There are high expectations, and then there are the expectations for NC State's secondary. That's to be expected after the unit helped the Pack lead the nation in picks in 2011 with 27, a school record that was also the second best mark in ACC history.
Twenty-two of those picks came from a secondary that returns all four starters and a reserve good enough to start for most teams.
Fifth-year senior safety Earl Wolff led the unit with 113 tackles and had three of those interceptions last year. He is being touted as an all-conference contender.
Wolff may have some added extra responsibility this fall. While the secondary is a strength, the linebackers are a major question mark. Wolff said that has led him and his fellow starting safety, senior Brandan Bishop, to put extra time into the film room.
"We'll probably be up closer to the line than we were last year, helping those young linebackers out a little more," Wolff noted. "We know how it was when we were a freshman. We know the play, but when it came to the game sometimes we forget to the game. We took the initiative to go out and study the linebackers some more."
That does not mean that Wolff lack confidence in the linebackers, and he feels that a strong defensive line will help out as well.
One area that Wolff does not worry about is the secondary, which he feels will prove to be among the best in the country.
"Not just the ACC but the nation, just with the experience we have back there, the playmakers, the athleticism, just all around I feel like we can be the best in the nation," Wolff stated.
"We have a lot of playmakers back there, me, Dave [Amerson], Brandan Bishop, C.J. Wilson, Dontae Johnson, he's a great player. A lot of people, I'm not going to say overlook him because I'm sure everybody knows he's a great player, but he's going to be great."
- You can count Wolff as among those who genuinely believes NC State can be a conference contender in 2012.
"I feel like we are going to be great," he said. "Every team on our schedule is beatable.
"We have very high expectations. We feel like we can compete against any team we have to play against."
- The secondary can expect an early challenge from Tennessee, which boasts a talented receiving corps and a potential future pro at quarterback in Tyler Bray. Wolff said that he relishes the early test.
"It's a great opportunity," Wolff noted. "It'd be huge to come out with a win. I love competing. I'd rather go up against the best receiver in the nation than go up against anybody else."
- When Wolff was asked who would be the leader of the linebacker corps, he did not hesitate on his answer:
"Sterling Lucas for sure, he's always been a leader, even when last year he didn't play he was a leader."
- Wolff said that it was easy to notice early that Amerson, who set an ACC record with 13 interceptions last season, had some swagger when he came to NC State. It's another trait though that Wolff believes helps Amerson stand out.
"Dave's instincts," he said. "We do one-on-ones a lot. Just watching him, he's very instinctive. He's very competitive. He kind of came in with that swagger [that] I am going to come in making plays."
Wolff joked though a few of Amerson's interceptions at the end of last season where picks that Wolff feels were coming his way.
- Finding ways to get Johnson on the field on defense is a top priority for the defense, and Wolff understands why.
"He can play outside linebacker, he can play corner, safety, he's very versatile," Wolff stated.