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November 10, 2011
NC State's defensive line has been a rotating cast of characters this year due to injuries. Only defensive tackle Markus Kuhn has been able to start every game on the defensive front while five different combinations have started the Pack's nine games.
Star tackle J.R. Sweezy missed the first four games of the year with a fractured foot suffered in preseason camp. Defensive end Jeff Rieskamp was able to start the season-opener but was not been able to return to the field and is listed as out for the year. Defensive tackle Thomas Teal broke his foot in the season opener and missed seven games while both Brian Slay, who has logged time at end and tackle, and A.J. Ferguson were injured against Cincinnati and missed the next one and two games, respectively.
All of those injuries have paved the way for true freshman T.Y. McGill to see game action.
"Coming into the season, I mean I wanted to play - that was my dream - but with Sweezy and all the other players that have been here, I wasn't really expecting to," he said. "When they got injured, I knew I had to step up my game and take the torch.
"The season is going pretty good, we have had a few injuries and all that, but despite all of the injuries, we're still playing as a team, we come out every day and practice hard, and we play hard on Saturdays."
The 6-foot-1, 290-pound rookie from Jesup, Ga. has been the only member of the rookie class to earn a start this season at a non-special teams position when he earned the nod against Virginia. He enjoyed his best game of the year two games later against Cincinnati when he was in for a season-high 41 plays and logged four tackles, including one for loss. Through nine games, McGill has totaled 172 plays and 13 tackles, including one for a six-yard loss.
"When I first went out there, I just wanted to stay low, contain my gaps and try my best not to get blown off the ball," he remembered. "If I needed help, I had A.J. Ferguson on my side or whatever other tackle was in there to let me know which way to go."
McGill is feeling much more comfortable now than he was early in the season. The toughest adjustment for the big man was getting used to playing in front of a packed college stadium.
"The biggest adjustment was just adjusting to the atmosphere where you're playing in front of 70,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs," he said. "Especially when you don't know what's going on."
The first-year tackle has a much better understanding of what is going on now than he did when he was first thrown into the fire early this season. However, his playing time has dipped recently because the defensive line is finally getting healthy. Sweezy returned to the lineup in week five against Georgia Tech while Teal returned last weekend against North Carolina, which has significantly changed the inside rotation.
McGill noted that the defensive linemen feel they are getting stronger as a group with players returning to the lineup because they now have two full defensive lines in practice, which has not always been the case earlier in the year. The strengthened line helped pave the way to a 13-0 victory over the Tar Heels last weekend, in which the Pack allowed just three yards rushing.
"It was very good," he said of the line's performance against their archrivals. "This is my freshman year and we shut out North Carolina, there isn't a better feeling than that."
The defense helped pave the way to wins against North Carolina and Virginia this season; both offenses are similar to this week's opponent, Boston College, who relies on a power running game behind a massive offensive front.
"They've got a big offensive line but like Coach [Keith] Willis always tells us, if we play hard and stay low, no man up front can beat us in that battle," McGill said. "The goal for the rest of the season is to continue to play hard and get better every day."
N.C. State NEWS