In the aftermath of the news that NC State fifth-year senior defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy, an All-ACC candidate, will likely miss around half the season with a foot fracture, the focus turns to who will replace Sweezy.
The leading candidate could be junior Brian Slay, but Slay is not going to spill the beans on how the defensive line is configured in Sweezy's absence.
"That's not my place," Slay said.
Slay though is the most experienced option. He played in all 12 games last year, making one start, last season. Slay had 24 tackles, including one for a loss, in 2010. He added five quarterback hurries and recovered a fumble.
The former defensive end for Stone Bridge High in Ashburn, Va., admits he feels much more comfortable this preseason than years past.
"I'm used to everything," Slay stated. "I've played, so there is no excuse for me not to be out there making plays and knowing my assignments, stuff like that."
Slay has worked hard the past two years to shed the baby fat on his frame and replace it with muscle. He's also gotten over the aftershock of battling college linemen.
"It's a big adjustment from a line position from high school to college no matter what position you play," Slay said. "Going up against 300-pounders, grown men is a different feeling."
Slay played as a true freshman in 2009, getting action in 10 games and recording six tackles and an impressive eight quarterback hurries in just 115 plays. What he remembers most from that year however were the massive injury tolls on the team.
"My freshman year we were just injuries, injury after injury," Slay noted. "Now a lot of the guys, the guys who had to play then are now older veterans. We've been in the system, we buy into the system, and just having being a team together we just go out there and play together." That's partly why Slay is confident that he and the other defensive tackles on the roster can replace the loss of Sweezy until the Wolfpack's co-captain returns, likely in early-October.
"We want J.R. out there, but we feel like no matter what four guys are on the defensive line, the guys are still going to do their job, same thing with the defense," Slay noted. "If somebody goes down, somebody's going to ready to step up.
"He's going to be back. We're going to step our game up, replace J.R. as long as he's out, we're going to go out there and still make plays. Honestly I don't think it's going to be too much of a difference. Everybody's going to go out there and if everybody knows their assignments everybody is going to be ready."