With preseason camp behind them, NC State's defense is now fully in game-week preparations, and defensive coordinator Mike Archer knows what area of the defense he will be following most closely over the next week.
"Our inexperience in the back end," Archer said. "I think our front four guys, I think we're going to be okay there. We got some guys that are going to play their first extended amount of time. You can prepare them, but until you put them out there and the lights on, T.V. cameras are on, you won't know."
Several position battles remain up for grab, including the weakside linebacker spot to replace the injured Nate Irving. Sophomore Dwayne Maddox and redshirt freshman Terrell Manning are battling for the job.
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"I think both Dwayne and Terrell have had a very competitive camp, and they're both going to play," Archer stated. "I think we're very fortunate to have two guys that we can kind of use and split the snaps and make sure we have fresh people in the game. Both have had their moments in camp. I think we'll be okay there."
Archer reiterated that he is comfortable with redshirt sophomore Audie Cole at the strongside linebacker spot.
"This'll be Audie's first start, but Audie's performed very well in the spring and performed very well in this camp," Archer said. "I expect him to do the same in the game."
The secondary is far from settled.
"All those are still up for grabs," Archer noted. "We may not make that decision until right before the game. The safety position is very competitive right now. Earl Wolff has had an outstanding camp. He's pushing Clem [Johnson], and at times he's been better than Clem. This is a competitive-based team and performance-based, and if you perform you deserve the opportunity to play. There may be some people out there that maybe people don't think would be out there, but based on our camp, we got to put people that have performed.
"At corner it's the same. We've got good competition going right now. Hopefully we'll be able to play four corners and keep guys fresh."
Several freshmen, including redshirts Gary Grant and C.J. Wilson and true freshmen Rashard Smith and Jarvis Byrd, will have to see the field at corner.
"They are freshmen," Archer said. "They are learning the nuances of college life and what's expected. I think the biggest thing has been speed and the tempo that we practice. I think our freshmen class, the guys that we got on defense, they're going to be good football players. How much they play? We'll just see as the season goes on. I know we are going to have to play some because it's a long game, and people get hurt."