RALEIGH, N.C. — Kentavius Street knows what awaits for North Carolina State’s defensive line.
Stacked with experience and headlined by an NFL first-round prospect in Bradley Chubb, the Wolfpack’s front four could be the best symbol of the program’s steady maturation under fifth-year coach Dave Doeren. And so much of the defense’s success in 2017 will depend on how well that unit stuffs the run and hits quarterbacks in the backfield.
“I don’t think it’s so much a pressure,” Street said Sunday during the team’s preseason media day. “I would just say it’s we’re accepting our role now, because we’re not little pups anymore. We’re the big dogs on the team.
“We’re growing into that role, and with that role comes responsibility.”
N.C. State returns four senior starters on the line with Chubb and Street on the outside, and B.J. Hill and Justin Jones on the interior. It’s a group that has climbed the depth charts together in a program where Doeren emphasizes developing prospects over time into proven veterans.
The quartet probably captures that philosophy better than any part of the projected staring lineup. They’ve played a lot of games together, know how to play off one another and have a good idea exactly how their linemates will react in a pressure situation — starting Sept. 2 against South Carolina in Charlotte.
“It’s definitely a huge advantage,” Chubb said. “We’ve got that camaraderie with each other, and we know what makes each other go. We know when somebody’s not feeling it how to snap them back into that zone.”
The four started 12 of the Wolfpack’s 13 games together last season, serving as the front line of a run defense that finished eighth nationally at 108.6 yards per game. N.C. State tied a school record by holding five opponents to fewer than 70 yards rushing last season.
Chubb grabbed most of the attention, ranking tied for fourth in FBS with 22 tackles for loss and tied for 19th with 10.5 sacks. Street had 5.5 sacks, Jones had three sacks in his first year as a fulltime starter, and the 315-pound Hill has the most career starts (31) of anyone on the defense.
Perhaps more importantly, there’s some experienced depth, too. Junior end Darian Roseboro was second on the team with seven sacks as a top reserve, while junior tackle Eurndraus Bryant has played in 25 games through two seasons.
Doeren said the focus during preseason camp has been sorting through the depth chart with the top spots already settled.
“You can’t have four good players that are NFL quality guys and then nothing behind them,” Doeren said. “I don’t think we have nothing, but we’ve got to get those guys ready. . To know who six of them are right now, that’s a great place to be. We’ve just got to keep them healthy and keep developing their weaknesses.”
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