Wolff Stands Out

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State safety Earl Wolff appeared to injure his groin in the second half of the Wolfpack's game two weeks ago against Connecticut.

NC State safety Earl Wolff appeared to injure his groin in the second half of the Wolfpack's game two weeks ago against Connecticut. He came back a series later but eventually sat out the remainder of the game.

Most Wolfpack fans probably wondered if he would be available for the matchup with South Alabama, but Wolff, who admits he was a "game-time decision," went out and did his job. He played 55 snaps against the Jaguars, finishing with six tackles.

How does he feel a few days later?

"I really feel great," Wolff said following Tuesday's practice. "I didn't do a whole lot today, but I'll be at full gear tomorrow ready to go.

"It's a little sore. I feel better than I ever felt right now. I'll be ready to go. I've pushed through a lot of things, and I feel like this is something small right now."

Through three games, Wolff has been arguably the Pack's top player on defense. He leads the team in total tackles (31) and solo hits (18), and he has also recorded two tackles for a loss, one fumble recovery, and an interception.

Playing boundary safety, he has a lot of freedom to play in the box against the run and also pressure the quarterback. Obviously having him on the field is critical to State's success on defense so the coaches have to be concerned to know he's dealing with a minor injury.

However, his backup, redshirt freshman Hakim Jones, has started to come along and make plays as well. Jones had a pass breakup against Tennessee and recorded two tackles while replacing Wolff in the UConn game.

Saturday he recorded the first interception of his career when he made a diving grab versus South Alabama. It's early, but Jones has the look of a potential major contributor for the Wolfpack.

"Hakim... I call him my little prodigy," said Wolff. "He's going to be a great player for us in the future. Anytime anyone goes down, me or Brandan [Bishop], coach has a lot of confidence to bring him in and know he's going to do his job.

"He's a good 6'2 or 6'3, he's long and he's physical. He's not scared. He's a competitor, and that's what we like. With us in front of him, it continues to push him and luckily he has a great foundation around him. We've been rooming together the past couple of games so we've got a lot tighter. He's like my little brother."

Wolff, Jones and the rest of the defense will face a tough test this weekend when The Citadel brings their high-powered, triple-option attack to Raleigh.

The No. 10 ranked team in the FCS, The Citadel is coming off a 52-28 win at App. State where the Bulldogs rolled up 618 yards of total offense, including 463 on the ground. At 3-0, The Citadel will definitely enter the game knowing that they can knock off the Wolfpack, and their triple-option offense poses a tough challenge for State.

"They are playing with a great amount of confidence," Tom O'Brien said of the Bulldogs. "The quarterback is extremely dangerous. He's their leading ball carrier I think he's carried it 54 times, only throw eight, maybe nine passes. I know it's less than 10.

"We're going to have to be very disciplined, trust our eyes, and read our keys or we're going to be fooled. The quarterback can run around you, by you, through you, or past you, and when you have to defend that sooner or later the ball is going to go flying over your head. That's what they do."

"We have a tough opponent coming in to fight," said Wolff. "With them having that military background, you know they are going to come out and try to hit you in the mouth every play.

"You can't take anyone lightly. We're going to go out Saturday, play full speed, and try to make a lot of big plays."

"They will certainly come here thinking they can whoop us," added O'Brien.

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