Tulloch Emerging As One Of ACC's Best

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Scan the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive statistic leaders and it is safe to say you will find NC State linebacker Stephen Tulloch's name somewhere.

Through three games, the Miami, Florida native is currently first in the conference in tackles for loss (8.5), second in tackles per game (13.5), second in total tackles (40), and sixth in sacks (2.0).

His performance against North Carolina was superb, as Tulloch totaled 19 tackles, six tackles for loss and a sack in the Wolfpack's 31-24 loss to the Tar Heels.

"I feel like if I play more games like that I'll keep having games with 19 tackles or whatever," Stephen Tulloch told Pack Pride. "It's just the beginning, but all of that is just stats. We lost and that means more than any stat."

This year isn't the first chance Tulloch has had to make plays for the Wolfpack defense, but now he is no longer splitting snaps with former NC State standout Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay.

As a true freshman, Tulloch registered 65 tackles, five tackles for loss, two pass breakups, and six quarterback pressures in limited action. In just 246 plays, Tulloch recorded a tackle, QB pressure, or pass breakup on 30% of those plays.

His production increased as a sophomore, as Tulloch recorded 75 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five quarterback pressures, one sack, and a fumble recovery, sharing snaps at weakside linebacker with Aughtry-Lindsay while also battling a nagging shoulder injury.

Now fully healthy and one of the leaders at linebacker, the junior is getting a chance to play maximum reps and is making plays all over the field.

"I'm finally getting my opportunity to be a full-time starter," Tulloch said. "To be able to watch the film and just be in on every play has been big. There's nothing like being in there all the time and getting in that zone. It's harder to get into the zone when you're rotating."

Wolfpack head coach Chuck Amato knows that he has a special talent in Tulloch, a player he labeled a "playmaker" as soon as the 5-foot-10, 230-pounder arrived in Raleigh.

"Stephen is always around the ball," Amato said. "The only thing that ever gets Stephen in trouble is that he sees too much.

"Vision I think is one of the most important assets than any athlete can have. The more you can see the better the player you will be.

Magic Johnson came down and could give blind passes because he had great vision. Stephen sees so much... when he starts flowing to a play he sees so much. Sometimes that even gets him into a little bit of trouble, but he's had a good year coming off that operation. It doesn't surprise us."

Tulloch agrees with his head coach, as he also feels that his natural instincts and vision are his biggest strengths on the football field.

"I have a feel for what's going on, as far as what the offense is going to run," Tulloch said. "Sometimes I'll see a play or a reverse developing, and I'll just go with it. I see everything. My motto is to be in on every play. That's my mindset."

However, that can also get him in trouble. At linebacker, one step in the wrong direction can hinder any chance at making a tackle or sticking with an offensive player in coverage. Sometimes gambling isn't a good thing, and can lead to Tulloch being out of position, as evidenced by the tight end swing pass that North Carolina used successfully on a couple of occasions against the Wolfpack.

"With those two plays, the way they designed it, they picked me off," Tulloch said. "The receiver picked me on the inside to free release the tight end. It should have been a penalty, but wasn't called. I knew my assignment but with any hesitation you can get picked, blocked, or something like that."

Minor errors like these could lead to NC State simplifying the defensive approach against Georgia Tech and future opponents.

"It's just little things," Tulloch said. "We got rid of a lot of our defenses, and we're sticking to basics and doing what we do best... just bringing pressure.

"We have a lot of defenses and with constant subbing that can be a problem with people running into the game. We had a penalty with too many people on the field. We'll just stick with what we have, some basic stuff and mix in some blitzes, and we are going to be okay."

Despite the 1-2 record to start the season, Tulloch isn't ready to give up because eight games remain on the Wolfpack's schedule and the chance to play in a major bowl is still a possibility.

"There's a lot of football left to play," Tulloch said. "Yea, we're 0-2 in the ACC, but we're going to keep fighting. Coach said we haven't beat Georgia Tech since 1988 in Atlanta. Anything can happen and we're going to do whatever we can to get it done... we're still fighting."

Winning in Atlanta will be a tough task for the Wolfpack. The Yellow Jackets (3-1) once again feature one of the league's top defenses and have three offensive playmakers in quarterback Reggie Ball, tailback P.J. Daniels, and standout wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

"Tech's a good team," said Tulloch. "They have a good running back in P.J. Daniels. Reggie Ball is an athlete, a heckuva player, and Calvin Johnson, and the offensive line is a good line as well.

"We've just got to bring our 'A' game. We're watching film and analyzing everything. We've just got to have our mindset right on what to do based on what we see on film. We'll be okay."

2005 Atlantic Coast Conference Individual Statistics Through games 
as of Sep 26, 2005

TACKLES (All positions) Player Team Cl G Pos Solo Ast Total Avg/G Sack ---------------------------------------------------------------- 1. D'Qwell Jackson..... MD SR 4 LB 23 35 58 14.5 1.0 2. Stephen Tulloch..... ST JR 3 LB 12 28 40 13.3 2.0 3. Kai Parham.......... VA JR 3 LB 14 17 31 10.3 4.0 4. Anthony Waters...... CU JR 4 24 16 40 10.0 1.5 5. Brandon Meriweather. UM JR 3 20 9 29 9.7 0.0

SACKS Team Cl G Pos Solo Ast Yds Total Avg/G ---------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Kai Parham.......... VA JR 3 LB 4 0 25 4.0 1.33 2. Manny Lawson........ ST SR 3 DE 3 1 29 3.5 1.17 3. Eli Nichols......... DU JR 4 DE 3 0 16 3.0 0.75 Darryl Tapp......... VT SR 4 DE 3 0 14 3.0 0.75 5. Chris Ellis......... VT SO 4 DE 2 1 11 2.5 0.62 6. Stephen Tulloch...... ST JR 3 LB 2 0 7 2.0 0.67 Tommy Davis......... NC SR 3 DE 2 0 24 2.0 0.67 TACKLES FOR LOSS Team Cl G Pos Solo Ast Yds Total Avg/G ---------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Stephen Tulloch..... ST JR 3 LB 5 7 17 8.5 2.83 2. Anthony Waters...... CU JR 4 4 5 17 6.5 1.62 3. Kai Parham.......... VA JR 3 LB 5 2 29 6.0 2.00 4. Brandon Meriweather. UM JR 3 5 1 13 5.5 1.83 5. KaMichael Hall...... GT JR 4 5 0 33 5.0 1.25 Gerris Wilkinson.... GT SR 4 LB 4 2 19 5.0 1.25

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