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September 26, 2013

Jarvis Byrd leading improved defense



NC State free safety Jarvis Byrd continues to improve in his new role and first year as a full-time player.

The fifth-year senior has started the first three games and has played two more snaps (215) than he had tallied going into the season (213). Byrd hasn't had an easy go of it during his Wolfpack career with a pair of knee injuries, with the first one occurring late in his freshman year against North Carolina, which knocked him out for the 2010 season, and then he had another in summer workouts in 2011.

Byrd has managed to get 14 tackles, half a tackle for loss and one pass broken up this season. The Wolfpack defense exceeded expectations in holding Clemson to 26 points. The Tigers won 26-14, but it was a battle until the end (no pun intended).

"I thought we had a pretty good performance as a defensive unit, but we let some plays get away from us that we wish we could have back," Byrd said. "We don't regret the performance. They played a good game and came out with the victory."

Byrd and Clemson sophomore left tackle Isaiah Battle ended up going semi-viral (78,500-plus views) when ESPN posted their skirmish with 1:33 left in the game on You Tube.

Battle lost his poise and punched Byrd, resulting in a suspension for Saturday's game against Wake Forest. Byrd said he didn't get directly hit and joked that it looked worse than it actually was.

"He called back and apologized to me that Friday," Byrd said. "He was mad about something and just took it out on me. That's not in the game of football. I came back and played the next play."

NC State hosts Central Michigan in the third of four non-conference games at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday. Byrd said the defense has been continually getting better during the young season. For instance, Richmond passed for 300 yards, and Clemson star senior quarterback Tajh Boyd was held to 244, but he did have three touchdown passes.

"The thing about Clemson is that they are the No. 3 team in the nation, so with Clemson coming in to your home at Carter-Finley, you are going to get up to play a team like," Byrd said. "You want to show you can play on the same level against a Clemson or Florida State. We had more of a positive attitude and just ready to go against those guys compared to Richmond and LA Tech."

Byrd had four tackles against Clemson, while senior cornerback Dontae Johnson and redshirt sophomore safety Hakim Jones combined for 21 tackles. Becoming sure tacklers was a point of emphasis in the secondary.

"Our tackling was better and we've improved as the season went along," Byrd said. "We are a very tough team, but have to get more disciplined as a unit. You can see that on film."

Junior wide receiver Titus Davis is the standout of the Central Michigan offense. Byrd watched the 2011 matchup against the Chippewas while rehabbing. NC State won 38-24, but CMU led 17-14 with 9:59 left in the second quarter.

Davis caught 43 passes for 860 yards and eight touchdowns during his sophomore season, and has 21 receptions for 404 yards and three scores in four games this season. Davis had a 50-yard grab his freshman year vs. the Wolfpack.

"He's a pretty good player but we will do our best to try and take him out of the game," Byrd said. "He's a great player, but he'll have his hands full."

Byrd grew up learning football from legendary NFL Hall of Fame outside linebacker Rickey Jackson, who was a star for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers (1981-1995). Jackson, who is Bryd's uncle, is also from Pahokee, Fla.

"I get advice from him all the time," Byrd said. "He is always watching my games."

Bryd is related to another former Pahokee standout and former NFL player. Star Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith played with the Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions (2009-2012), and is Byrd's cousins. Smith is back in Winston-Salem, N.C., but is always a phone call away from giving a tip.

"Coming out of high school, we would always talk," Byrd said. "We still talk on certain occasions. When I need advice, I always call on him or DaJuan Morgan, the former NC State player [at safety]."


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