'We Have To Make Plays'

The biggest news around the NC State football program has been the announcement that Marcus Stone will now be starting at quarterback.

However, the change doesn't seem to matter to right tackle Derek Morris, who says it is just as easy blocking for the redshirt sophomore Stone as it is for senior Jay Davis.

"It really doesn't matter to me," Morris told Pack Pride following practice. "I'm just out there blocking for the quarterbacks... it doesn't matter who it is. I like blocking for Jay, and I like blocking for Stone.

"I think Stone is more of a running quarterback though. I think having a quarterback who can run is a good thing because you can be blocking and the next thing you know your quarterback is down the field making plays. It slows the pass rushers down. It definitely helps the two tackles because it slows speed-rushing defensive ends down.

"It is also good to have a pocket quarterback like Jay. I like both, and it doesn't matter who it is. I won't change my blocking."

Morris received criticism early in the season for penalties that often setback the Wolfpack offense. He had collected five flags in losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina, but he has been flagged just twice in the last three games. Like Morris, the rest of the Wolfpack seems to be concentrating on limiting penalties, as NC State had only four penalties for 30 yards against Wake Forest.

"We had penalties at the beginning of the season, but everybody has penalties at the beginning of the season," Morris said. "You're ansy... excited about finally being able to hit people for the first time. It happens. Now I think our timing is on, and those are going away because we are in the flow you get in as the season continues."

A junior offensive tackle from North Mecklenburg High in Huntersville, North Carolina, Morris came to NC State with lofty expectations. Generally regarded as the top offensive line prospect in the class of 2002, Morris is in his third year as a starter at right tackle for the Wolfpack. How does he feel he has progressed?

"I feel everything is going as planned," he said. "I think I'm doing good. I feel like I want to be a better run blocker than I am, but I'm doing really well with pass blocking. I am just going to keep working hard at run blocking because I want to be a complete lineman. Overall, I have progressed a lot."

Although NC State appears to have eliminated the penalty problems, the Wolfpack must start getting better production out of the offensive line. The inability of the offensive line to create running lanes has forced NC State into passing situations while also limiting the carries of the Wolfpack's talented tailbacks. Morris feels the line will continue to gel.

"When people say we struggle... you see the quarterback get sacked but no one really knows if that is on the offensive line unless you see us get beat right off the bat," he said. "Granted, our line isn't as good as my freshman year when we had Jed Paulsen, Locklear, and those guys, but we're young and we're learning. I feel everything is coming together. Leroy [Harris] is our leader. [James] Newby is coming along at the other tackle, and we have some young guys who can play too.

"We have struggled a little bit, but we are in the middle of the season now, and I think it has got better since the first game."

This week NC State will face a tough, aggressive defense as Southern Mississippi comes to Raleigh for a nonconference game. The Eagles rank 83rd in total defense, a unit that is allowing 401 yards and 25 points a game.

However, Southern Mississippi's defense is based on creating havoc. The Eagles rank fifth in the nation in turnover margin, with the defense contributing 19 takeaways. Utilizing a defensive scheme that rotates between 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, Southern Miss will not only be a tough challenge for Stone at quarterback but also NC State's young offensive line.

"It's a weird defense... that was my first thought," Morris said. "They move around a lot, and at first I felt it would be confusing. I think we could do a lot of gap blocking. I'm not really worried about their defense. We have to make plays."

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