The most talked about walk-on (and rightfully so) was none other than Asante Cureton. Nicknamed "The Missile", this 5'11", 210-lb. bruiser produced shockwaves in nearly every practice, whether it was body-slamming one of the tailbacks or mixing it up with tight end Anthony Hill. You wouldn't know from meeting him because of his quiet demeanor, but his wide-open style of play and his knack for attacking the football with relentless attitude made him a favorite among coaches and teammates – and solidified his selection as the 2008 Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year.
"Cureton is the heart and soul of our scout team," said Blick. "He is the epitome of the phrase ‘walk softly and carry a big stick.' He brings it every practice, but there are days when he doesn't say a word, and I think he likes it that way. My father always used to say ‘watch out for the quiet kids, they tend to let their actions speak.' Well, Cureton's actions spoke loudly. Not once did I ever have to tell him to give more effort – his enthusiasm was contagious. We were a better scout team this year because Asante Cureton was a part of it, plain and simple."
It may be difficult to see where Cureton will end up playing next season. He played at nearly every linebacker position on the scout team last year, but most believe he is slated to be a special teams superstar. One thing is certain, though: he will see the field, and he'll make an impact (quite literally) wherever he plays.
As for the rest of the unit, the Mike position (middle linebacker) was manned by true junior Derrick White. The 6'1", 225-lb. White started the season with the offensive scout team at fullback, but later moved to linebacker to help solidify the group when injuries started to affect the depth chart. His experience was invaluable in bringing along the younger linebackers, even when he filled in as a stand-up defensive end.
Of course, if you ask Blick, he might tell you that the second best linebacker of the group was true freshman William Beasley. After sitting out the first several weeks due to injury, Beasley stepped onto the scout team and made a significant impact. Lining up at the Mike and Will (weakside linebacker) positions, Beasley showed glimpses of his vast potential as a playmaker in the same mold as current defensive star Nate Irving.
"Beasley could be the cream of the crop of that good young linebacking group coming up through the ranks," said Blick. "He's a young guy that shows flashes of what's to come. He can bring it on the blitz or he can drop into coverage and make some picks. He's a true playmaker."
When thinking about Beasley, one play in particular sticks out in Blick's mind. One day, during red zone drills against the first team offense, the quarterback dropped back to pass and threw it over the middle near Beasley's territory. Beasley proceeded to nonchalantly pick off the pass, tuck the ball under his arm, and stride down the field in what seemed like an almost effortless play. There's no doubt he'll be one to watch in the coming years.
Of course, Beasley wasn't the only linebacker of last year's freshman crop that played extensively on the scout team. Dwayne Maddox started with the first team after Irving went down with injury early in the season, but later returned to the scout team – and his arrival had an immediate effect. His outstanding play solidified the linebacker unit, and his leadership was key in keeping the group together and in synch on every play. Had he spent the entire season with the scout team, Maddox might have challenged Cureton for POY honors.
"We didn't get to see much of Manning early on, but we could all tell he has enormous potential," said Blick. "Even in the weight room, before he was cleared to play, he impressed everyone. I can't wait to see what he can really do on the field."
With playmakers like Cureton, Beasley, Maddox and Manning in the rotation, the linebackers could be the strength of the NC State defense for years to come. The entire unit from top to bottom really has Blick and the other coaches excited about the future.
"With as much blitzes as we do during the course of the week, the linebackers are arguably the most active unit of our scout team," said Blick. "We were tremendously blessed this year with an outstanding class. Throughout the year, guys like Maddox and Cureton helped establish our scout team, and it got even better later in the year once Manning was cleared for practice. These guys are going to be good."