Camp Amato: Doing The Dirty Work

RALEIGH, NC -- NC State's defensive line has received a lot of hype this preseason, and deservedly so with nearly the entire unit returning.

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    However, don't expect Wolfpack defensive line coach Todd Stroud to tell you the key to his group are the stellar defensive ends: Mario Williams and Manny Lawson. He actually believes #90 really jumpstarts NC State's attacking defense.

    "John McCargo is probably the most productive player on our defense... period," Stroud told Pack Pride. "He actually has been for going on three years. John kind of goes unnoticed because he plays defensive tackle, but he is a great football player."

    McCargo earned honorable mention All-ACC honors in 2003 after recording 52 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and a team-high 16 quarterback hurries as a redshirt freshman. His production dipped to 47 tackles and 12 quarterback hurries in 2004, as the Wolfpack played fewer games and McCargo fewer snaps due to increased depth, but expect him to have a huge season this year.

    "His speed and quickness are really his major god-given assets," Stroud said. "He's 295 pounds and is as quick as a linebacker. John probably runs a 4.7 at 295 pounds. He occupies a lot of space in there. He can force quarterbacks to re-adjust by just getting pushed fast in the pocket. He's done a great job."

    Joining McCargo in the trenches will be upstart sophomore DeMario Pressley. Considered the consensus #1 defensive tackle in the country as a senior at Greensboro (NC) Dudley High School, Pressley had an outstanding spring and is improving on a daily basis after registering 15 tackles as a true freshman. Pressley's rapid improvement has caught the eye of his position coach.

    "From day one, DeMario has probably improved as fast as any defensive line player here ever has in one year," Stroud said. "He's going to be a special player... he really is.

    "He just needs to increase his body strength... that's his biggest thing. We also can't get him too heavy. He's probably 288 pounds right now, and we can't let him get bigger than that to be honest with you."

    'Tank is our banger in there.'

    Pressley beat out returning starter DeMarcus "Tank" Tyler for the spot opposite McCargo, a year after Tyler started all 11 games for the Wolfpack. At 6-foot-2 and 295-pounds, Tyler is one of the strongest players in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the junior's role will be to clog up rushing lanes in 2005.

    "Tank is our banger in there, and I can call him a starter just like DeMario is," Stroud said. "He is going to play just as much as DeMario. He is my banger in there, the 500-pound bench presser... the guy that's hard to move. DeMario has a little more quickness and agility. That is the difference between the two guys."

    NC State believed it had increased depth behind the starting trio in redshirt sophomore Martrel Brown and redshirt freshman John Bedics, allowing the coaching staff to move Dwayne Herndon, Gerard Miller, and John Amanchukwu to the offensive line in the offseason. However, Brown, a converted linebacker, and Bedics, a converted defensive end, have battled nagging injuries this fall.

    "Bedics weighs about 290 pounds, and he has shown great improvement," Stroud said. "But he has got a stress fracture right now so I don't know what his future is going to hold.

    "We've got to get Martrel Brown active again and taking some snaps... he's been banged up too."

    Because of the injury concerns, NC State moved Amanchuckwu back to defense, and it also looks like the Wolfpack may not be able to redshirt true freshmen Ted Larsen and Alan-Michael Cash, although it still could be too early to determine if that is the case.

    "John Amanchukwu, we moved him back to defense," Wolfpack head coach Chuck Amato told the media following yesterday's practice. "He's a big kid, he's about 285 or 290 pounds, and he runs really fast. So we moved him back over there."

    "Ted Larsen and Alan-Michael Cash, inside, those guys three years ago would have played for us right now," Stroud said. ""They both have had great camps for freshmen. They are ahead of the curve as far as that goes.

    "We'd like to be able to redshirt those guys, but we have to see how the health of those other two guys will be."

    Stroud is in his second season at NC State as defensive line coach after serving as strength and conditioning coach for four years. He played nose guard under Chuck Amato at Florida State and knows what he's looking for when recruiting defensive tackles.

    "Speed is the most important element we are looking for," he said. "They come in all different shapes and sizes, but speed is probably the most important element.

    "Also it's about productivity... can they make plays and do they have a nose for the ball? It's no different then looking for a linebacker or someone else."

    Without a single senior on the roster at defensive tackle, the future is bright at a position that is critical to the success of any defense.

    "We are going to be able to stack ourselves up and be pretty deep along the line."

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