The Wolfpacker

January 2015

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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36 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY RYAN TICE N C State defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable likes to borrow an analogy from another sport when describing how important it is for his unit to be strong at defensive tackle, middle linebacker and safety. "It's like baseball, you've got to be strong up the middle," he said. "It's no different in football, that's where it all starts. Your inside guys defend everything inside-out, and to do that you've got to be strong there." The freshman class is represented more than any other on the defensive two-deep with eight true rookies and three more that redshirted last fall, so it's no surprise first- year players made up the majority of the Pack's core in the middle. Two of the six defensive tackles used this season were true freshmen, while another was a redshirt freshman. Every snap at middle linebacker was taken by a rookie, while three of the five safeties that ap- peared on the back line made their debut in 2014. There have been growing pains, from allowing 942 yards in the first two games against Georgia Southern and Old Do- minion, to having seven players — five of whom were young defenders — suspended for the Louisville game. However, improvements have also been evident. The unit had to rely on young- sters even more down the stretch because sophomore defensive tackle Monty Nelson missed six of the last seven games and sixth-year safety Jarvis Byrd did not play in three of the final four contests — but the Pack allowed just 20 points and 426 yards in the final two outings combined. "Most of us get to come back next year," redshirt freshman middle linebacker Jerod Fernandez said. "That will build chemistry and make our defense even stronger." Defensive Tackle B.J. Hill The 6-4, 300-pounder led all true fresh- man Wolfpack defenders with 416 snaps played and started four games during the regular season, despite entering college as one of the most unheralded recruits in the Pack's 2014 signing class. He flew under the radar due to a knee injury that lim- ited him as a junior, but after he camped at NC State and childhood favorite North Carolina, both programs quickly extended offers. Hill did not waste much time before jumping on the Pack's tender, despite his former rooting interests. After an outstand- ing senior campaign, in which he rushed for 819 yards, the athletic big man came to Ra- leigh in January and continued to turn heads, capping his inaugural semester with a start on the first-team unit in the spring game. He started the regular season slow while he got acclimated to a new level of compe- tition — he notched just three tackles in the first four games and then did not play YOUNG CORE Rookies Have Steadied The Wolfpack Defense In The Middle Tackle B.J. Hill (98) led all Wolfpack true freshman defenders with 416 snaps played, and he started four games during the regular season, recording 37 tackles (including 7.5 for loss). PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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