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August 23, 2013

Dave Huxtable: 'We're getting there'



Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable said that his unit started fall camp "a little bit slow," and that "we're not ready to play a game, yet." But that doesn't mean he has lost confidence that they'll be ready by the time NCSU kicks off against Louisiana Tech Aug. 31.

"We've been making progress," Huxtable said. "The guys have been working hard.

"We're getting there. We'll definitely be ready by gameday."

One unit that has been reshuffled a little is Huxtable's linebacker corps. An injury to junior Brandon Pittman caused Pittman to miss camp time. To compensate, projected middle linebacker starter M.J. Salahuddin moved to Pittman's weakside spot.

"We want to get our best three on the field," Huxtable noted. "When Pittman went down, M.J. is definitely one of those guys so we moved him to weakside, and Robert [Caldwell] and Zach [Gentry] have been playing so well inside. Moving M.J. over to WILL gives us some depth over there with Brandon and Drew Davis. D.J. Green and Rodman Noel, who I think has had a pretty good camp, at [strongside]."

Gentry and Caldwell are a pair of fifth-year seniors whose progress during camp has been a pleasant development for the defense.

"I think they've had a really, really good fall camp at the position," Huxtable said. "Those two guys are the leaders of the front seven and have done a real nice job.

"I'm looking for them to be able to split some time together and give us good play in the middle."

Up front, Huxtable noted over the summer that he thought the defensive line could be a strength for the defense. He said that they have held up their end during fall camp.

"Coach [Ryan] Nielsen is a tremendous coach with the details of the fundamentals and techniques, and I think they've really embraced that," Huxtable added. "They've come out and have given us a good day's work."

In the secondary, Huxtable is hopeful that some freshmen will be able to provide some depth. Depth is critical early in the season because both Louisiana Tech and Clemson, State's third opponent of the season, are capable of running 100 plays a game with their respective backgrounds in the fast-paced, no huddle offense.

"That's going to be a key to the game for us," Huxtable noted. "We're facing that every day against our offense, so that's conditioning mentally and physically to prepare for that."

One defensive back that should serve as a good role model for the freshmen is senior corner Dontae Johnson.

"He has had a fabulous fall camp," Huxtable noted. "He is in a zone right now, just playing that position as well as it can be played from a fundamental technique standpoint and from a physical standpoint. He's just made plays every day in camp and has had a tremendous camp. We're looking for big things from Dontae.

"If you could have 10 other Dontaes out there, you'd have one heck of a defense."




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