August 12, 2010

Thurs. practice report: Wolff sees changes on D

Obviously the return of fifth-year senior linebacker Nate Irving from injury is a huge addition to the Wolfpack defense for the upcoming fall. However, safety Earl Wolff makes it sound like the biggest addition was a newcomer who won't even don pads when the season kicks off against Western Carolina on Sept. 4: linebackers coach Jon Tenuta.

Although Tenuta does not even coach Wolff's position, his impact is far-reaching on the defensive side of the ball.

"Tenuta is a great coach," Wolff, a 6-0 and 201-pounder from Raeford, N.C., said. "He knows all about the defense: from the defensive line to the linebackers to the secondary."

Last fall, Wolff started four games, weeks two through five, at the boundary safety position. The redshirt sophomore is the top returning tackler among defensive backs after finishing last season with 51 stops in eleven games. He led the Pack with ten tackles against a Pittsburgh team that entered Raleigh undefeated but left with their first blemish. While the Pack tied for a league-worst eight interceptions last year, Wolff thinks Tenuta and his infinity for pressuring the quarterback will help to change that.

"He loves to blitz and I believe, this year, we will probably blitz more, which will help take pressure off the secondary," he said. "There are more opportunities to get picks because the quarterback has to get the ball off faster; so I like it a lot more."

In addition to the arrival of Tenuta and return of Irving, Wolff knows that the young defensive backs are older and more experienced now. He sees a turnaround in the works for the ACC's ninth-ranked pass defense, which allowed an average of 222.2 passing yards per game last season. With the majority of defensive backs being in their second or third year on campus, Wolff said the youngsters are on the same page while becoming more of a team.

"[Chemistry] is real big for us because the majority of the time, we're always together," he said. "We're becoming more like a family and I think, this year, it will pay off.

"All of our cornerbacks have been doing great this year, it's ridiculous. If you come out here and watch practice, you can tell just how much experience they have."

In the first scrimmage, which took place on Monday, the defense played outstanding; allowing a total of only 208 yards. The pass defense gave up just 116 yards through the air, limiting the signal callers to 8-of-20 passing. The additional pressure that Wolff predicted Tenuta would help bring to Raleigh also proved true: the defense notched six sacks and eight total tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Although it was just the first scrimmage, Wolff is encouraged that those defensive changes will continue to make a positive impact this fall.

"The defensive backs did very well [in the scrimmage]," Wolff said. "You can see from the stats that there were no offensive touchdowns so we played well, we played smart."

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