All week it's been stressed how thin NC State's offensive line is, and today Wolfpack Head Coach Chuck Amato said it's even thinner when he stated that guard/center Leroy Harris will not play on Saturday against Clemson.
"I told you the other day," Amato said. "Leroy's not going to play in this game."
Harris, who played center against Miami after senior Jed Paulsen injured his ankle, was listed as questionable on the latest injury report. His status for later games has yet to be announced.
Sophomore James Newby remains at left guard while senior Chris Colmer is starting at left tackle. Jon Holt replaces the injured Derek Morris at right tackle and John McKeon maintains his spot at right guard. Now redshirt freshmen Luke Lathan and Kalani Heppe are battling it out for the starting spot at center.
"Those are the two that are fighting it out," Amato said.
Lathan replaced Harris against Miami, receiving the first snaps of his career. Heppe, who injured his ankle in fall practice, has yet to play in a game this season.
Defense Flying Around
At this point all Wolfpack fans know that NC State's defense has improved since last season, as they are currently No. 2 in the country in total defense. What's been the difference?
"One of the biggest things is as a group they move to the ball," Amato said. "They move to the ball so much better because they know what they are doing."
"That year of experience... they are playing faster than they did a year ago because they are not thinking as much," Amato added. "We ask kids to play hard and we ask them to play fast, but if they have to think they can't do either one. Somebody who's 4.3 becomes a 5.3 because they have to be hesitant."
The defense dropped to second place in the national total defense rankings this week after allowing 416 yards against Miami. That total came a week after giving up just 91 yards at Maryland, the lowest total ever for a Wolfpack opponent in an ACC game.
The defense was much-criticized last season after ranking 116th nationally in pass defense, allowing over 284 yards per game. In the total defense column, State ranked 89th nationally, giving up 421 yards per game.
The Wolfpack has held five of its seven opponents under 300 yards of total offense this season, and has held four to under 200 yards. Those four tallies under 200 yards mark the first time since 1963 that NC State has allowed such low totals in four contests in a single season.
Williams is Ready
Junior tight end T.J. Williams has started to see his numbers improve with Jay Davis becoming more comfortable at quarterback and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone opening up the playbook.
"It's always good to be involved and helping your team out," William said. "Helping contribute and doing your job is a good thing."
This week, Williams could be used to block more than usual because of the losses sustained on the offensive line. The Wolfpack may use their tight ends to help slow down Clemson's aggressive defensive ends. However, Williams believes that the offensive line can get the job done.
"We've got some depth," he said. "A lot of guys went down, but we still have some depth. Those guys have to jump in and get the job done. It's the only way we can take care of business on Saturday."
Clemson's defense has held its past two opponents, Utah State and Maryland, under 200 yards of total offense. Defensive Ends Bobby Williamson and Gaines Adams are among the ACC's sack leaders and linebacker Leroy Hill could be the conference's best defensive player. Williams knows that NC State will come in prepared and ready to play... they have to be.
"Clemson has a good defense," he said. "Every week doing the gameplan we go in with what we want to do and then on Saturday we'll really see what's going on. If we can click on all cylinders everything will be alright."
Updated Injury Report
Here's an updated injury report based on the latest information we've received. The official updated injury report will be issued Friday morning.
NC State Injury Update:
Dovonte Edwards, CB - Probable, quad bruise
Merci Falaise, OT/OG - Out, knee injury
Leroy Harris, OG/C - Out, shoulder sprain
Derek Morris, C - Out, high ankle sprain
Jed Paulsen, C - Out, ankle injury
Marcus Stone, QB - Doubtful, knee sprain