Finding the Swagger

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Confidence is big in athletics, and NC State sophomore cornerback C.J. Wilson believes the defensive secondary is much more confident going into the 2010 season.

"We definitely have a lot more confidence," said C.J. Wilson. "Not just the defensive backs, but I also think the whole defense. We're more of a team... the entire defense. We're more together.

"Over the summer we all worked together and bonded. Now we have more of a swagger and a confidence because we know if someone messes up another guy will be there to pick them up no matter what."

Wilson's steady play through fall camp has led to him locking up the starting job at field cornerback.

"C.J. has done well," said defensive backs coach Mike Reed. "For a guy that had never played the position before, he's actually becoming a student of the game. He's done well. I expect good things from C.J."

"I feel like I have more swagger," said Wilson. "I'm confident in myself and it's helped me perform. I don't feel like anyone can beat me deep, and I'm going to make that person across from me work as hard as he can to get the ball in his hands.

"I'm not trying to lead as much as make plays. I'm not going to say I look at myself as a leader... I'm just trying to make this defense better. It's about your focus. I'm not focused on leading... I'm focused on us improving this year."

Wilson played in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2009 and started four games as he totaled 23 tackles and a tackle for a loss. He knows the defense has the most question marks on the team as this weekend's opener approaches, and he believes his teammates are focused on improving in each phase of the game to erase those concerns.

"First of all we want to stop the run," he said. "Once we are able to stop the run, we can make the offense one-dimensional which will help us stop the pass. Those are some of our goals.

"We were looked at last year as the weaker part of the team, so we're working hard to change that perception. I know with all of the DBs, we worked together over the summer and put in a lot of hard work. I can definitely say we worked hard."

Another area that Wilson believes the defense needs to improve is on third down. The inability to get off the field was arguably State's biggest problem defensively in 2009 and it all starts with third-down defense. The Pack ranked No. 92 nationally in third down conversion defense, as opposing offenses converted 43% of the time.

"It's the money down," said Wilson. "That's when you make your money is on third down. We talk about that all the time, getting off the field. As defensive backs we've got to step up and make a play so there aren't any conversions on third down."

Pushing Wilson and the other starting defensive backs is a trio of true freshmen blessed with a lot of natural ability. David Amerson is backing up Wilson at field corner, and D.J. Green and Dontae Johnson are the reserves at safety.

"They have a lot of athletic ability," Wilson said of the freshmen. "They have some of the craziest athleticism I've seen. They are going to be some great players with our coaching staff and our veterans to teach them what they need to know."

Looking ahead and the future is bright for the Wolfpack secondary as just one scholarship upperclassman is on the roster. However, the future is now for C.J. Wilson.

"It's a positive to look at, but we're not looking to two years from now," he said. "We're focused on this first game. We don't think about how we're going to be good in the next few years because we believe we can be good right now. We have good pieces, and we're working with those to to be successful."

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