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November 7, 2013

Freshman Jack Tocho learning on job

Jack Tocho is learning something new each and every game he plays, which should pay off for NC State's secondary in the future.

Tocho has started the last three games for the Wolfpack, who reshuffled the secondary after fifth-year senior free safety Jarvis Byrd suffered a season-ending knee injury against Wake Forest on Oct. 5. Senior cornerback Dontae Johnson moved to safety, his position his first two years in Raleigh, freeing up a spot for Tocho.

Tocho simply said the lesson gleaned in the 27-19 loss to North Carolina last Saturday was to avoid peeping into the backfield. The Tar Heels ran a trick play with a backward pass to freshman wide receiver Ryan Switzer, who connected with sophomore wide receiver Quinshad Davis on a 59-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 21-16 in the second quarter.

"I definitely learned I have to keep my eyes on my man," Tocho said. "I can't get sucked into the backfield. That fake just really haunted me for the rest of the weekend. I'd watch other games and see DBs get beat, and that play just came back to my head. It is a rookie mistake."

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Tocho had heard some pregame banter that UNC was going to target him. He ended up with two tackles in 81 snaps, plus some invaluable lessons.

"It was humbling that they wanted to pick on me but frustrating when they made plays on me at same time," Tocho said. "They [Davis' first of two scores] caught that touchdown in the end zone, and that frustrated me because I knew they were targeting me. Then they ran the fake."

Tocho's first start began with a splash. He snared a pair of impressive interceptions against Syracuse, but then he had to miss the second half due to a shoulder injury. He returned following the bye week to go against some of the best wide receivers in the nation in the 49-17 loss at Florida State.

Tocho has 14 tackles, three passes broken up and his two interceptions in 254 snaps this season. Being a factor in run support is another important duty for NCSU cornerbacks, especially against mobile quarterbacks.

"Depending on the coverage, you are supposed to be the last man back, but if you feel like the quarterback breaks loose, you want to come down and help your team," Tocho said. "He can also pull back and throw it, so it's hard to stay disciplined.

"Our coaches call it 'Getting tossed out of of the club,' and I'm not going to let a wide receiver just drive me out of the field."

NC State plays at Duke at 4 p.m. Saturday, which will mean a heavy does of junior wide receiver Jamison Crowder and sophomore wideout Max McCaffrey. Crowder has 60 catches for 769 yards and three touchdowns, while McCaffrey has chipped in 18 receptions for 187 and three scores. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Juston Burris will likely be concentrating on Crowder, and Tocho on McCaffrey in the NCSU zone scheme.

The Blue Devils threw four interceptions in their last game, a 13-10 win at Virginia Tech on Oct. 26.

"I've been watching a lot of film," Tocho said. "McCaffrey mainly runs curls and is on the wide side mainly. He'll do some stop and go's.

"They have scored a lot of touchdown in some of their games and their record is 6-2. I have to be on my game. As I realized last week, you make two mistakes, and those can be two touchdowns."

Tocho was recruited by Duke out of Charlotte Independence High, but never offered. He competed at Duke's elite camp in June 2012, and then NC State's the next day. He had his Wolfpack offer by the following Monday, and the rest is history.

"I went to Duke's camp and they told my coach that if I ran a 4.4 [in the 40-yard dash], they'd offer me," Tocho said. "I went to the combine and ran a 4.3 twice, and I didn't get an offer.

"NC State kept their promise. I went to their camp, and they said they'd offer me if I did well, and they did offer me."

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