Val Martin and Alim McNeill D-Line Drill

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Val Martin fights to get past sophomore defensive tackle Alim McNeill on Saturday, March 2, 2019 at NC State Football’s outdoor practice fields.

NC State opened fall camp last Friday, with the opening half of practice open to reporters. This year's roster is one of the youngest head coach Dave Doeren has coached at NC State, but also one of the deepest. 

“You see the guys that have experience playing the way you expect them to, and then there’s a lot of young guys,” Doeren said. “It’s sloppy in some areas, which when you have 11 seniors you’re going to have that, but there was a lot of good attitude and effort. There’s a lot of films to watch. I’m excited to get in and see it. Every day we’re just trying to pull some of these mistakes off the field.”

Here are some observations from day 1:

A learning curve exists for the freshmen joining the team. During a defensive drill, a young member of the secondary didn't put forth the amount of effort expected by the coaching staff and was excoriated by defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable. From that point on, players gave it their all.

“It’s fast, everything’s just constantly going,” said freshman linebacker Drake Thomas. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing, know where you need to be, know the formation, and it’s all one speed. It’s an adjustment that I made in the spring, and I’m going to continue to work on it and adjust this fall.” 

Similarly, the young returning members of the team are quickly becoming leaders. As defensive line players did some work with the sled, sophomore defensive tackle Alim McNeill coached up the freshmen going through the drill, showing them more efficient ways to play.

The quarterback competition rages on, with nothing changing on day 1 of camp.  Redshirt sophomore Matt McKay ran with the first-string players, redshirt freshman Devin Leary ran with the twos and redshirt sophomore Bailey Hockman played with the threes.

One surprise was the offensive line. With the entire left side of the line gone, redshirt sophomore Grant Gibson was expected to take the reins at center, with redshirt junior Joe Sculthorpe taking over at left guard, leaving left tackle up for grabs. Instead, the lineup on Friday was Sculthorpe at center, redshirt sophomore Bryson Speas at left guard, and graduate Emanuel McGirt Jr. at left tackle.

On the defensive side, free safety Tim Kidd-Glass was expected to compete for the starting job, but Kidd-Glass ran with the threes on Friday, backing up sophomore Tanner Ingle and redshirt junior Isaiah Stallings. Kidd-Glass has since left the team and entered the transfer portal.

Linebacker may be the deepest position on the team, with six capable players. So far, the starting backer tandem appears to be redshirt sophomore Isaiah Moore and junior Louis Acceus. Whoever wins the spot opposite Moore will have large shoes to fill, replacing Germaine Pratt, who now plays with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Running back is now the deepest position on the offensive end, led by sophomore Ricky Person, now fully healthy for the first time since before the former four-star enrolled at NC State. Freshman Zonovan Knight, another highly touted player, will compete with redshirt freshman Trent Pennix and freshmen Jordan Houston and Delbert Mimms III for playing time.

“We’ve got lots of reps we’ve got to get,” Doeren said. “Today was day one install against vanilla defense, so we’ve got a long way to go.”