With the Wolfpack preparing for its first matchup of the season Saturday Sept. 19, hope lies with the linebackers to help carry the team on defense this season.
Having lost only one player heading into the 2019 season, fans saw a young group of linebackers last season. Through a rough season, NC State was able to give its linebackers one thing: experience. With a squad of underclassmen, fans saw freshmen in the 2019 season with over 300 snaps.
With all but one starter returning, losing Brock Miller as a graduate transfer, NC State fans are in for a treat to see this experienced squad come Saturday, with three of the four top tacklers remaining at the linebacker position. This defense finally has one thing it lacked last year: depth.
Unfortunately for the Pack, senior Louis Acceus will not be seen in uniform this season. The veteran linebacker will not play in the 2020 season due to medical reasons, which was announced earlier this week. Acceus was one of the team’s leading tacklers last season before running into injury.
Leading the linebackers will be redshirt junior Isaiah Moore. Just named one of the team’s captains, as well as earning jersey No. 1, Moore finished third in tackles for the Pack, with 53 stops, and started in all 11 games he played. NC State will be relying on Moore and his leadership to bring the squad success this season.
Another returner looking to lead the Pack this season is redshirt sophomore Payton Wilson. Even though he only started one game last season, Wilson finished the season as the top tackler on the whole squad with 69tackles. Wilson is full of potential for this season and will likely have a huge impact on the defense.
After a year full of experience as a true freshman, earning over 300 snaps, sophomore Drake Thomas will be back this season as an impact player at the linebacker position. Playing 12 games and picking up three starts, Thomas has become a standout player, despite entering only his second year at NC State, and he is only improving.
This season, the Wolfpack will finally be able to watch redshirt junior Vi Jones for the first time. After sitting out last year after transferring from the University of Southern California, Jones will be ready to contribute to the dominant defense. Jones saw action in 22 games in his first two years in California before joining the Pack.
Making a return to the defense this year is sophomore Jaylon Scott. With a handful of injuries in the linebacker lineup last season, Scott had the chance to see action in six games as a true freshman, racking up experience. His experience will give him the opportunity to contribute more to the Pack’s defense this year and will certainly earn some snaps.
Also looking to create an impact this year is redshirt sophomore Calvin Hart Jr. After gathering 270 snaps in the 2019 season, Hart will be a top contender for playing time. Hart saw his career-best seven stops against Clemson.
Also returning to the linebacker position are redshirt sophomores Seth Williams and Alex Gray. Williams saw action in all 12 games last season on special teams, while Gray saw 20 snaps in the Wolfpack’s matchup against Clemson.
With a large load of returning stars for the Wolfpack, it also stands with a handful of true freshmen. Entering the season as true freshmen that could see the field are Devon Betty and Jayland Parker. With the potential for injury as well as COVID-19 procedures taking some players out of the game, these players could have a chance to prove themselves and earn some snaps their first year.
With a position full of young talent and potential, NC State fans will be excited to watch this defense week in and week out. With a long list of names ready to make an impact this season, the depth at the linebacker position should inspire hope for this season and showcase potential for the Wolfpack to have a more successful season than last year.