The Wolfpacker

July-August 2020 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 42 of 51

JULY/AUGUST 2020 ■ 43 LINEBACKERS Strength Of The Defense BY MATT CARTER D efensive coordinator Tony Gibson went from coaching safeties to linebackers in the offseason, and by his own admission he has gone from a position group with perhaps the least amount of depth to one with the best. "I feel like we have seven guys right now that could go play against anybody on our schedule," he said. The seven he is referring to are senior Louis Acceus, redshirt juniors Isaiah Moore and Vi Jones, redshirt sophomores Calvin Hart Jr. and Payton Wilson, and sophomores Jaylon Scott and Drake Thomas. Those play- ers have combined for 376 career stops, 37 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. They have also broken up 13 passes and notched two interceptions. That is a lot of pro- duction and competi- tion for Gibson to sort through. Wilson led the Pack in tackles last year (with 69) despite miss- ing a contest and starting only one. Acceus probably would have been tops had he not missed the final four games. He had 50 tackles in eight appearances. Moore was third on NC State in tackles in both 2018 and 2019. Jones, who was rated the No. 79 recruit nationally by in the 2017 class, had 28 tackles in 22 games as a reserve at USC before transferring to NC State. Thomas and Hart both started multiple contests in their rookie seasons last fall, while Scott logged time in six outings and flashed his potential. "They're hungry, they've worked," Gibson added. "They are great kids and want to have success. We have to have every willing and able body up there to get it done, so I'm really excited to watch those guys grow and be playmakers for us." BY THE NUMBERS 38 Career starts returning at linebacker. 40 Tackles made last season by Brock Miller, who left in the offseason as a graduate transfer to Boise State. Last year, Miller started 11 games and essentially split reps with redshirt sophomore Payton Wilson. 86.5 Redshirt junior Vi Jones' Pro Football Focus grade in seven games for USC as a sopho- more. The highest grade on the Pack's de- fense last season was junior defensive tackle Alim McNeill's 79.4. SPOTLIGHT PLAYER REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE PAYTON WILSON When Wilson picked NC State, it was a big deal. He was one of the prized recruits for UNC in the 2018 class until he flipped his pledge to the Wolfpack. rated him a four-star talent and the No. 166 overall prospect in the country. A knee injury prevented Wilson from making the instant impact he hoped to have, but he flashed his considerable potential in his return to the field last fall. He ended up leading NC State in tackles with 69 (five for loss). He also had an interception and broke up three passes. His grade of 81.0 by Pro Football Focus for his performance against Florida State was the highest of any linebacker in a single game last season. Wilson only started one game a year ago, but is in line for more this year. PROJECTED DEPTH CHART STARTERS No. Name Year Ht. Wt. Hometown 2 Louis Acceus Sr. 5-11 223 Spring Valley, N.Y 41 Isaiah Moore R-Jr. 6-2 240 Chester, Va. 11 Payton Wilson R-So. 6-4 235 Hillsborough, N.C. RESERVES 5 Calvin Hart Jr. R-So. 6-1 225 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 31 Vi Jones R-Jr. 6-3 230 Austin, Texas 35 Jaylon Scott So. 6-1 237 Shelby, N.C. 32 Drake Thomas So. 6-0 236 Wake Forest, N.C. WAITING IN THE WINGS — Devon Betty Fr. 6-1 215 Carver Ranches, Fla. 27 Jayland Parker Fr. 6-1 215 Macon, Ga. ■ PRESEASON ANALYSIS ★★★★ Among country's best; ★★★ Among ACC's best; ★★ Solid or has potential; ★ Too unproven STARTERS ★★½ There is a lot of upside in NC State's linebacker corps, with the best asset of the group being its depth. Position coach and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson will have multiple options to potentially sort through before settling on a starting trio. The question is, can this talented group reach its full potential and become playmakers on defense? DEPTH ★★★ As noted above, the biggest challenge Gibson may face is figuring out a start- ing lineup, but the reality is that the snaps will probably be spread around the deep linebacker corps. EXPERIENCE ★★★½ College football is not new to any of the top linebackers on the NC State depth chart. Few teams in the country can boast five linebackers with starting experience, another who played in 22 games as a top reserve at USC and a seventh who had double-digit total tackles in his rookie campaign all returning. OVERALL ★★½ The only reason this grade is not higher is because the final step for the talented, veteran linebacker corps is to become the consistently disruptive playmakers they are capable of being. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolfpacker - July-August 2020 Issue