In a year where there has been anything but continuity along the NC State defensive line, the latest first string has junior Brian Slay lining up at defensive end.
Slay played there against Central Michigan Oct. 8, logging 41 snaps but not recording a tackle. Slay himself had missed the Georgia Tech game a week before after spraining his ankle at Cincinnati Sept. 22. He had started the first four games of the season at defensive tackle.
State's defensive coaches though asked Slay if he would consider defensive end while they try to figure out an effective patchwork defensive line.
"I thought I could do it and got a few practices under my belt," Slay said. "Wherever they need me to play at, I'll be ready to play at."
Slay is sticking with defensive end for now, lining up this week with true freshman T.Y. McGill and fifth-year senior Markus Kuhn inside and redshirt sophomore Darryl Cato-Bishop at the opposite defensive end. That would be the fifth different starting combination in seven games for State due to injuries.
"It's just been frustrating because you never know who's going to play," Slay admitted. "With the way this season has been going you never know who's going to be out there. Regardless of who's there you got to go out there and play."
Playing at defensive end does have some advantages over being a defensive tackle for Slay however.
"It's different," Slay noted. "The speed of the game goes a lot of quicker. You just have to get used to being on the outside rather than the inside, but it's always fun playing a different position.
"I guess being in all that space because you have a lot more space to work with rather than being double-teamed and big 300-pound guards and centers trapping you every play."
There's really no escaping 300-pounders on Virginia's offensive line however. The Cavs average 306 pounds across its line, and the unit has helped UVA rush for an impressive 193.3 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry.
"They got a big offensive line, big physical guys," Slay stated. "They are going to come in and try to pound the football and control the line of scrimmage, and it's on us to not allow that to happen and control the line of scrimmage.
"You know what to expect. You know down and distance is going to tell you a lot, and you know they are going to try to pound the football all game."
Slay will have some added motivation to play well Saturday. He played high school football at Stone Bridge High in Ashburn, Va. He's been trying to get as many tickets as he can for Saturday's game, although he has been running into competition from fellow Virginia native Mike Glennon, a redshirt junior quarterback.
"You got to ask some of the players from the team that don't have family from the area," Slay noted. "You got to ask some of the Florida guys. I just recently asked [senior receiver] T.J. Graham, and he said he just gave his to Mike, so I got to get some from Mike."