"Well, we are a little more settled at defensive end," Archer said. "Darryl Cato-Bishop, Art Norman, McKay Frandsen, those guys have played. We also moved [Brian] Slay out there later in the year and that was big for us.
"We also added Forrest West, who sat out last year after transferring in from Colorado. He hadn't played but in the spring he did a lot of really good things for us. We know that defensive end is a critical position to our success."
Brian Slay (23 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks) and Darryl Cato-Bishop (22 tackles, 7 TFL, 5.5 sacks) return and are listed as starters. At 290 pounds and 281 pounds respectively, both are stout against the run but also effective at applying pressure.
"We expect big things from both Darryl and Brian," said Archer. "Both have experience and know the defense."
Senior McKay Frandsen (15 tackles), junior Sylvester Crawford, and true freshman Kenderius Whitehead are expected to add depth, but the key could be properly utilizing redshirt sophomore Art Norman.
Norman isn't the biggest defensive end, as he checks in at just 6-foot-1 and 242 pounds, but he is explosive off the edge and thrives at rushing the quarterback. What is impressive about Norman is he actually performed better in games last year when he played less snaps.
He played in four games last year where he totaled 45+ snaps and recorded just 1 sack in those games. Over his final five games he didn't play more than 43 snaps in a game and recorded five sacks, including a three-sack performance (in 29 snaps) in the win over Clemson.
"You're exactly right, Art was better when he played less, and that is something we have to control," said Archer. "Because of the injury situation at the start of the year, there were games he had to give us 50 or 60 plays, and Art wasn't very productive.
"Right now, he is a situational player for us and that is where he can excel. Once we got healthy and we could use Art when we go nickel or obvious passing situations, he killed it. They couldn't block him with him only playing 30 or so snaps."
Because of that, State isn't looking for Norman to be a starter or every-down player. They want to keep him fresh so that when the time comes to get after the quarterback he can be on the field and at his best.
"That's what you want, Art in there on second and third down rushing the passer," said Archer. "You don't want him in there playing against 280-pound tight ends and 320-pound tackles on potential rushing situations because it wears on him.
"Early in the year he had to play so much with the injuries and a big credit to him, he did what he is supposed to do, but you're going to lose some of those battles and wear down against the big guys."
NC State will be replacing the top four linebackers from last year's team, and in previous seasons has relied on pressure from the linebackers to attack the quarterback. However, that strategy might have to change this fall given the inexperience at the position.
"I think we're going to be fine at defensive end," said Archer. "However, we've had some turnover at linebacker so we know that we're going to have to be better at rushing the passer... more consistent.
"We must be able to get pressure with four this year."