NC State redshirt junior Rickey Dowdy has patiently waited for his opportunity the last three years.
Dowdy is in contention for a starting position at strongside linebacker in light of NC State losing Terrell Manning a year early to the NFL, and junior D.J. Green, who was banned for a year by the NCAA after testing positive for a banned substance. Green started seven games last year before getting injured.
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Dowdy has played one snap the last two years at linebacker — he redshirted his freshman year in 2009 — but he knows the window to make a move is now.
"I think I have a very good opportunity," Dowdy said. "We have nobody back at the positions, so they are all open. I feel like if I can come out here, execute the defense, play hard and play physical, I have a good opportunity of playing in the fall."
Dowdy was a Rivals.com three-star prospect and No. 32 overall outside linebacker in the country at High Point (N.C.) Central High. He finished his senior year with 105 tackles, 17 sacks and two interceptions, plus added another 13 sacks his junior campaign. NC State was the first school to offer Dowdy, and he committed about a week and a half later March 15, 2008.
"I feel I've gotten a lot stronger since high school," Dowdy said. "My technique has gotten a lot better. I've matured a lot and I don't sit around and pout. I'm coming out here to play and my time will come."
Dowdy's prowess at rushing the passer led to a switch to defensive end, but with the attrition of Manning, Green and former Syracuse transfer E.J. Carter, the Wolfpack eventually moved him back to outside linebacker.
"Wherever they need to play on defense, that is where they need me to help the team," Dowdy said. "I feel like whenever I'm in a pass-rushing set, I'm bigger and faster than some other guys. I figure it would be kind of hard for a running back to block my size and speed. I'm a good blitzer."
Dowdy hopes the lessons absorbed by watching the likes of Nate Irving, Audie Cole and Manning, will pay off next season.
"I've learned how to become a better blitzer," Dowdy said. "All of those guys were good blitzers and knew how to take on lineman."
All three players listed at strongside linebacker on the NC State organizational chart have played different positions in the past. Second-string Rodman Noel played strong safety a year ago, and Mike Rose was at defensive end.
NC State welcomes junior college transfer Robert Caldwell of Twentynine Palms, Calif., for fall camp in August. Caldwell recorded 41 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss last year at the College of the Desert Junior College, and will join Dowdy and sophomores Brandon Pittman and Michael Peek at outside linebacker.
NC State opens the 2012 season against Tennessee at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Dowdy hopes to contribute, but also understands what linebackers coach Jon Tenuta wants him to work on during the offseason.
"I just have to work on my technique more and staying physical," Dowdy said. "I need to play a little faster. I need to be able to step with the right foot and play with my hands more. I can't lead with my shoulder.
"I know I just have to come out and play hard, limit my mistakes and tackle."