McKever Cracks The Rotation

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Redshirt freshman Pharoah McKever wasn't recruited to play in the trenches at defensive end. He thought he would be catching the football for the Wolfpack.

A prep quarterback at Tabor City (NC) South Columbus, Pharoah McKever totaled 3,617 passing yards and 2,070 rushing yards during his prep career. At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, NC State recruited him to play wide receiver, and that's what he did last fall while redshirting.

However, the coaches also noticed something else from McKever's high school film. He had a nasty streak and could play some defense too. Lining up mainly at safety, McKever tallied 126 tackles and six interceptions during his senior campaign and ended his career at South Columbus with over 200 tackles and 18 interceptions.

"Being from a 2-A school we didn't have a lot of people on the team," said McKever. "I was playing quarterback, but I also started at safety from my sophomore year on. It helped make me a more physical player, so playing defense in high school has helped my transition. But, I wasn't playing defensive end [laughing]."

And that is where McKever is right now. Entering spring practice the coaches moved him to the defensive side of the football, and he says he settled right in.

"It's been a great transformation," he stated. "When we decided to make the change I had to gain about 30 pounds over the spring so the strength and conditioning coaches worked my butt off. I had to keep putting on pounds, and we were able to do that.

Then just starting with spring and fall camp... it's been a big difference."

McKever knew he had to work his way up the depth chart. The Pack returned four defensive ends including two with starting experience and also added a pair of talented recruits. He was hoping to play in the season opener against Georgia Southern, but that didn't happen.

"The first week I didn't get in, but after the game coach said to stay focused and be ready because I was going to get in that next game and play a lot," said McKever. "When it was my time I went out there and made some plays."

He played 37 snaps against Old Dominion, totaling two tackles, a tackle for a loss, and a quarterback pressure. He followed that up with starts versus South Florida and Presbyterian.

Checking in at 6-foot-6 and now 257 pounds, McKever knows that he is still developing at the position and can continue to improve.

"I need to keep working on my stance and technique," he said. "I was so used to standing up on both sides of the ball, so I had to really work on staying low... my leverage. I'm a tall guy, about 6'7, so I had to work on that.

"I'm just trying to get better each and every day. I know I can continue to improve. Coach Nielsen pushes us every day and helps us get better. I've just got to keep listening to him and do what he's telling me to do and I'll get better."

Next up for NC State is No. 1 Florida State, and his head coach knows the Pack will need production from McKever and his fellow defensive linemen.

"He's doing what he's supposed to do," Doeren said of McKever. "He's playing hard... there's good competition and depth. You see a good rotation with him, Mike Rose and Kentavius [Street]. That's what we want, we want to have fresh legs in there.

"That's going to be key this game because they're so good. They have five senior offensive linemen. We have to have good, fresh guys in there competing against them."

Pack Pride Top Stories