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NC State Football Week 1 Defensive Depth Chart: Wake Forest (with Notes)

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NC State has released their depth chart for the season opening football game this Saturday night against Wake Forest.

Notes
Left Defensive End
Redshirt Graduate Transfer Daniel Joseph left Penn State looking for an opportunity to play, and he got it. Joseph was a 4-star prospect in the 2016 recruiting class out of Lake Forest, Illinois, and would have easily been the highest ranked recruit in the Wolfpack’s 2016 recruiting class, and currently is the 10th highest rated recruit on NC State’s roster according to 247Sports. Joseph spent 4 years at Penn State, recording 29 tackles in 32 games over 3 seasons. There is an “OR” between Joseph’s name and Redshirt Freshman Terrell Dawkins. Dawkins might have the highest ceiling of all of NC State’s defensive ends as a pure pass rusher. Redshirt Senior Val Martin is listed behind Joseph and Dawkins. Heading into 2019, it was expected that Martin would have a bigger impact than he ended up having. The JUCO transfer from Iowa Western Community College ended up with 11 tackles in 10 games played (3 starts). Redshirt Junior Danny Blakeman is the 4th string Left Defensive End. Blakeman was banged-up for much of 2019, and never saw the field.
Nose Tackle
Junior Alim McNeil started the final 8 games of 2019, and was a no-brainer starter heading into 2020. McNeil was an All-ACC Honorable Mention by ProFootballFocus in 2019, with 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He earned 3rd Team All-American Preseason honors heading into this season by PFF, as well as 1st Team All-ACC honors. McNeil was ranked 32nd on Bruce Feldman’s “Freak List” this summer, running a sub 5.0 forty-yard dash, benching 445 and squatting 640. Redshirt Freshman C.J. Clark is McNeil’s backup heading into Week 1. Clark saw action in 2 games in 2019 on Special Teams, while maintaining his redshirt status. Nose Tackle might be one of the deepest positions on NC State’s defense, with True Freshman Davin Vann and Redshirt Freshman Joshua Harris behind McNeil and Clark. Both Vann and Harris were 4-star prospects, that are behind two other 4-Star prospects in Clark and McNeil. Harris did play in 4 games in 2019, playing 63 snaps, while maintaining his redshirt status. Vann sitting ahead of Harris on the Depth Chart entering the season speaks volumes of his potential.
Right Defensive End
Redshirt Junior Ibrahim Kante sits at the top of the depth chart at Right Defensive End heading into Week 1. He got a lot of burn last season, starting 7 games, recording 3 tackles for loss, flashing as a playmaker in the pass rushing game. There is an “OR” between Kante’s name and Sophomore Savion Jackson. Jackson played in 8 games in 2019, and was the top sub on the D-Line, playing 129 snaps. Jackson is one of NC State’s Top Recruiting Prospects ever, ranked 50th nationally by ESPN coming out of high school. True Freshman Nick Booker-Brown is listed behind Kante and Jackson, and has created some buzz in Fall Camp.
Linebacker
SAM
Sophomore Drake Thomas steps into the starting role with Louis Acceus leaving the playing field due to continued injuries. Thomas’ old school style of play and uncanny instincts were evident as a True Freshman in 2019, accumulating 34 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 1 interception. There is an “OR” between Thomas’ name and Redshirt Junior Vi Jones, who some think potentially could be the best defensive player on NC State’s roster. The transfer from Southern Cal was the Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year for the Pack in 2019. Jones is one of the highest rated prospects on NC State’s roster, ranked 65th nationally by ESPN coming out of Westlake High School in Texas.
Middle
Redshirt Junior Isaiah Moore is the starter at Middle Linebacker. Moore is a 3-year starter heading into 2020, and was awarded the honorary #1 jersey. He was the 3rd leading tackler for NC State last year, and earned 3rd Team All-ACC Preseason honors by Phil Steele this year. Moore is 1 of NC State’s 4 Captains this year. Sophomore Jaylon Scott is backing up Moore, playing 80 snaps in 6 games in 2019. Redshirt Sophomore Seth Williams is the 3rd string Middle Linebacker, earning a scholarship prior to last season. Williams played on Special Teams in all 12 games last year.
Weakside
Redshirt Sophomore Payton Wilson managed to lead the Pack in tackles (69) in 2019, despite only starting 1 game. Wilson is one of NC State’s highest rated prospects of all-time, ranked 39th nationally by 247Sports coming out of Orange High School. Athlon dubbed him a 4th Team Preseason All-ACC selection heading into 2020. Redshirt Sophomore C.J. Hart is backing up Wilson. Due to an injury plagued linebacker corps, Hart played 165 of his 270 snaps in the final 6 games. True Freshman Devon Betty is the 3rd string Weakside Linebacker.
Defensive Backs
Nickel
Junior Tyler Baker-Williams is the starter at Nickel heading into Week 1, and he might as well have been the starter in 2019. Despite playing the most snaps at the position, Baker-Williams only started 3 contests. Keep in mind last year was his first year at the position. He was far and away the Wolfpack’s best player in coverage in 2019, with a grade of 78.1 in coverage, which ranked 7th in the ACC. PFF put Baker-Williams on their 2020 All-ACC Preseason 3rd Team. True Freshman Joshua Pierre-Louis is Baker-Williams backup, and Redshirt Sophomore Taiyon Palmer is 3rd String. Palmer was a 4-star prospect coming out of high school, but sat out his True Freshman season due to injury, and right when he started getting some significant playing time in 2019, he was injured again.
Left Cornerback
Junior Teshaun Smith enters 2020 as the starter, after missing the final 6 games of 2019 due to injury. Palmer started 2 games in 2019. He was a 4-star prospect coming out of high school, ranked 200th nationally by 247Sports. There is an “OR” between Palmer’s name and Sophomore Cecil Powell. Powell proved to be a player the coaching staff wanted to get on the field in any capacity in 2019, playing wide receiver and cornerback. The latter is where NC State wants him to make his biggest impact.
Strong Safety
Sophomore Jakeen Harris practically split playing time with starter Jarius Morehead by seasons end in 2019. The coaching staff raves about Harris, and honestly brings more athleticism to the position than Morehead. Harris had 30 tackles in 166 plays in 2019. Sophomore Rakeim Ashford will back up Harris, and the coaching staff is excited about picking him up from Jones College (JUCO), where he had 4 interceptions last year. True Freshman Devan Boykin is the 3rd string Strong Safety, but has earned significant praise from his coaches.
Free Safety
Junior Tanner Ingle was 2nd on the team in tackles in 2019, and earned the title of Captain heading into 2020. Free Safety is a much better fit for Ingle, where he doesn’t have to cover slot receives at Nickel, and is free to roam and head hunt. Ingle is the 5th most experienced player on NC State’s roster, and was a 4th Team Preseason All-ACC selection by Phil Steele. Redshirt Freshman Khalid Martin is backing up Ingle, and Redshirt Sophomore Isaac Duffy is 3rd string. Martin was a 4-star prospect coming out of high school
Right Corner
With Chris Ingram still injured, Redshirt Sophomore Shyheim Battle is the starter in Week 1. Battle was a 4-star prospect who did get 3 games worth of Special Teams action in 2019. There is an “OR” between Battle’s name and Redshirt Sophomore Malik Dunlap. He started 5 of the final 6 games at Corner last year. True Freshman Aydan White is listed behind Battle and Dunlap.

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