Back Make Way for the Wolfpack

Back To ACC

Make Way for the Wolfpack

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin.  Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page

North Carolina State is embracing all challenges, even being in the same division as some of the biggest names in the game.

We just want to be that team that you don't want to play because you know we're going to hit you hard in the mouth.
~Bradley Chubb

It's natural to look in the ACC Atlantic Division and see defending national champion Clemson, 2013 national champion Florida State and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville. When considering the contenders, make room for North Carolina State. The Wolfpack won at rival North Carolina and cruised past Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl to finish last season and were a trendy team at the ACC Kickoff on Thursday.

Literally and figuratively, there will be no nudging the Wolfpack out of the way. A big reason for optimism at NC State is a front wave that will quite clearly be among the nation's best. All six starters along the defensive line and at linebacker return from a year ago, most notably All-American candidate Bradley Chubb at defensive end. The Wolfpack, who faced Dalvin Cook and Lamar Jackson, ranked eighth nationally in rush defense last season, standing just one yard away from slotting in the top three amongst power five teams.

Chubb, fresh off ten sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss, leads a competitive and, more importantly, close front four.  

"Those guys are like my brothers," he explained, "and I feel like that brotherhood that we have with each other, it helps us to rely on one another because we don't want to let somebody down. Because if I let Justin down, if I let B.J. down, I've known Justin since I was in eighth grade, and if I let him down, I know it's going to hurt me more than it hurts anybody else. I feel like that's what makes us so good. We just love each other so much and we care about each other so much that whatever we do, we're just trying to do it for one another."

The defensive line is ready to set the tone for an NC State team that plays with a love for each other and a love for the game. A year older and wise, the Wolfpack are poised to take the field with more conviction this fall, a confidence that could very well result in more wins. There is notable experience at quarterback, along the offensive line and at nearly every position defensively. The Wolfpack return eight starters on both sides of the football.

Led by powerful players at the point attack, veterans like Chubb and all-conference guard Tony Adams, this season will have a specific theme.    

"We just want to be that team that you don't want to play because you know we're going to hit you hard in the mouth," Chubb continued. We're going to try to; the offense is going to run the ball down your throat. They're going to pass it over your head. We just want to be that team that you don't want to play because you know we're going to play as hard as we possibly can, and you're going to get the best from us every week."

A year ago, NC State was close; the Wolfpack, with a chance to win at the end of regulation, fell at Clemson in overtime and lost to Florida State by four points. Now with validation, NC State is ready for victory. The talented Wolfpack are embracing all challenges, even being in the same division as some of the biggest names in the game. NC State isn't going to back down from any opponent and, after showing they could play with college football's best this past fall, is anxious to finish. 

As hype around his program builds, head coach Dave Doeren is working to make sure his players take it all in stride, aware of and aspiring towards the big picture.   

"You want expectations, and you have to earn them. That's the one thing I told our guys, be proud of people talking nicely about you, but also understand that changes quickly when you don't live up to those things. And so the bottom line for me and our program is we don't look at where you want us to end up. We all want to be champions in college football," he nodded. "There isn't a coach that won't tell you that."

All eyes are on the ACC Atlantic this summer, and for good reason. The Wolfpack deserve a spot on that big stage.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Matt Osborne and Kevin Thomas on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and is the sports director for multiple ESPN Radio affiliates based throughout southeast Georgia. @BJBennettSports