NC State head coach Tom O'Brien prefers to have most freshman redshirt during their first year on campus, especially along the front lines. However, the Wolfpack did not have that luxury with rookie T.Y. McGill last season due to injuries, and the youngster appeared in every game.
The 6-foot-1, 300-pounder was the only member of the true freshman class to start a game during the 2011 campaign, and now he's ready to build on the experience he gained while playing 243 snaps last year.
"Playing as a true freshman, I learned a lot," he said. "It's a lot faster than high school. I took it pretty well, but it was a big adjustment. I just had to get used to the game speed, the bigger players and the bigger stadiums."
The native of Jesup, Ga. finished the season with 19 tackles, including one for a six-yard loss against Cincinnati. McGill averaged just under 20 snaps a game because the coaching staff likes to rotate their defensive linemen, but the experience gained will help the youngster in the years to come.
"In a game situation, rotating helps a lot because we know that the back-up can play as good as the starters, and everyone gets breaks," he said. "Those breaks help a lot in games.
"I feel like I'm developing and becoming a better player. I'm working on being a leader, but I'm still learning from the older guys above me."
Although McGill may still be learning, he is a favorite to claim one of the two vacated starting defensive tackle spots vacated by 2011 seniors J.R. Sweezy and Markus Kuhn. He opened the spring atop the organizational chart at one spot, but knows he still has work to do before locking up that role.
"I'm not necessarily on top of the depth chart," he said. "We just come out and I run with the ones, then we switch. There's no one really on top of the depth chart right now."
The underrated two-star recruit coming out of high school has not only improved as a player, he is steadily improving his physique under the tutelage of new strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond.
"I weigh 300, which is down from last year," he noted. "I was around 315 with a gut last year, but now I'm getting lean. Coach Edmond came in and he turned the whole work out program around 360 degrees. Everybody is feeling better about themselves and everybody is in better shape.
"I can notice a big difference on the field. And now I can look down and see my feet. At first, it wasn't like that, my stomach was in the way and I couldn't run like I wanted to. Now, I've got my speed back."
McGill flashed that speed while nearly chasing down tight end Asa Watson on his 74-yard reception in the annual Kay Yow Spring Game. He finished with a sack for a loss of five yards for the black team while going against the senior-laiden offensive front of the white squad.
"It helps a lot that those guys are veterans in the game and I'm still a freshman," he said. "They put the pressure on me, I try my best to put it back on them. That helps me become a better player.
"We're not complete, we've still got a little work to do, but we're going to be pretty good this season, I can tell you that right now."