Plenty of signs are indicating NC State could have a really solid defense in 2016. Let's investigate!
Starters Returning: 8/11
Key Losses: DE Mike Rose, CB Juston Burris, S Hakim Jones
Key Returnees: DT B.J. Hill, DT Kentavius Street, DT Justin Jones, DE Bradley Chubb, DE Darian Roseboro, LB Airius Moore, LB Jerod Fernandez, CB Dravious Wright, CB Mike Stevens, S Josh Jones
FEI Defense Ranking: 78
S&P Defense Ranking: 45
S&P Rush Defense: 46
S&P Pass Defense: 82
Turnover Forced: 22
NC State has to be excited about the amount of experience they have returning for 2016. Defensive end Mike Rose was an impact player up front and will be missed. He totaled 10.5 sacks plus 15 tackles for loss last year.
Still, the defensive line as a whole has an incredible amount of depth with 5 veterans coming back who started games last fall.
Additionally, 21.5 sacks and 67.5 tackles for loss come back and NC State was in the national Top 40 in each category last year. With some more development this could be one of the more disruptive defenses Notre Dame faces this year.
In our offensive preview on Monday we talked about how well quarterback Jacoby Brissett protected the football. He always kept the interceptions down and that led to a healthy +9 turnover ratio last season.
NC State might not get that same quality ball protection on offense as they break in a new quarterback so it'll be interesting to see if the defense can get better at takeaways.
Last fall the Wolfpack intercepted 13 passes and picked up 9 fumbles both pretty good numbers overall.
If you look at NC State's pass defense most of it looks pretty normal or average. They held opponents to just 54.7% completions which finished 29th nationally. Their yards per attempt average put them tied for 54th place, same as Notre Dame.
What sticks out after a closer look is that the Wolfpack played an embarrassingly bad opening schedule and overall didn't face very many challenges from the quarterback position. When they did face a challenge it wasn't always so great.
Clemson dropped 383 yards and 5 touchdowns through the air. Florida State threw 3 interceptions but countered with 283 yards and 2 more scores. The Wolfpack actually held North Carolina in check through the air with 179 yards but then got obliterated in the bowl game by Mississippi State to the tune of 380 yards and 4 touchdowns.
This is one side of the ball out of all the previews I've done so far that I feel confident is going to be really productive. Some of the team's so far have depth but not great proven production. Others lack depth with some key veterans.
I'm seeing a NC State defense that is bringing back a bunch of good players, the depth is more than sufficient, and they were mostly average to pretty good in a lot of categories last year. With another year of experience and so many starters returning this looks like a sure-fire defense that's going to improve a lot.
With the playmakers on offense NC State just has to hope that they find a competent quarterback. If they do, this defense could provide enough production to make some noise in the ACC.