potential of the 2019 defensive line signing class though that adds intrigue to the unit. Only end Savion Jackson burned his redshirt, playing in eight games and piling up eight tackles (one for loss). Tackles C.J. Clark and Joshua Har- ris plus end Terrell Dawkins all played four games or less to preserve their redshirts. The four were each nationally recruited in-state pros- pects that have an opportunity to start making their marks. BY THE NUMBERS 2 NC State defensive linemen drafted last year: Larrell Murchison (fifth round by Ten- nessee Titans) and James Smith-Williams (seventh round by Washington Redskins). 3 Defensive linemen who have transferred out: Joseph Boletepeli (West Virginia), Jeffrey Gunter (Coastal Carolina) and Xavier Lyas (Northern Arizona). 16 Sacks by NC State in the Florida State and Syracuse games last season com- bined. The Pack had eight sacks in each game. NCSU had just 17 total sacks in the other 10 contests. SPOTLIGHT PLAYER JUNIOR TACKLE ALIM MCNEILL Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said that McNeill is going to have be the anchor of the defensive line for his unit to be successful this fall. Odds are, based on what McNeill showed last year, that he will be ready for the task. Pro Football Focus gave McNeill the top grade of NC State's defensive players in 2019 regard - less of snap counts with a 79.4. What was im- pressive is that McNeill shined against both the run and pass. His rush defense grade of 77.1 was second on the team only to Larrell Murchi- son, the fifth-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, while his 80.8 pass rushing score was tops among Pack defensive linemen. ■ PRESEASON ANALYSIS ★★★★ Among country's best; ★★★ Among ACC's best; ★★ Solid or has potential; ★ Too unproven STARTERS ★★ Junior tackle Alim McNeill brings this grade up after establishing himself as a potential standout performer during his sophomore campaign. However, the rest of the group needs to prove itself. Redshirt junior end Ibrahim Kante, graduate transfer end Daniel Joseph, fifth- year senior tackle Val Martin and sophomore end Savion Jackson have all played, but have not yet shown their full potential. DEPTH ★½ If there is a grade that could prove to be incorrect after the season, this might be it. For now, though, there are too many unknowns with how Jackson will im- prove off his rookie season and how ready the three redshirt freshmen — tackles C.J. Clark and Joshua Harris, and end Terrell Dawkins — will prove to be. All four of those players were highly thought of by college recruiters, and the good news is the Wolfpack staff believes in their potential. EXPERIENCE ★★ McNeill has been a consistent rotation player/starter for two years now, while Kante (six) and Martin (three) both logged multiple starts in 2019. Joseph comes to NC State after playing in 24 career games at Penn State, including all 13 as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. So the position is not devoid of experience. However, the reality is NC State is counting on young players who have limited snaps to fill up the bulk of the depth chart. OVERALL ★★ McNeill is an excellent starting point for the defensive line, and Gibson and new defensive line coach Charley Wiles have the comfort of knowing that there are older options who have been through the rigors of a Power Five schedule. Ultimately this grade could be defined by the aforementioned class of 2019 signees. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN PROJECTED DEPTH CHART STARTERS No. Name Year Ht. Wt. Hometown — Daniel Joseph (DE) 5th-Sr. 6-3 260 Toronto, Ontario 28 Ibrahim Kante (DE) R-Jr. 6-4 256 New York 29 Alim McNeill (DT) Jr. 6-2 315 Raleigh RESERVES 52 C.J. Clark R-Fr. 6-3 298 New London, N.C. 89 Terrell Dawkins R-Fr. 6-4 250 Concord, N.C. 44 Joshua Harris R-Fr. 6-4 344 Roxboro, N.C. 90 Savion Jackson So. 6-3 265 Clayton, N.C. 56 Val Martin 5th-Sr. 6-2 297 Marietta, Ga. WAITING IN THE WINGS — Nick Booker-Brown Fr. 6-2 240 Houston 96 Dante Johnson R-Jr. 6-3 290 Apopka, Fla. — Claude Larkins Fr. 6-5 250 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — Davin Vann Fr. 6-2 275 Cary, N.C.

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