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'Pack stands pat with NCAA-best D

Where did college football’s number one defense spend the 2004 postseason?

Not Pasadena. Nor New Orleans.

The members of N.C. State’s top-ranked defensive unit presumably spent their time like the rest of us—watching the bowl games on television. And, unless the Wolfpack find a way to jump start their sputtering offense, it might experience the same disappointment in 2005.

Last year, N.C. State limited its opponents to an average of just 19.8 points per game, but the team only managed a 5-6 record, which was partially a result of its 32 turnovers.

Despite N.C. State’s offense woes in 2004, the team has made only a few changes to its 2005 lineup. Instead, sixth-year head coach Chuck Amato seems content to rely on increased experience to move the team forward.

“I’ve been so impressed with the leadership our seniors have shown,” Amato said. “It’s their team and they have to play the best football of their careers for us to have a good football team. The effort has been unparalleled.”

The biggest change for the Wolfpack offense comes at the tailback position where Darrell Blackman will replace last season’s leading rusher T. A. McLendon, who departed for the NFL after three years in Raleigh. At 5-foot-10 and 209 pounds, Blackman is slightly smaller than McLendon but his 4.4 second forty-yard dash time gives him enough extra speed to get outside.

Senior Jay Davis, who was given the difficult assignment of replacing the NCAA’s all-time second leading passer Philip Rivers, struggled under center a year ago, throwing 15 interceptions and just 12 touchdowns. But Davis’ favorite target from 2004, senior tight end T.J. Williams—who caught 31 passes for 382 yards—is back, and a healthy offensive line should give Davis more time to deliver the ball.

Wide receiver Richard Washington, the team’s second-leading pass catcher, graduated, leaving Davis with few downfield options and forcing even more of the offense through Williams.

Despite the team’s weaknesses at various offensive skill positions, the unit has maintained a positive attitude throughout the preseason.

“As a whole, the offense has improved tremendously,” Williams said.

Defensively, N.C. State may struggle early, having lost its entire starting secondary, but a stout defensive line, which returns all four starters, should make up for some of the Wolfpack’s inexperience. Defensive ends Mario Williams and Manny Lawson, have the size and athletic ability to keep N.C. State’s defense among the nation’s best.


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