The Wolfpack defensive line is not lacking for preseason buzz in 2017. The accolades and hype around them has been building ever since defensive end Bradley Chubb announced he was returning to NC State for his senior season.
Chubb is a preseason All-American and was ranked as college football’s 14th-best overall player going into the 2017 campaign by Sports Illustrated. SportsOnEarth.com ranked him the No. 2 defensive end in the land and dubbed classmate Justin Jones the No. 20 defensive tackle, noting “either Jones or [senior B.J.] Hill could be listed here.”
Opposite of Chubb, Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman named senior end Kentavius Street the No. 3 workout “freak” nationally and called NC State's front “the best-kept secret in college football.”
Expert Phil Steele ranked the Pack line third in the country heading into the season, one of four ACC squads among his top five. At the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte Thursday, Chubb did not hesitate to say he thought that the group, flush with seniors, would be underrated at No. 3.
“We put in the hard work and to see that notice is definitely a positive,” he said. “The thing with that, though, is we’re trying not to be third. We’re pushing every week to be the best … to never be complacent, to keep working to be the best.
“I feel like we deserve it. As a competitor, I feel like we’re the best to touch the field, and I feel like anybody at these other schools would tell you the same thing, that they’re the best.”
But make no mistake, Chubb thinks his tight-knight crew is the best defensive line in the land, because the talent goes past the four starters.
“Our coach likes to say we have a starting eight, so the first two lines could start anywhere in the country, and I firmly believe that,” Chubb explained. “Every player is amazing, they’re putting in the work, and that’s why I’m confident about this season — because I know the work that we’re putting in. Guys like Darian [Roseboro, a junior], guys like [junior] Eurndraus Bryant, guys like [redshirt sophomore] Tyrone Riley, they’re good players — they’re just behind us, and I’d say we’re good players too.
“I feel like the guys around me just make things happen. I feel like we’re physical, we’re fast and we can do a lot of things.”
The "brotherhood" along the line was one of the main draws that brought Chubb back to Raleigh for his final year of eligibility. After totaling 22 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks — totals that ranked second and third for a single season in program history, respectively — he applied for feedback from the NFL Draft advisory board, but made what he deemed the right decision to come back for one more year in the red and white.
my brothas till the end.. pic.twitter.com/cxA9URvPjX
— Bradley Chubb (@ASTROCHUBB) July 9, 2017
"I’ve been putting in the hard work, the sweat and the tears with those guys,” he said. “Coming back for one more year with more experience and with more camaraderie [up front], I just knew this could be a special year and helped me decide to come back.
“There’s a lot of guys on this team — Justin Jones, Kentavius, B.J. — those guys push me to another level. I feel like another year with them would just bring out the potential in me that nobody has seen. Even though I had the numbers and all that, I just feel like I wasn’t my best and one more year in college would help me come out at my best.”
"The best part of [Chubb returning] for me was seeing how much those defensive linemen wanted to play together their senior year," head coach Dave Doeren added. "It’s a brotherhood that group has, and how much that meant for Bradley, Kentavius, B.J. and Justin.”
Chubb is being pushed by both his teammates and the rest of the ACC’s front-line stars. But as a group, he and his linemates are trying to live up to the NC State standard set by the last group that had a preseason (and eventual) All-American terrorizing quarterbacks off the edge and sporting No. 9.
The 2005 line was led by Mario Williams — the former No. 1 pick whose name adorns a patch on Chubb’s jersey as a school-honored number — but featured two others who went in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft: Manny Lawson and John McCargo. Future draft picks Demarcus “Tank” Tyler (third round, 2007) and DeMario Pressley (fifth round, 2008) also populated the stout front that led the Pack to a No. 8 finish in total defense (298.7 yards per game) and No. 12 in points allowed (17.7 per game). The team also ranked in the top 10 for both tackles for loss (second, 9.9 per game) and sacks (sixth, 3.5 per game).
“Coach Thunder [strength and conditioning coach Dantonio Burnette] was around that line a lot, and he tells us stories about them all the time,” Chubb said. “How hard they worked, how hard they practiced and how hard they played. Just to see that example that was set, we want to meet it or surpass it.
“I believe we have the same potential. The guys that play to the left and right of me are amazing — Justin, B.J. and Kentavius. They’re all great players and could all be in this spot I’m in right now.”
Despite the attention being received by Chubb and his cohorts up front, he's not hurting from motivation. There is no shortage of preseason hype and past greats to live up to, conference rivals to best and scouts to impress.
The challenges don't stop there.
“Coach McDonald, our receivers coach, we always talk junk to each other and he told me that all the things you did were last year, what are you going to do for me now?” Chubb relayed. “I’ve just been harping on that, and even though he was joking around when he said it, I took it very seriously and have been working to improve myself. I'm not thinking about last year, not thinking that I’ve made it or I’ve arrived; I'm just bettering myself every day.
“I know the guys next to me are doing the same thing and the guys behind me are doing the same thing. We’re all just bettering ourselves the best way we possibly can.”
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