The 2009 season was a tough one for NC State's defense to say the least. A lot of that however can be attributed not only to injuries but to youth in the secondary.
The safety position is a good example. For much of the season, the Pack was starting a pair of freshmen in Brandan Bishop and Earl Wolff. Bishop started eight contests and made 41 tackles, including one for a loss, and broke up a pair of passes.
Wolff started four times, and he finished the season with 51 tackles and a pass breakup. For Wolff, 2009 was a valuable experience.
"I learned a lot from playing in the game," Wolff said. "I became more of a team player. I look back on it, I made a couple of mistakes, but I learned from it.
"I believed I was ready to play. Towards the middle of the season, I kind of lost my confidence. I made a couple of mistakes. I learned from that, and right now I am just building on it."
Wolff admits that the lost confidence that resulted from his mistakes took its toll on him psychologically.
"As a freshman, it kind of messed my head up," Wolff acknowledged. "If you mess up, coach gets on you. I've learned though that when coach gets on you, he's just trying to help you out. He's not fussing on you. He means well. He's saying to just pick it up. Basically I am doing that now.
"I feel much more comfortable. Last year when I messed up I was down on myself. Now if I mess up, I just think about the next play, making the next play."
Wolff is already beginning to see signs this spring that he has matured some and advanced his knowledge of the defense.
"For example, last year when we were trying to learn the plays, coach would put up five plays, and it took it me a while to get it down in practice," Wolff said. "Now he puts up a play and I just come out here and it runs quick for me."
Wolff knows that how much of the defense he can absorb will go a long way into making the Pack defense stingier in 2010. Wolff said his No. 1 personal goal for next year is to simply "become more of a student of the game."
"I'm athletic enough, but my teammates need me to learn the defense more," he said. "So that's what I am working on right now."