With the Game 1 kickoff for the Chick-fil-A Classic doubleheader set for Friday night, August 31 at 7:30, both teams are hard at their fall camps this week. In about a week and a half, game week preparations will begin.
In article one, we outlined the offensive lines, running backs and quarterbacks. We still have the wideouts to do before completing the offense. In this edition, we will begin to go inside the defensive line numbers from 2011 and make common sense comparisons.
In 2012, the NC State line will be losing three players responsible for 20 starts last season. Coming back, they have three players who have at least eight starts each; plus Colorado transfer Forrest West, who had one start, 19 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2010.
The starters on this line are a bit more experienced, but the second group lacks in playing time. Overall, consider them a more experienced group than 2011—unless they have an injury to a starter early in the season.
The Wolfpack defensive coordinator is Mike Archer, who was a defensive position coach or coordinator at LSU—and Kentucky, Miami and Virginia—before a four-year stint as the Tiger's head coach (1987-1990).
Archer's No. 1 assistant is Jon Tenuta—another well-known, well-respected defensive coach—who has made the rounds with teams like Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and several others. Both of these coaches are known as being aggressive, with creative blitz schemes.
The NC State defense has four linemen. Their jobs are to fill lanes, take on and shed blockers and make tackles. They may utilize a variety of stunts, bull rush, slant over or under or occasionally drift back into short pass zone coverages on certain blitzes (zone blitz).
The aggressive nature of the Wolfpack defensive coaches is represented in the team's quarterback sack totals. In 2010, NC State totaled 42 sacks; in 2011, they had 38. By comparison, the Vols had 26 sacks in 2010 and 16 last year.
That's 80 total sacks vs. 42 for the Vols in the two year period. Still, only 10 were recorded by the Wolfpack line last year. Most likely these were gotten by good old overpowering bull rushes. Still, most of the sacks were made by linebackers or possibly safeties.
NC State recorded more quarterback sacks than any SEC team the past two years (LSU 73, Alabama 57).
Tennessee is returning four of their top six defensive linemen from last year, with four players who started at least four games each last season. However, they did lose two players who accounted for a total of 20 starts off of the 2011 team.
The addition of former Alabama-turned-JUCO lineman Darrington Sentimore gives the Vols their most experienced line in years.
The Tennessee defensive line allowed opponents to rush for an average of 163 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry last season. In comparison, the NC State line allowed an average of 131 yards per game rushing and 3.7 average yards per carry.
On the surface, you would think the NC State line is much better than their UT counterparts.
So, we dug a little deeper:
Against bowl quality teams, NC State averaged allowing opponents to rush for 156 yards per game and 4.0 per rush. Against bowl-quality opponents where the passing game was still a viable threat, UT averaged allowing opponents to rush for 132 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry.
When you compare apples to apples, the difference is significant. Thus...
Next up, inside the numbers on the linebacker units.