But according to Grad Assistant Bobby Blick, this unit did not let their inexperience deter them from falling in line with the business-like attitude of the others on the scout team. In fact, Blick will tell you that the secondary was the strength of the entire defensive squad.
"These guys really got into the point system we used, and they took ownership of the whole thing," said Blick. "They were always looking at the totals to see who was leading, and it created a firm sense of competition among them."
Clearly, the most impressive defensive back in Blick's arsenal was true freshman safety Earl Wolff. Besides having one of the greatest last names of anyone to ever put on a Wolfpack uniform, this 6-foot, 190-pound dynamo made everyone take notice whenever he took the field. His anticipation of passing plays and his aggressiveness around the football earned him scout team player-of-the-week honors several times and solidified his status as a future star for the Wolfpack.
"Wolff is a guy that grew leaps and bounds over the course of the season," said Blick. "Incoming freshmen have a lot on their plate, adjusting to new surroundings and circumstances.
"But as Wolff began to feel more comfortable with our schedule and practice tempo, his confidence and ability really started to show quickly. He was always active on every play, and we relied upon him quite a bit as the season went on."
Indeed, Wolff's athletic ability and his ability to learn and read schemes quickly will put him squarely into the mix at safety, although he could play significant minutes on special teams and even earn some spot duty on offense. Where does Blick think he'll end up next season?
"I can't say for sure," he said, "but I know one thing – that kid will do anything and everything to get on the playing field."
While Wolff owned the strong safety position, another freshman – C.J. Wilson – took the reins at free safety. The move was a good one for the Lincolnton native, as he continuously proved he could match up well with receivers and make plays from almost any area on the field. He even demonstrated a rigorous work ethic in the weight room where no other defensive scout teamer (save Wolff) could match his output.
The 5-foot-11, 171-pounder will have an opportunity to break into the rotation at either safety or cornerback next season, but like Wolff, he is willing to do whatever it takes to play.
"Wilson made some serious strides in making the two-deep for next year," said Blick. "He takes his job and our team's success very seriously, and he has put forth the work in the weight room, which is why he will have an outstanding chance to see the field in 2009."
The cornerback positions were manned by another solid group of freshmen, headlined by Akeem Cunningham. The New Jersey native made several good plays when lined up against the first team offense, and the coaches saw a great deal of potential in his efforts.
Like most freshmen, Cunningham still has a lot to learn, but his speed will definitely make him a contributor down the line.
The other cornerback slot was split between Miami native Gary Grant and walk-on Jordan Monk from Pawtucket, RI. Grant's hip injury allowed Monk to receive a majority of the playing time throughout the season. However, coaches like Grant's technique and his ability to stay with the receiver, and many still believe he has the potential to be one of the program's best cornerbacks in quite some time. Were it not for his injury, Grant might have contributed in 2008.
However, if he can regain his speed and flexibility this offseason, he will have an outstanding chance to grab the spot vacated by graduating cornerback Jeremy Gray.