NC State linebacker Payton Wilson wants to fly around in 2020
Before NC State football spring practices were canceled, Wolfpack redshirt sophomore linebacker Payton Wilson was fired up.
He had just ended the second day in pads, and as he met with reporters in the lobby of the Close-King Indoor Practice Facility, he had blood stains on his jersey, likely stemming from a cut on one of his fingers.
Wilson also had multiple, noticeable scratches on his arms, all reflective of the energy of the early spring practices.
“When we go one-on-one, everybody is trying to hit,” Wilson explained. “Everybody is trying to win their reps, competition. Some arguments going on out there, but it’s all just love.
“We’re just trying to make everybody better.”
The intensity has been ratcheted up after the sting of a 4-8 season a year ago that ended with six straight defeats.
“Me personally, I’ve had one of the best offseasons since I’ve been here, and the first four days [were] some of the best practices I’ve seen,” Wilson added. “I feel like not only me, but the whole team, cause obviously nobody wants to have a season like that.
“Everybody is just working to stay away from that.”
Things have changed for Wilson after he had a successful first season during which he led NC State in tackles (69), despite only starting one game and missed one contest with an injury.
Most notably he has a new coach. Dave Huxtable, who was formerly NC State’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, actually played a central role in recruiting Wilson to the Wolfpack. Huxtable was fired after the season and replaced by Tony Gibson.
Gibson was NC State’s co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach a year ago, and his familiarity with the linebackers eased the transition.
“Last year … right off the bat when [Gibson] came in, me and him hit it off,” Wilson noted. “So when the transition happened, nobody was real affected by it. Yeah, we were sad to see Coach Hux left, but it’s like next man up.”
Wilson added that all the linebackers miss Huxtable, and Wilson personally does not have anything bad to say about his former coach. However, Wilson is on a mission to not have another season like 2019. To that end, he has also stepped up his leadership role.
“Last year, I was kind of counting on people to tell me what to do and just knowing my job,” Wilson explained. “This year, I feel like I need to step up more, help other people, help the younger guys.
“Last year I was hesitant sometimes. This year I want to fly around.”