The NC State Wolfpack will be breaking in a new coach next season in Dave Doeren who will try and improve on the underwhelming 7-6 effort of the Wolfpack in 2012. While he works out the kinks on offense, including breaking in a new quarterback, he’ll likely have to lean on the experience of his defense and senior defensive back Dontae Johnson in particular.
NC State will lose three of its top four defensive backs from last season, including their top two tacklers in safeties Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop to graduation. Junior cornerback David Amerson is off to the NFL after declaring himself eligible, leaving Johnson as one of the few experienced members of the secondary next fall. In all, the Wolfpack will have to replace 283 tackles and 10 interceptions between the three departed defensive backs.
For his part, Johnson stepped up in a major way last season, finishing fifth on the team, logging 70 tackles, including six tackles for loss and a sack. He also added eight pass breakups and a forced fumble, but didn’t record a single interception. With five of the seven players who recorded an interception last season no longer on the team, NC State will need Johnson to add that to his game next season.
He’ll get plenty of opportunities to do so, as well. While he holds down one corner spot, sophomore Juston Burris will lock down the other side. After a stellar freshman season where he recorded 44 tackles, broke up six passes and had three interceptions. ACC quarterbacks may be wary to test him with another year of experience under his belt.
That means Johnson will get tested early and often. How well he holds up to the pressure of getting picked on the passing game will go a long way to determining how tough the Wolfpack’s defense can be in 2013. Is Johnson ready to step up into the spotlight?