August 19, 2011

Terrell Manning ready to help lead defense

Linebacker Terrell Manning can't wait to get the season underway. After his breakout campaign in 2010 and the departure of star defender Nate Irving, he will be counted on as one of the leaders of the defense, which he thinks could be the best in NC State's recent history.

However, if fans expect Manning to lead with his voice, they might be slightly disappointed. While there is no doubt that the redshirt junior is vocal enough to speak up if something needs to be said, the soft-spoken native of Laurinburg, N.C. prefers to let his play do his talking.

"I'm ready to get this thing underway and see what we can do," the hard-hitting, 6-foot-3, 224-pounder said. "I let all my actions do my talking and hopefully everybody else will follow suit.

"We're going on two years in a row with a good defense. Nate left and now we've got Audie [Cole] stepping into the middle. We haven't missed a beat yet so we'll see how we can keep it going, we're just trying to make more plays."

Manning admits that nobody could fill all of the voids that Irving, a team captain, left behind after being tabbed in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. However, he also said that no one person needs to fill all of those vacancies because the defense, with eight returning starters, is making it a team effort.

"Everybody on defense is kind of stepping up and trying to make up for the plays we aren't going to have with [Irving] no longer being there," he said. "He was obviously a great player but we have some great players on defense and hopefully we'll be able to make that transition."

Manning, who tallied 76 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2010; is greatly encouraged by all of the experienced defenders that surround him. Although he is sure to shine the spotlight on the defensive line all season, he was sure to let everyone at the team's Media Day on Saturday know how the big men make his job easier.

"It's real good [to play behind the defensive line], it's nice to be able to get to the gaps and not have those big boys [offensive line] on you," he said. "It helps you make a lot more plays. Anytime I go into an interview after making a 10-tackle or 20-tackle game, I'm going to give those boys credit because they do a great job of keeping [offensive linemen] off of me."

Manning made plenty of plays last season - he finished the year third on the team in tackles behind the line of scrimmage, tied for third in sacks and was fourth in total tackles. He also recorded five quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, forced a pair of fumbles, recovered two loose balls and intercepted one pass.

The weak side linebacker is also excited to work with converted safety D.J. Green at linebacker this fall. Green is expected to step into the starting role on the strong side, which coach Tom O'Brien likes to compare to a hybrid linebacker/safety position. Manning said Green's speed will serve him and the linebacking corps well in 2011.

"D.J. Green is definitely a fast player, he's one of the fastest linebackers we have," he said. "He's also experienced, he played a little bit as a freshman at the safety position so he knows and understands coverages, even better than we do at times. He knows what it takes to get the job done and that's why he's there [in a starting position]."

With all four starters and other experienced athletes returning to the secondary, Manning said the group is more than capable of replacing Green on the back line. When all of those factors are taken into account, the second-year starter thinks this year's defense will be the Pack's best during his time on campus.

"They're playing a lot better," Manning said of the defensive backs. "In the past, people said we had a lot of problems covering and now we don't really have that problem. We should be able to play fast and send a lot more linebacker blitzes with them being able to cover a lot more. We should have a great defense."

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