The NC State defense was noticeably different when Terrell Manning was on the field this season. He was out with a knee injury for the Cincinnati and Georgia Tech contests while the Pack defense was torched for 44 and 45 points, respectively, in a pair of losses.
Despite the two missed games, Manning made a legitimate push for All-ACC first-team honors with the way he closed the season; he tallied 63 tackles, including 11 for loss, five sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, three quarterback pressures and a pass break-up in the seven games after he returned from surgery.
On the year, he tallied 83 tackles, including 14 for loss, 5.5 sacks, five quarterback pressures, three interceptions, three recovered fumbles, two forced fumbles and two pass break-ups. He tied for sixth in the ACC with three interceptions while he lead the league in forced fumbles (0.36 per game), fumble recoveries (0.27) and tackles for loss (1.32).
Injuries may be a little bit of a concern for Manning, who battled back from a knee injury suffered in the final game of his prep career and then suffered another knee injury this season early in the South Alabama game. However, the 6-3, 233-pounder missed just two full games following knee surgery this fall and returned to the field quicker than anyone, including coach Tom O'Brien, expected. In 2010, his first year as a full-time starter, he proved to be very durable and started all 13 contests; he emerged as a star defender that year despite playing in a crowded linebacking corps that also included fellow draft prospect Audie Cole and Denver Bronco Nate Irving, who was tabbed in the 2010 Draft's third round.
Although Manning is not as instinctive as his former teammate, Irving, he is still a dynamite play-maker with an outstanding nose for the ball. In just 36 career games (26 starts), the Laurinburg, N.C. native notched 207 tackles, including 27 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, five interceptions, five forced fumbles and five recovered fumbles. As his numbers indicate, he is a fierce, well-rounded and explosive defender. He even sometimes put his hand on the ground and played out of a defensive end position this fall for the Pack.
Manning probably fits best as a 4-3 outside linebacker and he lined up on the weakside during his collegiate career. He is able to drop back and has adequate coverage skills while he also shows good speed and pursuit. He can do it all - blitz, play the run, cover and bring the wood. It's safe to say that he plays bigger than his listed size and he should be a solid middle-round pick. If Manning runs well for scouts, it is thought that he could even work his way up into the third round.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. ranked Manning as the No. 4 junior outside linebacker in the land on Dec. 1 while NFLDraftScout.com sees the early entrant as the No. 12 outside linebacker and the No. 94 overall player in the Draft.
More in The Wolfpacker's NFL Draft prospects series: