Amerson led the country in individual interceptions with 13, good for a new ACC record, while safety Brandon Bishop quietly took 5 out of the sky tying him for fifth in the nation. While the starting group of DBs, comprised of three seniors and one junior, will garner most of the attention, defensive backs coach Mike Reed took time to talk with Pack Pride recently about the new faces in the Wolfpack secondary.
While fans have the luxury of kicking back and enjoying the on-field productivity of such an experienced group, coach Reed knows that looking ahead to the 2013 season and getting his young guys ready now will help offset the loss of what will likely be all four starters.
"My thing is this; I am a firm believer in playing freshman. Because when it comes time for them to play as sophomores they're already mentally broken in, so when we need them they've already had that first experience so they're not a deer in the headlights out there. We've got so many upperclassmen this year that we need them to get their feet wet now.
"I want them to come back as sophomores and be ready to play full time. Case in point, we're opening the season in the GA dome, a hostile environment and you get a freshman in there, they'll be scared so we want to break that right now."
Coach Reed had a limited look at redshirt freshman Hakim Jones last season since he worked at linebacker during fall camp and with the scout team.
However, he was able to work with Jones during spring practice and noted Jones' general athleticism as his primary strength; going as far as giving the redshirt freshman a lofty comparison to versatile defender Dontae Johnson.
"He's going to be the next Dontae Johnson. He's not as fast but he is extremely athletic and explosive."
While there's little doubt that Coach Reed would have preferred the opportunity to work with Jones solely as a safety throughout the year he does believe his experience at linebacker will give him a diverse edge that most of his group doesn't have.
"He played some linebacker here during his redshirt season so that will allow him to know the position in front of him which helps him have a more complete understanding of the defense as a whole."
Being that Jones is the only scholarship safety on the roster that is neither an upperclassman nor a true freshman he should be in a unique position to gain valuable experience behind incumbent safeties Earl Wolff and Brandon Bishop.
Another redshirt freshman that will get on the field in 2012 is cornerback Tyrrell Burriss. Unlike Jones, coach Reed got to work all throughout the 2011 season with Burriss since he was kept on the official Pack depth chart for most of the season; but ultimately Burriss never saw game action with Amerson and C.J. Wilson handling most of the snaps.
Burriss' ‘stand-by' status last year did afford him some opportunities that the redshirting scout team players did not have like getting to travel with the team during road games.
"Being on the depth chart last year gave him a chance to be on the road with the team and see everything. Now he's ready to go get in the game and make some things happen. You want the transition to go that when one guy graduates the next guy is ready to go."
The Pack will open fall camp on July 30th and when they do four true freshmen will begin their careers at NC State. Coach Reed, along with the rest of the Wolfpack staff value big, rangy, ball-hawking athletes in the secondary, which is exactly the kind of player he has had success with and it's that type of player that he continues to bring in and build toward the future with.
On paper the Pack secured signatures from cornerbacks Marchez Coates and Niles Clark to go along with safeties Josh Sessoms and Jarnor "J.J." Jones, but Coach Reed and the Pack staff are not yet set on where Coates will land.
"Marchez is a kid that you see him, you stand next to him and you hang out with him a little, you begin to see the confidence coming out already," said Reed. "It'll be interesting to see the first couple days of practice where we put him because he is very physical but he has cover skills too.
"Sometimes you get these guys that are physical and you put them at corner, but they're more concerned about blowing somebody up than covering him."
Given Coach Reed's philosophy on playing freshmen along with the lack of depth at safety due to the transfers of Dean Haynes and Donald Coleman, it's likely that some of the new guys will have their chance to see the field.
"Somehow someway, two or three of those guys are going to play this year; just from a numbers standpoint and future planning."