The ability to work with the scout team, get stronger, and learn the fundamentals of the defensive tackle position helped a lot and allowed each to step up in 2003.
Herndon, who stands 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, really surprised fans with his breakout season. Playing sparingly as a back-up in 2002, he came on strong late last year and started the final six games for the Wolfpack. He finished the season with 35 tackles and four tackles for loss, and credits his desire to play for why he improved during the course of the year.
"I just wanted it," Herndon said. "My freshman year I was hurt so I didn't get to play too much. I just wanted to play and was tired of not being on the field. To do that I needed to step it up, and when I got my chance that's what I did."
McCargo also entered last year without much recognition, although those close to the program felt he would make an instant impact for the Wolfpack. He started all thirteen games as red-shirt freshman and finished with 52 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and three sacks. For his efforts he earned honorable mention All-ACC honors and was named a Freshman All-American by The Sporting News.
"It was tough at the beginning because it was my first real experience playing on this level," McCargo said. "I had never played against big guys in high school, so I realized how important conditioning was. After watching film and working on my technique things started to click for me, and I ended up having a strong season."
Both players have now accepted leadership roles at their position and feel the defensive line can be a strength of this year's defense.
"I have to pick it up and make sure I don't slack up so I can lead the younger guys," Herndon said. "I'm the oldest D-lineman we have, and I'm going to try and lead by example."
"I'm going to be a leader, but I just think we're starting to feel real comfortable with each other as a unit," McCargo added. "We are working well together and with the depth we have it's going to help us stay fresh. With DeMario Pressley, "Tank" Tyler, and Martrel Brown the depth's much better, and I think we're going to make a lot of big plays."
Pressley, a true freshman considered by most analysts to be the nation's top incoming defensive tackle prospect, has impressed with his work ethic and natural ability. He's pushing the older players above him and will likely contend for early playing time.
"DeMario Pressley... he's doing real good," Herndon said. "He has all the tools and now he just needs to put it together so he can help us out this year."
Looking for one reason why the defensive tackle position may be improved? McCargo believes it is the quality depth that they feel now exists at defensive tackle.
"I think this year we'll be much better because of the added depth," McCargo added. "I feel good about it. These guys we have here can play, and now we just need to take care of business."
Dwayne Herndon and John McCargo