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Wake Forest Football: Previewing the NC State Defense

Quick look at the Pack defense

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

We hit the offense yesterday, which means now it’s time to take a quick look at the NC State defense. Just to reiterate, since the State-VT game got delayed due to Covid-19, the Pack have not played a game in the 2020 season. That, of course, means the only way to preview the defense is to go back in time to 2019 and see how State played in the good ole days.

The defense was pretty similar to the offense last season for the Wolfpack. State gave up 30.1 points and just over 400 yards per game over their 12 games in 2019, which gave them the 83rd and 74th best defense in FBS in scoring and total yards respectively. The good news for the Pack is that their defense was a fairly young unit that was in the first year of switching to a 3-3-5 defense. The only major losses from last year’s squad are DT Larrell Murchison, who led the team with 7.0 sacks and 12 tackles for loss, and LB Louis Acceus, who just opted out of the season this week due to ‘medical reasons’. The Pack are hoping that DT Alim McNeill, a preseason 3rd team All-American by Pro Football Focus, will be able to replace—and perhaps surpass—the production from Murchison last season. He finished 2nd on the team in both sacks and tackles for loss as a sophomore. Acceus will be harder to replace. He finished 2019 with 49 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks in just 8 games and was likely going to be a key piece of the defense in his senior year; his absence could be a factor early in the season for the NC State defense.

Even without Acceus, the linebacking corps for NC State should be their strongest unit. The group returns most of their production from 2019, including Payton Wilson, who led the Pack in tackles last season as a redshirt freshman. Wilson started in just 1 game, but managed to record 69 total tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 1 interception off the bench in his first season. For a freshman, those are some impressive numbers. His development as a starter could be a big factor in how the defense performs this season. He is joined by sophomore Drake Thomas—34 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 1 int in 2019—and redshirt junior Isaiah Moore—53 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks in 2019—as the starters at linebacker for the Wake game.

We didn’t see the first team offense get into the endzone last week, but again, Clemson is Clemson. I probably don’t need to remind any Wake fans (but I will) that the Deacs were able to put up 44 on the Wolfpack in 3 quarters last season, scoring on 9 of their first 10 drives before calling off the dogs. Obviously, our offense now looks completely different and the State defense is likely better than it was a season ago, so we will have to see if Sam Hartman and Donavon Greene are able to replicate the success Wake had in the passing game last year. With this being NC State’s first game of the season, the Deacs should definitely come out aggressive early and try to punish any rust that may be lingering around the Wolfpack defense.