"Ollie's" Pops Leading The Pack

Junior linebacker Oliver Hoyte admitted once that his hard-hitting style had earned him several nicknames from his Wolfpack teammates: "Ollie Pop," "Hit-Man Hoyte" and "Ollie Boom-baya."

Junior linebacker Oliver Hoyte admitted once that his hard-hitting style had earned him several nicknames from his Wolfpack teammates: "Ollie Pop," "Hit-Man Hoyte" and "Ollie Boom-baya."

This year more than ever, Hoyte is living up to any label that the Pack players and fans want to throw his way.

Through six games, Hoyte leads NC State in tackles with 57. Included in that total are 6.5 tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks, and he has also added four quarterback pressures and a pass breakup. Coach Chuck Amato is thrilled with the way Hoyte has been playing and points out that the ‘backer just had a notable birthday Oct. 5.

"He's been pretty daggone good since he got here," said Amato. "And he's such a youngster; two weeks ago, he turned 20. He's just a young kid. Early in the year, we talked about maturity and all that stuff; [defensive tackle] Dwayne Herndon is a 23-year-old [redshirt] junior – and [Hoyte] was a 19-year-old junior when we started practicing.

"But he's one of those kids that can run and hit."

The 6-3, 247-pounder from Tampa, Fla., had 97 stops a season ago, but just eight tackles for losses and zero sacks. Hoyte appreciates the opportunity to get after the passer a little more due to the blitz packages brought by new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Reggie Herring.

"Coach Reggie Herring stresses making plays, and that's what I try to do: make plays," Hoyte said. "Anybody can make a tackle; anybody can be Joe Average. We try to make plays.

"[The defensive scheme] is not just tailor-made for a linebacker, it's tailor-made for anybody on this defense. The defenses and plays he calls puts you in position to make plays, and Coach says you have to be a playmaker."

Hoyte's emergence has been no accident, and can't be entirely attributed to Herring's arrival. The linebacker earned the squad's Defensive Big Hitter Award this spring, then followed that up by being named the team's Top Conditioned Athlete in the middleweight division this summer. Combining improved strength, speed and conditioning with a self-confidence that needed no bolstering has helped Hoyte become one of the Pack's core defenders.

"Even if I was last on the team in tackles, I'd still have the same amount of confidence," said Hoyte. "It's just opportunities."

The move of fellow ‘backer Stephen Tulloch to the strongside, or "Sam," position is, at least in part, a reflection of Hoyte's stellar play. Tulloch backed up Hoyte a season ago, and as the season wore on, began taking more and more of Hoyte's snaps. This year, however, Tulloch is mostly splitting time with senior Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay, and middle linebacker Patrick Lowery isn't seeing as much time behind Hoyte, either.

Of course, Hoyte isn't about to admit that he's getting everything possible out of the "Mike" spot.

"One thing I have to do a better job of being more consistent," Hoyte said. "I'll make a great play here, then I'll miss an assignment or miss a tackle or something like that … I want to play with great intensity, but even more [important], just improve my consistency."

For one thing, Herring won't let anyone rest on their laurels. Despite top-tackle games of 15, 11 and 10 stops on the campaign, and being a vital part of a defense that has held three opponents under 200 total yards, Hoyte said that Herring is never satisfied.

"We play teams and we beat them and they had 200 yards or maybe 150 yards, and he comes back the next day and he tells us how much better we could have done," said Hoyte of Herring. "And you go, ‘Whoa, how could we get any better?' But then he goes and shows us tape and film where someone didn't do something right, like I missed this assignment or I didn't do that. And it shows that if I did that right, they wouldn't have had ANY yards.

"You can see it; he points it out all the time. You never question what he says, because he's got film right there to show you and back it up."

Perhaps the lone criticism of the nation's top defense thus far has been a curious inability to force turnovers. The Pack has caused just five turnovers, leading to a turnover margin of –8, but that's not due to a lack of attention to the situation by the Wolfpack defensive staff.

"The safeties and cornerbacks and linebackers and defensive line coaches, they all say, ‘The first guy wraps him up and the second guy comes in and tries to strip the ball out,'" Hoyte said. "We've held three teams under 200 yards, so we're not missing tackles. You're still trying to get the ball out, but it just hasn't happened yet."

As one of 30 players from the state of Florida on the NC State roster, Hoyte is understandably eager for the arrival of the Miami Hurricanes this weekend. However, he said that State would be amped-up to host the No. 2 squad in the land, no matter where that team hailed from.

With the State Fair, ESPN College GameDay, the Red-White Game and the matchup with Miami all converging on the same day in the same area, Hoyte said the Pack will have to block everything out and concentrate solely on beating the ‘Canes.

"It's not just about guys from Florida; it's the No. 2 team [in the BCS] in the country," said Hoyte. "You can't help but be up for that game. With the No. 2 team in the country, everybody is up to the challenge. They're a great team with great athletes, and we think we're a great team with great athletes. So we're ready to play Saturday.

"I don't want to say it's a distraction, but there will be a lot of stuff going on. So we just have to stay focused and get the job done."

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