Mystery Man

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Redshirt junior Rickey Dowdy has taken just one snap in three seasons, but now he is listed as the starter at weakside linebacker.

Redshirt junior Rickey Dowdy has taken just one snap in three seasons.

"Well, I haven't played much," said Dowdy, laughing when asked about his inexperience. "But, I do think that's going to change this year."

From all indications, Dowdy is right. He entered the spring battling for playing time and emerged as the starter at weakside linebacker coming into fall camp. He is competing with sophomore Michael Peek, who has played more than Dowdy, for the job and is taking the mindset that he still has to earn it.

"Peek is a good athlete," said Dowdy. "He can play. We're out here fighting for a starting position. No one has a starting spot yet... it's a battle. We're competing."

Dowdy's road to playing time has been a long one in large part due to him being unable to settle in at a position. A three-star prospect in the 2009 recruiting class, Dowdy played defensive end and linebacker at High Point (NC) Central High School, where he recorded 105 tackles, 17 sacks, 10 other tackles for loss, and grabbed two interceptions as a senior.

While he played some linebacker, he was much more comfortable, and responsible for, rushing the quarterback and his first couple of seasons at NC State he rotated between defensive end and linebacker before sticking at linebacker in the spring.

"One of the things is I wasn't comfortable in coverage early on," said Dowdy. "I feel that was because I didn't do it a lot in high school. I was mainly a pass rusher, and when I got here it was a challenge. But, I'm used to it now and I'm better at it.

"Early on I switched between defensive end and linebacker, but the coaches sticking with me has helped a lot. It showed me that they think I have the athleticism and ability to play there so I'm going to be there. But, wherever they need to play, whether it's defensive end or linebacker, that's where I'm going to play."

Dowdy also admits that maybe he didn't put in the work he needed to early on in his career to earn the playing time he wanted. Defensive coordinator Mike Archer said over the summer that two years ago he, "didn't know if [Dowdy] would make it." But, as Archer pointed out, "he hung in there, didn't pout, and took advantage of his opportunity and now he is a guy that is going to play. The spring was important for him, and I'm very pleased with the progress he has made."

"I must admit that when I first got here I was disappointed in myself and how I performed," said Dowdy. "But, after putting my head into the playbook and watching film, I think I have improved individually.

"I think I've improved in a lot of areas since I've been here. I'm better in coverage and my pass rushing is better, plus I'm faster now thanks to Coach 'Ed.' That was a big change for me. Now I'm confident that I'll be able to help my team win games."

In a few weeks Dowdy and the rest of his team will travel to Atlanta for the season opener against Tennessee. He knows that the media and fans don't know what to expect out of him or the rest of the linebackers. For him, that's just fine.

"We're good," said Dowdy, smiling. "We're not worried about what outside people say. We're focused on what we need to do, and we're getting better.

"On August 31st, we'll be ready to play Tennessee."


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