Defensive Breakdown: North Carolina State
This week, the Mountaineers will look to bounce back as they face North Carolina State in Morgantown, but they will also welcome back former defensive coordinator, Tony Gibson.
Gibson, who is a native of Van, WV, spent the last six seasons at WVU as the defensive coordinator for the Mountaineers and the last three seasons as an Associate Head Coach. He is known for his 3-3-5 defensive scheme which sets him apart from most defensive coordinators in the country. When Dana Holgorsen left, WVU players initially wanted Gibson to take over the head coaching duties. Instead, he will now lead a defense who is young but has plenty of potential and can slow down the Mountaineer offense.
This defense has only given up 6 points through two games this season in their wins against East Carolina and Western Carolina. In last week’s 41-0 win against Western Carolina, WCU ran only 46 snaps on the afternoon and finished with 106 total yards. The Wolfpack allowed just 98 passing yards and 8 rushing yards. They also forced a fumble for the game’s only turnover and only allowed WCU to earn 6 first downs.
The Wolfpack did lose a few guys to the NFL Draft from last season but they have a new group of pass rushers as this was a focal point in the offseason. Last season, NC State ranked 108th in pass defense, so they hope to get some pressure on opposing quarterbacks to force turnovers.
NC State has eight starters returning on defense lead by defensive end James Smith-Williams who lead the team with six sacks last year, and already has one sack this season. Sophomore Alim McNeill, true freshmen Joshua Harris, and Savion Jackson, are ready for breakout seasons.
Payton Wilson and Drake Thomas are young linebackers but have a high ceiling and can be forces in stopping the run game and in coverage. Wilson has already accounted for nine tackles this season. Junior Louis Acceus has stepped up and has made some key plays for the Wolfpack and can deliver big hits on ball carriers.
Jarius Morehead leads the secondary and was the team’s leader in tackles last season with 81 and had three interceptions. Junior Chris Ingram has the team’s only interception so far this season, matching his total from last year. Sophomore Tanner Ingle leads the team with 13 tackles so far this season and is a guy that can come downhill from the safety spot and make plays.
The Mountaineers have struggled to get the rushing attack going through two games, but if they can run the ball and have a longer time of possession, it should lead to big plays in the passing game. Austin Kendall will have to make smart decisions and not turn the ball over for WVU to have a chance to win.
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