Top 5 Position Battles of Fall Practice

With the season opener against Virginia Tech just days away, NC State released the first official depth chart of the season on Thursday. Pack Pride takes a look at the top five position battles taking place during fall practice.

#1. Miguel Scott vs. J.J. Jones (FS)
Some may think it's surprising that Scott got the nod over Jones, a redshirt senior, but his upside and physical attributes are going to be tough to keep off the field. Limited physically, Jones is an experienced player who has a strong grasp of NC State's defense. Look for both players to receive plenty of playing time against the Hokies, and because of their versatility, they could be on the field together when rover Garland Heath needs a breather. As of now, it looks like the sophomore from Miami (FL) Killian High School has earned the start. His aggressive attitude and playmaking ability is a perfect fit for what NC State wants at safety.

Edge: Miguel Scott

#2. Darrell Blackman vs. Bobby Washington vs. Toney Baker vs. Reggie Davis vs. Andre Brown vs. Jamelle Eugene (RB)
When you look at this closely, it's really not that surprising. Blackman had a huge scrimmage last weekend, and he is NC State's most versatile back. Blackman can gain tough yardage between the tackles, is explosive in open space, and might have the best hands of any player on NC State's team. He is also a solid blocker and is familiar with the Wolfpack's new offensive system. Despite not being listed on the depth chart, expect freshmen Toney Baker and Andre Brown to get plenty of reps against the Hokies and throughout the season. The constant chatter suggests that Baker and Brown will be REALLY tough to keep off the field. In 2002, NC State brought another talented freshman tailback along slowly... by the end of the season T.A. McLendon had earned ACC Rookie of the Year and first-team All-ACC honors while helping lead the Wolfpack to the Gator Bowl.

Edge: Darrell Blackman

#3. Demario Pressley vs. DeMarcus Tyler (DT)
Entering the fall it was stated that Pressley was starting over Tyler, a junior who started all 11 games in 2004. Well, on the depth chart they are listed as co-starters, so Tyler may not be ready to hand over his position just yet. Wolfpack head coach Chuck Amato loves competition on the practice field and it doesn't get any more competitive at defensive tackle because both of these players would start for a lot of teams. Tyler is the physical run-stuffer while Pressley has the explosion and athleticism to wreak havoc in the backfield like the Wolfpack's star defensive tackle, John McCargo. Because of his upside, expect Pressley to take the field on Virginia Tech's opening drive, and with opposing offensive lines focusing on McCargo and the Wolfpack's super defensive ends, he could have a terrific season.

Edge: Demario Pressley

#4. Kalani Heppe vs. John McKeon (LG)
Heppe has come out of nowhere to work his way on the depth chart as the starting left guard. Listed as the third-string center in 2004, Heppe's work in the weightroom and on the practice field is paying off. Starting alongside former defensive linemen Leroy Harris and Dwayne Herndon, the 6-foot-3, 295-pound redshirt sophomore gives NC State one of the most athletic interior lines in the conference. All three players are strong, quick, and athletic given their size. McKeon, a two-year starter at right guard who has been moved to left guard after the emergence of Herndon, still has some time to beat out Heppe. Will he be able to do it? We'll see on September 4th.

Edge: Kalani Heppe

#5. James Martin vs. Willie Young (Reserve DE)
Probably the biggest surprise on NC State's depth chart was the moving of reserve middle linebacker James Martin back to defensive end. Martin, who missed the 2004 season after tearing his ACL in the offseason, played in all 13 games in 2003 as a true freshman at defensive end, registering 27 tackles, four tackles for loss, four quarterback pressures and a sack. When the Wolfpack lost reserve ends Raymond Brooks and Chip Cross for the season a few weeks ago, some fans wondered if Martin would end up back where he started his career and that seems to be the case as he's now listed as a backup right and left defensive end. He is competing with freshman Willie Young for the top reserve spot behind All-American Mario Williams, and it is going to be a nice battle. Young has plenty of upside and is a very instinctive player. Look for Young to emerge because he has worked at defensive end since the spring while Martin is just now getting back familiar with the position.

Edge: Willie Young


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