A Changed Man

RALEIGH, N.C. -- With one of the youngest teams in the nation, NC State could expect some growing pains during the 2014 season.

Senior linebacker Rodman Noel continues to grow into both his role at linebacker and as a veteran leader for the Wolfpack, neither of which comes naturally for the quiet kid from Everett, Mass.

The brother of former NBA first-round pick Nerlens Noel, Rodman is looking to become the player Dave Doeren feels can be "a quiet leader in the linebacker group" while also continuing his development at the position.

"It has been good to get back to action," Noel said. "We are just coming out here trying to get better every day. It is going to be a great help for the young guys.

"We have got a lot of good experience; we’ve just got to help out the young guys and get them along. Hopefully they will be able to play right away.”

NC State struggled to a 3-9 record and was winless in the ACC in 2013. While it seems the Pack can only go up, Noel is not content to settle for mediocrity and has loftier hopes for the upcoming campaign.

“As a team, we have just got to get better and lead the league in all of the stats on the board,” Noel said when asked about his goals for 2014. "It has been good to get back to action. We are just coming out here trying to get better every day."

Dave Huxtable is also entering his second season at State. The defensive coordinator is working not only his third stint with an ACC school (Georgia Tech, 1992-98 & UNC, 2001-2) but is also coaching in the state of North Carolina for the third time (ECU from 1990-91 & 1998-99 along with UNC, 2001-2).

Huxtable likes what he has seen from Noel during his time in Raleigh and is particularly delighted at the growth he has witnessed.

“He was very quiet and very laid-back,” Huxtable recalled. "Rod is a totally different guy then when I first got here a year ago. He was a defensive back that converted to linebacker but was still playing like a defensive back.

"But, he had a great spring and became much tougher. He became a better contact player... his contact level has increased."

"He worked really hard this summer, put on some weight and has gotten really stronger," Huxtable added. "I think with that weight and that extra strength he has just gained volumes of confidence. Rod is a very, very smart kid that knows the defense as well as anyone on the field. He has become more vocal, which a senior should, so I have been very pleased with what Rod has done."

Like Huxtable, Doeren raved about the progress Noel has made.

"He's a totally different guy," said Doeren. "In 18 months, he's probably one of the most improved players on our team.

"Not just out there, what he's done in the offseason, how he handles his academics, just his entire lifestyle. He's bought in to being a great player, and it's showing on the field."

"My experience is the guys who handle themselves right off the field normally handle themselves right on the field," Doeren added. "Rodman has really bought into that."

One of the changes this fall is NC State implementing a 4-2-5 scheme. What does Noel think of the new system?

"The 4-2-5 (defense) has really helped us," he said. “We have got more speed on the field. We are able to run faster while playing coverage. It is going to help us out through all of the games."

Noel knows this is a big year for him, but he remains focused... with a single goal in mind.

"Individually, I first have got to work hard every day," he said. "I have to win the job. I am coming out here and giving it my all to try to win the job."

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