ACC: Mario Williams
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
NC State is going to be a legitimate contender to win the Atlantic Division and it's not just because the Wolfpack has the best quarterback in the league in Russell Wilson.
It's also because the defense should be one of the deepest, most productive units the program has seen in recent years, starting up front with Shea McKeen, Alan-Michael Cash, Leroy Burgess and Willie Young.
"I think our strength of our defense will be our defensive line," defensive coordinator Mike Archer said. "Our first four guys ... it will be the best defensive line they've had here since Mario Williams and [John] McCargo. Those guys were No. 1 picks. I'm not saying they're as good as them, but they're comparable in the sense they've got talent and they really have gotten better and developed."
NC State is confident in its two-deep at both defensive line and at linebacker. The secondary is where some lingering competition will remain this summer, but there are plenty of options. The players are much more comfortable with the staff and the system now that it's Tom O'Brien's third season, and the familiarity, communication and trust has made a difference.
This spring, Archer said he's heard the players talking about something they haven't before -- playing in the ACC championship game.
"We feel like we have as good a chance as anybody," Archer said. "If you don't believe it and you don't dream it, it's never going to happen."
It's a significant transformation from mid-way through last fall, when Archer had to challenge his defense because it ranked last in the ACC in nearly every relevant statistical category.
"The last half of the season, during practice, I very seldom had to raise my voice, I very seldom got upset because they learned how to practice, they went about their business, they got their work done and they got off the field," Archer said. "... To me, that was the biggest thing they learned, how to prepare in practice and how to go out and play on Saturday."
The latter half of the season also showed how good NC State's defense could be when everyone is healthy. Linebacker Nate Irving missed three games, Cash missed three games, and safety Clem Johnson was also out for a few. It was no coincidence that when they returned, NC State started to win.
Despite the loss in the Papajohns.com Bowl, NC State ended the 2008 season with its best defensive performance of the year. At the time, Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel was on a hot streak, but the Pack was still able to get to him numerous times.
"I don't want to be overboard with the confidence," Archer said, "but I feel much better going into this season than I did the previous two."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There were a lot of responses from Wolfpack fans, and they seemed to agree on a select few names: Philip Rivers, Torry Holt, Ted Brown, Mario Williams and Roman Gabriel. As you know, that's one too many. The final debate was between Holt and Williams. Very tough call.
Here are a few comments from NC State faithful:
Michael in Charlotte wrote: Heather, for NC State's Mt. Rushmore how about these four? Philip Rivers, Torry Holt, Ted Brown and Mario Williams. Honorable mention for Lou Holtz, Bill Cowher and Roman Gabriel. GO PACK!!!
Jon in Raleigh wrote: Hey heather, if I could pick four iconic figures to represent Wolfpack football for this Mt. Rushmore project I would honestly have trouble deciding who would make the cut. However, when I think of wolfpack football I think of the "white shoes" defense in the 60's. I doubt that will make the cut so let's get to specific names. Ted Brown, Roman Gabriel, Phillip Rivers, and NC States first #1 overall draft pick "super" mario williams. You could also consider Jim Ritcher, Dick Christy, and Torry Holt to make the cut for honorable mention.
Michael in Lexington wrote: I think the Mt. Rushmore for NC State would have to be: Philip Rivers, Roman Gabriel, Torry Holt and Ted Brown
Mike, in Eden N.C. wrote: I think the Mt Rushmore of NC State Football should consist of; Roman Gabriel, Philip Rivers, Earle Edwards, and Jim Ritcher.
Patrick in Raleigh wrote: NC State Mount Rushmore 1) Philip Rivers (Shattered almost every ACC passing record, ACC athlete of the year in 2004, career Yards per pass attempt is best in college football history) 2) Roman Gabriel (Two-time all-american, first asian-american to start in NFL, held nearly evrery wolfpack passing record when he finished at state) 3) Torry Holt (Set ACC record for receptions, now broken, and yards; all-american) 4) Mario Williams (all-acc; SI.com all-american, first acc player to be chosen 1st overall in NFL draft) ...alright Heather I'll admit the case to put most of these on the All-ACC rushmore is weak but how can you argue against the greatest passer in the history of the league. He must be included. PHILIP FOR PREZ!!
The final verdict:
Philip Rivers -- Rivers, the 2003 ACC Player of the Year and a first-round NFL draft pick, started all 51 games at quarterback during his four years at NC State, an NCAA record. He finished his career as the second-leading passer in NCAA history with 13,494 career passing yards and 13,582 career yards of total offense. He finished tied for fifth in NCAA history with 95 career touchdown passes. During his senior season, Rivers led the nation with a 72.0 completion percentage and a 170.49 pass efficiency rating. He became the first quarterback in ACC history to throw for 3,000 yards in three different seasons.
Torry Holt -- Holt, an All-American wide receiver, set an ACC record with 3,379 career reception yards, and set Wolfpack career bests for receptions (191), touchdown receptions (31) and 100-yard receving games (14). His outstanding senior season led to him being named the ACC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, and he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff. His jersey was retired in 1999.
Roman Gabriel -- He began his college career as a 6-foot-4, 200-pound defensive back as well as the quarterback. He led the NCAA in completion percentage with a school-record .604 in 1959. Gabriel threw for a then-school record 2,961 career passing yards, including 19 touchdowns. Gabriel was named ACC Player of the Year in 1960 and 1961 and was an Academic All-American in 1960. Gabriel was a first-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Rams.
Ted Brown -- He is regarded by many as the greatest running back to ever play for NC State. At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Brown rushed for a school and ACC record 4,602 yards from 1975-78. He scored 51 touchdowns during his career, which still leads the ACC. Brown finished his career ranked fourth on the NCAA's all-time rushing chart, trailing only Tony Dorsett, Archie Griffin and Ed Marinaro. He was a first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings.
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