"I'm just trying to go into every practice with a positive attitude," Tyler said following yesterday's practice. "We want to be ACC champions. I want to try and lead my team as a whole, and it starts with the defensive line. I just want to get everybody to go hard every snap of the ball, pursue to the football, and do everything our coaches want us to do."
Checking in at 6-foot-2 and 297 pounds, Tyler stated he played at 288 pounds as a junior but is in better shape than he was at the same time last year. Tyler started the last six games of 2005 and all 11 games in 2004, and enters his senior season with high expectations.
"I think I'm in better shape than I was last year this time," he said. "This summer, me and a couple of my fellow defensive linemen ran four or five miles a day... being intense in the weightroom knowing that this is our year. Making it to the championship is our goal, and we've been striving towards that all summer long.
"I'm probably two pounds over [my playing weight]. I'll eat before I come to practice, eat good so I can have a lot of energy, and I lose it during practice."
Without question, Tyler and fellow starting tackle, junior Demario Pressley, are crucial to NC State's defensive attack. Both were vital contributors in the Wolfpack's late-season 2005 run, as star tackle John McCargo was sidelined with an injury. Tyler feels Pressley has improved and is poised for a big season.
"He's improved a lot," said Tyler. "He's a very quick individual, and he improved a lot on his hands. I think just having a nose for the football... his awareness, he improved on that a lot this year. He's getting to the football a lot quicker... making more plays."
The Wolfpack will need a couple of players to emerge behind Tyler and Pressley at the position, as last year's backup, Martrel Brown, has been moved to defensive end. A pair of redshirt freshmen have caught Tyler's attention.
"[There are] a couple of guys sticking out," said Tyler. "Teddy Larsen, I don't think he saw any action last year, but in the spring he improved a lot. Right now he's running with the ones so we're rotating him in a whole lot. He's dominating out there. It's a pleasure to go against Leroy Harris... every snap he's getting better because he's a dominant offensive guard, and the offensive line as a whole is getting real good.
|"We want to be ACC champions."|
What do Larsen and Cash bring to the table?
"They play with a lot of excitement," said Tyler. "They are excited to be on the field and have that opportunity to get out there and prove themselves. They didn't have an opportunity to shine last year, and they know they are going to play a big role on that defensive line. They go hard, as young guys, they go hard every snap, so that pushes me to go even harder knowing those guys are looking at me as a role model."
It appears like Larsen has emerged as the Wolfpack's third defensive tackle in the rotation, a key position because during Chuck Amato's tenure he has frequently his defensive linemen to keep them fresh throughout the contest.
"It's a rotation we have," Tyler stated. "Just like last year, me, Demario and John McCargo, we rotated a whole lot. We'd go five plays and another person goes in... just to give another person some rest so we can go hard every snap. Teddy's in the rotation right now."
It also helps the defensive tackles that they get to square off against Harris and mammoth sophomore right guard Curtis Crouch every day in practice. Crouch emerged as a starter late in his freshman season for the Wolfpack, and he is having a great fall camp, checking in 40 pounds lighter than he did in 2005. Tyler, who attended Fayetteville (NC) E.E. Smith High School with Crouch, feels that his long-time friend is realizing his potential.
"Curtis, he realized that he's a monster on the field," said Tyler. "Leroy Harris, he plays a major role in Curtis's attitude on and off the field. Leroy carries himself very well. He goes hard, and he tries to dominate every snap, and I think that leads off on to Curtis.
"I try to motivate Curtis as much as I can on the field. Going against him, we're running to the ball together, and I try to hit him as hard as I can after he hits me as hard as he can.
"He motivates me a lot, because he's the size of those guys that [are] already in the NFL. I like to tell myself that this is what I'll be going up against. I want to play like I'm already there... play above my level. I try to go hard against Curtis every snap."