NC State's defense has made major strides this season. After ranking No. 67 overall last year in rushing defense, the Pack checks in at No. 15 in the country, and a big reason why is the play of sophomore defensive tackle B.J. Hill.
Checking in at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, Hill has already totaled 38 tackles, the fourth-highest mark on the team. He has 3.5 sacks, and his nine tackles for a loss is the highest mark in the ACC for a defensive tackle.
"He's having a great season for us," NC State head coach Dave Doeren sai of Hill. "He's so steady and that's what you want. You want a guy that plays the A gap and doesn't lose his gap, gets off blocks, and makes tackles."
What does Hill think of Doeren's comments?
"It means a lot," he said. "We still have a long way to go, three more games that we're trying to win. I'm not getting a big head or anything, there's still a lot to do."
Hill actually credits the depth at the defensive tackle position with a lot of his success. Because the Pack rotates three tackles at each spot, the starters are fresh, even if they play less snaps than starters at other programs.
"We have good depth," said Hill. "Monty Nelson is good too. When I'm tired he can jump right in, and we won't miss a beat."
The season Hill is having doesn't surprise his position coach, Ryan Nielsen.
"B.J. is the same guy everyday," said Nielsen. "You know you're going to get his production every game. He doesn't play down. He does his job. He takes pride in playing well at his position, and he comes to work everyday. That's great for our defense."
A former tailback and defensive end in high school, Hill is actually still improving his game at defensive tackle. He is far from a finished product... which is scary.
"I'm focusing on the process," he said. "I'm listening to the coaches and fixing everything week-by-week that I need to focus on.
"I study the opponent and myself... learning what all I do wrong. I just need to work on the little stuff that helps me be a better player."
"He takes it very serious," added Nielsen. "He takes pride in working on his fundamentals everyday. If something needs to get fixed, he's out here working on it.
"[Hill is] consistent... he's a hard-hat guy, and he loves it. He loves to work, and he loves to practice."
Hill is coming off one of his best games of the season, as he was terrific at Boston College. Leading a defensive front that yielded just 28 rushing yards on 34 carries, Hill totaled six tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks in the 24-8 victory.
"It was a big win for us," he stated. "We have confidence going into this game. I think we have a big chance to win this game."
"This game" that Hill is referring to is Saturday's matchup with national power Florida State. Hill was in the rotation last year when NC State jumped out to a 24-7 lead on the Seminoles in Carter-Finley Stadium before wilting in the fourth quarter.
He believes this year's game is huge for the Wolfpack.
"I think it would be really big for our program to win this game down in Florida," he said. "Hopefully we can pull it off. I'm proud of our guys. We're fighting every week."
Reliable... consistent... hard-working... a leader. Those are words the NC State coaches use to describe B.J. Hill. It's no surprise that he's been named a team captain for several games this season, including Saturday's matchup with the Seminoles.
"He's kind of having the year he has as a person," said Doeren. "He works hard everyday and is the same guy. You never hear a negative thing about him, on or off the field. I love to have a lot of guys like that on our team."