NC State coach Tom O’Brien knew he would have to replace starting linebacker Audie Cole, who led the team with 108 tackles last year. He guessed he would have to replace Terrell Manning, who led the ACC with 14.5 tackles for loss. He wasn’t, however, expecting to lose projected 2012 starter D.J. Green, who started seven games last year but is ineligible this fall. NC State also has to replace linebacker Dwayne Maddox, who had 46 tackles and six tackles for loss last year.
What does the position look like after spring ball?
“It looks like we need to work,” O’Brien said. “We have talented young guys there, guys we expected to be backups, play special teams and get some time as the year went on. We’ve lost all three guys. It’s something we didn’t specifically think we’d be in this position.”
“It’s certainly a work in progress, but keeping Jon Tenuta on the staff is a big plus for us,” O’Brien said. “He likes the kids he has, it’s just going to be a matter of experience with them playing.”
This spring, Sterling Lucas was the top competitor in the middle, and Rickey Dowdy was at weakside with Rodman Noel and Brandon Pittman competing at strongside. Redshirt freshman Mike Rose moved back to the defensive line.
“Guys are going to be flipped around, moved around until we figure out how to get the best 11, and which three of them will be linebackers playing on defense,” O’Brien said.
The good news for the Pack is that the program has developed some depth on the defensive line, and the secondary should be one of the best in the country. Finding some answers at linebacker will be a top priority this summer.