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March 31, 2011The position in transition on defense is linebacker. Although the Pack returns a pair of starters from the 2010 roster, only redshirt junior Terrell Manning is an incumbent at his position.
Manning lines up at weakside linebacker. Last year Nate Irving was patrolling the middle next to Manning. This year it could very well be fifth-year senior Audie Cole.
Cole started last year at strongside linebacker for the second straight season. He had 97 tackles last fall, but this spring he is sliding inside to try the middle out.
"He's a good fit because he's our best player," Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien said after Tuesday's practice. "He's our most experienced guy. He will make strides the longer he's in there.
"He's always been on the perimeter. It's a little different from last year, when Nate, who always had been the box player, had just moved over a gap. Everything is different for him right now but he's smart enough to figure it out and a good enough athlete that the more reps he gets, the better he'll be."
Getting the first shot to replace Cole at strongside linebacker is sophomore D.J. Green, who played safety in 2010 during his rookie campaign.
"He played a little bit of nickel back, which is the same thing, same position," O'Brien noted. "There's not as much learning curve, other than he's a young, inexperienced guy that's got to get in the games and get reps and do things like that.
"He's got enough ability. He'll see things out there. He has enough time to see them and react. Hopefully, he's working hard, just like everybody else is, and is starting to get a little better. The more he understands, the faster he will play."
NC State returns a pair of valuable cornerbacks to the team in redshirt sophomores Jarvis Byrd and Rashard Smith. The two started at times as true freshmen in 2009 but missed last season with knee injuries.
"I think [Smith] and Jarvis both have come back thinking they should be the starting cornerback," O'Brien noted. "That's helped. We've created competition. Competition is good. Guys are fighting for jobs, and they're hungry right now. They want to be part of the football team. It's tough to sit out a year and watch, especially when you're having success."
So are they showing signs of getting their starting jobs back? Not yet, according to O'Brien.
"They both had some pretty severe injuries," O'Brien said. "We're kind of watching both of them. We don't want to overstress them and have them get set back injury-wise. The most important thing is to get them through the 15 days of spring."
Naturally the center of attention this spring is redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon. O'Brien is pleased with Glennon's performance thus far.
"He's been fine," O'Brien said. "I don't see any problem with him at all. He still can make all the throws. He's got a good command of the offense. He understands what we're trying to do.
"The thing he's got to do is, the receivers have to get on the same page with him. That's where things are lacking in the passing game. It isn't the quarterback, it's the receivers."
Saturday is scheduled to be the first of three scrimmages this spring. The Pack will have a scrimmage April 9 and the spring game April 16.