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Previewing N. C. State: The Wolfpack's Defense

N. C. State runs a traditional 4-3 defense. The Wolfpack were 83rd in total defense, 66th in rushing defense, and 96th in passing defense last year. The 'Pack are more experienced on defense this year and should be better overall. With a relatively experienced front seven and some questions in the secondary, the 'Pack project to continue to be stronger against the run than the pass.

State's defensive strength is their line. End and pass-rush specialist Willie Young leads this group; Young, who has 12 sacks over the last two seasons, projects to be one of the ACC's better pass rushers this year. The 'Pack also return their other three starting linemen. Their strength here should contribute to a stifling rushing defense.

On the other hand, N. C. State must rely on inexperience at safety. Clem Johnson, who was good but injury-prone last year, will start at boundary safety. Green sophomore Justin Byers will get the other spot. Corner is even more of a question. State looked OK at the position before Dominique Ellis transferred over the summer, but at that point State's already questionable depth at the position took a big hit. C.J. Wilson and Koyal George are projected starters, with DeAndre Morgan surely getting some time. State's coaching staff likes the talent these players bring, but experience and depth is a concern.

State should be good at linebacker, but, as you probably know, they will be without last year's defensive star, inside linebacker Nate Irving. Losing Irving is a big loss, but the 'Pack still look strong on the inside and weak side with Ray Michel and Dwayne Maddox, respectively. The question is whether or not strong-side linebacker Audie Cole can step up and whether the reserves are good enough to play a sufficient role in the rotation.

Continue reading after the jump.

State's game plan is likely to count on their talented defensive line to control the run and pressure Stephen Garcia. I expect that they will scheme their linebackers conservatively towards the pass to flank the unproven secondary. Therefore, I think the key for us in this game is to prove that we can run enough against State's line and get enough out of the short-passing game to get State to play the run more. That will open up the play-action and downfield passing game that Steve Spurrier thrives on, and considering that State has a lot of questions in their secondary, some big plays could be had in this game if we can surprise State with a well-chosen bomb and Garcia can make the throw.

Another key, I think, will be how well we contain Young off the end; if he gets a lot of pressure on Garcia, it could lead to some of the mistakes we know so well. At the same time, though, if we can contain him or Garcia manages to elude him, State may not be able to create much pressure at all.

I'll actually go ahead and say that I feel fairly confident in our ability to move the ball in this game. That is, of course, if our line has really improved and Garcia doesn't cough it up when we're driving, which are still ifs at this point. The game could, very well, be a pretty high-scoring affair, as I also think State is capable of moving the ball well against us