"If you play college football you have good guys leaving every year," said senior defensive tackle Markus Kuhn. "David Akinniyi and Natanu [Mageo] did a great job for us last year, but now it's time for us new seniors to step up and do a great job.
"I'm really confident. All of us have played, and I'm excited. I expect a lot out of us up front this year."
Kuhn and the rest of the defensive line are working in fall camp to improve under defensive line coach Keith Willis. With the first week of camp in the books, Kuhn likes where his unit is.
"It's been fun, going back at it," he said. "All of us had a really good summer. It was the best summer we've had since I've been around.
"The practices have been good. Young guys doing what they are supposed to and are learning fast. I've liked it a lot."
NC State will be expecting a lot out of Kuhn in his senior season. A native of Weinheim, Germany, Kuhn arrived in 2007 and was forced to play as a true freshman. He has played in 34 games, starting three contests, and Kuhn has totaled 70 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, 12 quarterback pressures, and four pass breakups.
"This is my senior year, and I've been here four and a half years," he said. "It's my last opportunity to be as good as I can be. I'm trying to have a great year.
"I'm in the best shape I've ever been in... like I said, I want to have a great year."
He certainly passes the look test for a defensive tackle. Standing nearly 6-foot-5, Kuhn weighs around 300 pounds and has put in the work in the weight room that he has been asked to do. "I'm between 295 and 300 every day," he said. "This is where I want to be. How much I weight will probably depend on what it looks like when the pads come on... if I should be at 295 or 300. Those couple of pounds can make a difference one way or another on the field."
Because he didn't play much football growing up, he didn't start playing until his was 15, Kuhn is still learning how to play the game. He was a linebacker prior to enrolling at NC State and rotated between defensive end and defensive tackle early in his career. He redshirted in 2009 so he could improve on his fundamentals and technique at defensive tackle, and Kuhn knows that he remains a work in progress.
"For me it's been about improving at the game," he said. "I redshirted at defensive tackle a couple of years ago, and it's helped me get better.
"I'm recognizing plays a lot better, and that's helped me play faster on the field. That's the biggest thing for me... recognizing plays and playing fast."
NC State returns players with experience up front in defensive ends Jeff Rieskamp and Daryl Cato-Bishop and at defensive tackle in Kuhn, J.R. Sweezy, and Brian Slay. Are there any newcomers that Kuhn feels can bring productivity to the rotation?
"I defenitely think Art [Norman] can," he stated. "He's looked really good. There are other guys too like [McKay] Frandsen. He came in the spring, but he's a new guy who has learned some things. He's been with the one's and looks good for us.
"Art is a really smart player. He listens and does what he's supposed to do. He works hard and even though he is a little undersized he hustles and is very quick. He makes a lot of plays."