Offseason spotlight: NC State

Our offseason spotlight series continues today with NC State. A reminder: This series features individual players, position groups and coaches who really need to have big offseasons — starting this spring.

Spotlight: Linebackers

2011 summary: This was a bright spot for a defense that was ravaged with injuries, as Audie Cole and Terrell Manning were two of the best in the ACC – and Manning injured his knee in the third game of the season and missed two more games. Cole finished 2011 with a team-high 132 total tackles. He also had 14 tackles for loss, six sacks, eight quarterback hurries and two pass breakups. He had seven double-digit tackle games. Manning made plays all over the field and had a huge role in helping the team to a bowl game. During the last five games of the regular season, Manning averaged nine tackles per game, had 11 total tackles for loss, five sacks, caused two fumbles and recovered three and intercepted two passes.

The skinny: D.J. Green is the only returning starter. He was having a great year before he injured his knee and wound up starting seven games. The coaching staff is still unsure of whether he’ll be back for spring practices. He’s expected to, but the staff might not want to push him. There are a lot of young players who will be competing for playing time, like Brandon Pittman and Michael Peek, both sophomores. Dontae Johnson has some starting experience at linebacker, but he’s more of a safety and played a crossover role last year.