We continue to examine this week’s matchup with Louisville with an in depth examination of the Cardinals impact defensive players. In case you missed it, be sure to check our Louisville skill position preview.
- Defensive End Sheldon Rankins 6’2″/303 lbs (28 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 Sacks)
- Nose Tackle DeAngelo Brown 6’1″/308 lbs (17 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 Sack)
- Defensive End Pio Vatuvei 6’2″/296 lbs (11 tackles)
To run a 3-4 defense effectively, the defensive line has to be able to occupy a lot of space, and create a significant push. This unit does just that. Rankins is the unquestioned headliner of the group. Pro Football Focus listed him as the 8th best returning prospect in all of college football. Rankins will start the game lined up at end, but will routinely shift to the interior throughout the game. Vatuvei and Brown are talented players in their own right, but do not present the type of challenge that Rankins does.
Keys to Containment
Every snap, Sheldon Rankins is going to have to be accounted for. The line will need to adjust to him on a play-by-play basis. Rankins has more of an interior lineman skill set, which is a good match up for NCState Left Tackle Joe Thuney. The Pack’s offensive line will need to generate an early push for the run game and set the tone early. Also due to the nature of Louisville’s defense I would not be surprised to see Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada run some interesting plays with unbalanced lines.
- Outside Linebacker Keith Brown 6’1″/237 lbs (20 tackles, 1 TFL)
- Inside Linebacker Keith Kelsey 6’1″/236 lbs (40 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 Sacks)
- Inside Linebacker James Burgess 6’0″/229 lbs (34 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT)
- Outside Linebacker DeVonte Fields 6’4″/245 lbs (20 tackles, 4 TFL)
This is a versatile set of linebackers. They all do a lot of things well. It’s an athletic group, with pretty much all of them having the speed to get sideline-to-sideline. This a bit of concern, as NC State likes to run sweeps and counters outside. Kelsey is a future NFL player who flies to the ball and always makes plays. You will hear his name called a lot on Saturday. Burgess is a Senior who is dependable. Fields may actually be the cream of the crop. He is a tenacious pass rusher, and has elite size for the position. Fields was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a Freshman at TCU in 2012.
Keys to containment
Expect the unexpected. All four linebackers are interchangeable, and they will all be blitzing at some point. Tight Ends and Fullbacks are going to have to block well. Whether it is Running Back Matt Dayes picking up a free rusher in pass pro, or Tight End Cole Cook sealing the edge, they are going to have to be on point. I would expect them to continue to utilize misdirection plays in this match-up. The Linebackers are aggressive, so if NC State can get them to commit one way and run the other, BIG lanes will open up.
- Cornerback Trumaine Washington 5’10″/183 lbs (18 tackles, 2 INT, 1 FF)
- Cornerback Shaq Wiggins 5’10″/171 lbs (11 tackles, 1 INT)
- Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons 6’5/ 230 lbs (38 tackles, 2 INT)
- Safety Chucky Williams 6’2″/204 lbs (16 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT)
This secondary has some of the best ball skills in the nation. They are also aggressive, and can sometimes sell out for the big play. Washington and Wiggins lack ideal size, but are good athletes. The safeties are what stick out to me about this group. Both have good size, and are extremely versatile. Chucky Williams is no slouch, but Harvey-Williams is a stud. He is huge for a Safety, but still moves well. He was a five-star kid coming out of high school, and has lived up to the hype.
Keys to containment
Aggressive is the key word for this defense, and it continues in the secondary. The Pack’s wideouts will have to make some plays. Wide Receiver Jumichael Ramos could have a big game if he gets man coverage against one of their CBs. If NC State’s Wide Receivers get separation it is imperative that they are sure handed. Easy plays will not happen to often against this unit.
Kansas State Rolls Out Hype Video of Their Freshman Quarterback
When Kansas State lost their Offensive Coordinator Collin Klein to Texas A&M, the fear of Wildcat fans was that Freshman Quarterback Avery Johnson would follow. After 4-year starter Will Howard announced he would be entering the Transfer Portal, holding onto Johnson, who was a 4-star consensus prospect in high school, was a desperate need for K-State.
Kansas State rolled out a hype video of Johnson, revealing that he was changing his number from 5 to 2, which has been his number his entire life prior to college, establishing the fact that Johnson wasn’t going anywhere.
— K-State Football (@KStateFB) December 7, 2023
Johnson played in 7 games this season, completing 25 of 35 passes for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns, with no interceptions. He also rushed the ball for 225 yards and 6 touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
Out of high school, ESPN ranked Johnson as the #77 overall player nationally, the #3 dual threat Quarterback, and the #1 player in the state of North Carolina. Rivals ranked him as the #1 dual threat Quarterback.
NC State LB Payton Wilson Wins the Bednarik Award!
NC State’s Payton Wilson won the Butkus Award earlier this week, naming him the best Linebacker in college football. Tonight he won the Bednarik Award, which has been given out annually to the best defensive player in college football since 1995.
Wilson beat out Alabama Linebacker Dallas Turner and UCLA’s Defensive End Laiatu Latu.
Prior to this week, no NC State Linebacker had ever won the Butkus Award. Prior to tonight, no NC State defensive player had ever won the Bednarik Award.
Below is a list of the former Bednarik Award winners.
In one week, Wilson has done what no other Linebacker of defensive player at NC State has ever done.
Go ahead and retire the #11 already!
Wake Forest Transfer WR Welsey Grimes Commits to NC State!
NC State just picked up their first transfer of the 2024 class, and it’s a big one. Former Wake Forest Wide Receiver Wesley Grimes (6’2″/187) just committed to run with the Wolfpack.
As a Sophomore this season, Grimes caught 20 passes for 339 yards and 4 touchdowns in 12 games. As a True Freshman last year, he played in his 6 games, collecting 4 receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown.
In all reality, Grimes is coming home. He was a 4-Star prospect out of Millbrook High School here in Raleigh. ON3, 247Sports and Rivals all ranked Grimes as a Top-250 prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, with Rivals ranking him as the #36 overall player nationally, the #4 Wide Receiver, and the #2 player in the state of North Carolina.
From a recruiting rankings standpoint, Grimes instantly becomes the highest ranked player on NC State’s roster. Since he played as a True Freshman, Grimes has 3 seasons to play 2 years of eligibility.
Back in 2021, Grimes chose the Demon Deacons over NC State, Tennessee, Duke and Louisville. On December 8th, 2023, Grimes decided to come back home and run with the Pack.
Kansas State will be Without Their Offensive Coordinator & Starting Quarterback Against NC State
Kansas State will be without their Offensive Coordinator and starting Quarterback when they face NC State in the Pop-Tarts Bowl on December 28th.
New Texas A&M head coach Mike Elko, who just left the same position at Duke, paid big bucks to hire Wildcats Offensive Coordinator Collin Klein as his OC, who had been serving in the position at Kansas State for the past 2 seasons. For the past 7 seasons, Klein has served as the Wildcats Quarterbacks Coach.
This season, Kansas State ranks 23rd in Total Offense (446.1) and 14th in Rushing Offense (199.7).
As Quarterbacks Coach, he helped develop four-year starter Will Howard, who announced he would be entering the Transfer Portal on November 27th. This season, Howard earned 2nd Team All-Big 12 honors. In 12 games, he threw for 2,643 yards and 24 touchdowns (10 interceptions). Howard also rushed for 351 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Howard will be replaced by Freshman Avery Johnson. There was speculation that Johnson might follow Klein to Texas A&M, but he will be starting for the Wildcats in Orlando against the Wolfpack.