Signs Of Improvement

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable knows his group has to be much better this season after really struggling, particularly down the stretch, last year.

The Wolfpack came into 2013 looking to break in new starters and then had to deal with an early rash of injuries. Late in the year, teams like Boston College, Maryland, and East Carolina took advantage.

For it to change, defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable noted that his group had to get physically stronger, and he believes that has happened.

"I think our strength coach and his staff have done a great job with the team this summer," he said. "We're bigger, stronger, and in much better shape. I appreciate the job they've done."

Next, he says the group has to be fully committed to the coaches and the defensive system.

"I think they have a great attitude," he stated. "They've given themsevles to the coaches.

"These first four or five days, the guys have come out and worked hard. We've had some mistakes, which you'll have in practice, but we've eliminated a lot of that. We're getting it corrected. I'm very excited about the whole group."

This is the second fall camp with Huxtable leading the defense and the group has experience. 11 returning players have started at least four games defensively for the Wolfpack, and several have had two springs and a full season within the system.

According to Huxtable, that experience translates in a variety of areas.

"We're a much smarter defense," he said. "There has been tremendous retention from the spring to fall camp. A year ago, we had just the 15 days of spring practice with them... that was all they had in the system. So, when we started fall camp it was like starting all over again.

"Leaving spring practice this year I felt really good about our guys. I see the improved football IQ... understanding the defense, knowing down-and-distance, situational football. Those are things you're looking for."

It also helps that NC State has added a plethora of depth over the last 12 months. NC State is now comfortable rotating eight-to-ten defensive linemen, there is a solid two-deep at linebacker, and the Wolfpack has 18 scholarship defensive backs, with safety Jarvis Byrd being the lone senior.

Now there is experience and the with the additional depth comes competition. Sure, NC State returns seven starters on defense, but every job is open.

"We have competition at every position and that's something we didn't have last year," said Huxtable. "That first-team defense... in our first meeting I told them that they'll have the first snap at practice. After that, it's on.

"This is what you want to see. Guys are competing and we have depth. It's great to see. Now we have to stay healthy, but the added depth is great for us."

NC State will hold their first fall scrimmage tomorrow, and it will be another chance for the defense to make strides.

Huxtable is encouraged while acknowledging that there is still progress to be made.

"It's been a lot of fun," he stated. "I'm not saying we're where we need to be, but I see a big improvement in all areas.

"I'm excited about where we can potentially go."

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