Kuhn: 'I Have to be Better and Nastier'

Markus Kuhn was one of the pleasant surprises on the Wolfpack's defense in 2007, as the sophomore played meaningful snaps during his true freshman season and was named a honorable mention freshman All-American by The Sporting News.

Markus Kuhn was one of the pleasant surprises on the Wolfpack's defense in 2007, as the sophomore played meaningful snaps during his true freshman season and was named a honorable mention freshman All-American by The Sporting News.

In 11 games, Kuhn totaled 33 tackles, five tackles for a loss, a sack, three quarterback pressures, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. He started the year working at defensive tackle but moved outside in the game against East Carolina and backed up senior Martrel Brown.

Kuhn is extremely athletic for his size and possesses good strength. He gives the Wolfpack a physical presence at end, particularly against run-oriented offenses, but because of his quickness he has flashed the ability to rush the passer.

"He's doing well," said Wolfpack defensive line coach Keith Willis. "Markus is one of those guys that you've got to rep a lot. Through that repetition he's going to keep getting better. We threw him in the mix early last year so we've got to get him right."

"I just want to get all the plays in and execute what they teach me," said Kuhn. "I'm not a rookie anymore. People look at me different now. I have to be better and nastier. I want to be better and I'm working hard everyday so I can keep my starting position right now."

"He's an incredible athlete."

Remember, Kuhn is still fairly new to the game of football. A native of Weinheim, Germany, Kuhn played outside linebacker for the Weinheim Longhorns in the German Football League. He was named to the league's All-Star team all four seasons he played and was also the league's rookie of the year. His final season, Kuhn led his team in tackles and was Weinheim's defensive MVP all four years.

Because he played mainly linebacker, Kuhn is still continue to progress at defensive end. The more experience he gains the better he will be... the upside is definitely there.

"It's good playing just defensive end now because I have one position to focus on," said Kuhn. "I don't have to make changes in my head depending on if I'm at tackle or end. Since I'm only at end now, it's easier for me to execute because I know what I'm supposed to do on every play."

Kuhn has also made strides in the weight room. Arriving at NC State as a 264-pound defensive tackle, Kuhn now packs 280 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, plenty of size to play strongside defensive end.

"I've been able to get up to 280 pounds and that's where I'm at right now," he stated. "I normally stay between 275 and 280. I think I'll be around 275 when the season starts. I like the weight I'm at right now."

In 2007, defensive coordinator Mike Archer and his assistants implemented a scheme different from the previous staff, and it took some time for the players to adjust. The Wolfpack struggled stopping the run, yielding 187 yards on the ground, ranking No. 91 nationally and last in the Atlantic Coast Conference. State fared much better defending the pass, yielding just 207.5 yards per game, finishing third in the ACC and No. 28 nationally in pass defense. Kuhn believes that this year's defense could be much more successful in both areas.

"The entire defense, the first and second unit, we're all doing a good job," he stated. "We work together really well. When we bring pressure up front, we help our defensive backs a lot, and filling our gaps help our linebackers with the run. Last year our run defense wasn't very good but we're much better at that now.

"With the changes we had up front like moving me to end and Antoine [Holmes] to defensive tackle, it will help us be a better football team."

A junior college All-American out of Lackawanna JC, Holmes rotated between defensive tackle and defensive end in 2007. He may have been, per snap, the Wolfpack's most productive defensive lineman last season. Holmes played in nine games, as he didn't play in the Virginia, Miami, and North Carolina games. In those nine contests, he played a total of 184 snaps. He tallied 20 tackles on the season, or one tackle every 9.2 snaps. Alan-Michael Cash recorded a tackle every 11.7 snaps and Demario Pressley did so every 12.3 plays. Holmes added 5.5 tackles for a loss, four quarterback pressures, three sacks, and a pass breakup, and with additional snaps in 2008 he should be even more productive.

"Antoine is one of the strongest guys on our team," said Kuhn. "He's an incredible athlete. He's extremely fast and extremely strong. We help each other out with the plays, and we're trying to contribute a lot up front. We know that if we communicate a lot and are on the same page, the defensive line can be really good."

"They play a lot."

This year's defensive line also appears to have added depth. Gone are seniors DeMario Pressley, Martrel Brown, and Littleton Wright, but NC State has added junior college transfers LeRoy Burgess and Shea McKeen along with Boston College transfer Kiki Willis. J.R. Sweezy, Jeff Rieskamp, and Wayne Crawford all redshirted as true freshmen, and the trio is expected to contribute. Sweezy and Rieskamp are in the mix at defensive end, and Kuhn speaks highly of them.

"J.R. [Sweezy] and [Jeff] Rieskamp are both in the rotation," said Kuhn. "They play a lot, and they do a good job. They redshirted so they went against the ones last year in practice. That helped them out a lot... practicing against the better line. They are both doing a really good job, and they'll have an impact for us this year."

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