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February 9, 2011

State of the position: Linebackers

With the 2010 season behind NC State, it's only natural to take a look back at the year and analyze the roster. The Wolfpacker does just that, taking a position-by-position look at the squad, and figuring out what went right and wrong in 2010, and how the future shapes up. We continue with the linebacker position.


Season Breakdown


Preseason spin
Linebacker was being touted as a position of strength for NC State. Fifth-year senior Nate Irving was back and healthy after going through spring practice. Redshirt junior Audie Cole, the Pack's leading tackler in 2009, was a year older, and redshirt sophomore Terrell Manning, arguably the state of North Carolina's top prospect in 2008, appeared poised to take over the weakside linebacker spot after Irving was moved to the middle.

Depth was solid as well with juniors Sterling Lucas and Dwayne Maddox backing up.

Reality
The preseason spin would prove to be reality. Irving had a tremendous senior season, finishing with 92 tackles, including team-highs 21.5 for loss and seven sacks. Irving also broke up six passes, forced three fumbles, recovered two and had nine quarterbacks. He was named first-team All-ACC.

Cole had 86 tackles, including 10 for loss and five sacks. He had an interception, three pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries. Manning added 75 tackles, including 10.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks, one of which was a safety. He also intercepted a pass, broke up three more, and forced two fumbles while recovering two. He had a pair of quarterback hurries.

The threesome of Irving, Cole and Manning dominated the playing time at the position. Lucas had just 15 tackles, including a sack, and Maddox also added 15 tackles, 1.5 for loss and a sack included.


Analyzing Recruiting Trend


The Supposed Foundation
By the foundation, we mean high school players that were signed in the Classes of 2006, 2007 and 2008 that have been in the program for at least three years. We did not include junior college recruits or major college transfers in this list.

Nate Irving, Class of 2006
John Ware, Class of 2006
Thomas Barnes, Class of 2007
Audie Cole, Class of 2007
William Beasley, Class of 2008
Colby Jackson, Class of 2008
Sterling Lucas, Class of 2008
Dwayne Maddox, Class of 2008
Terrell Manning, Class of 2008

Analysis: NC State has had its misses recruiting linebackers, but they have also hit big-time on others. John Ware and William Beasley never panned out for the Pack for off the field reasons, while Jackson saw his career ended by devastating knee injuries. The good news though is that Irving, Cole and Manning were signed. Neither Cole or Irving were highly recruited or regarded coming out of high school either.

The Future?
The future are high school and prep players that signed in 2009 through 2011.

Ryan Cheek, Class of 2009
Rickey Dowdy, Class of 2009
Hans Rice, Class of 2009
Michael Peek, Class of 2011
Brandon Pittman, Class of 2011

Analysis: There is some uncertainty here. It should be noted however that the Pack signed Syracuse transfer E.J. Carter, a member of the 2009 class. Carter was an All-Big East Freshman Team honoree after his true freshman season before ending up at NC State. He sat out the 2010 season as a redshirt and will have three seasons of eligibility left.

Among the 2009 recruits, Rice has generated the most positive buzz although he played little in 2010. Cheek has been bothered by a nagging hip injury, while there has been some speculation that Dowdy could move to defensive end.

NC State will add Peek and Pittman to the fold. Although neither are highly rated, they both have proven at combines they run well, and they were both ultra-productive during their senior seasons.


State Of The Position


Cole and Manning gives State a solid foundation to work with this upcoming season. There has been some chatter that Cole could move inside to replace Irving.

The hope is that Carter and perhaps a younger underclassman can step up and start laying down the foundation for the future. It's also possible that a safety, rising sophomore D.J. Green being the most logical candidate, could move to linebacker.


Previous State of the Positions
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Offensive Linemen
Defensive Ends
Defensive Tackles



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