The d-line was pretty good last year but it feels like it’s ready to pop this year. I realize these previews have been overwhelmingly optimistic, but if you were expecting me to rein that in when we got the defense, well I’m not sure what you want from me. Five of six on the two-deep return, and a number of those guys were just starting to approach their potential. With another full offseason under the belt and (hopefully) completely healthy, this group actually has a chance to get measurably better this year.

Cory Durden was the breakout player up front last year. He slid over to nose following C.J. Clark’s injury and ended up first-team All-ACC, a pretty incredible feat given it was Durden’s first year in the program and he was effectively a backup at the position. Durden definitely did not have to come back this year, but he has an opportunity to anchor something really special now that he did.

Where State has a chance to get better quickly is at both end spots. Savion Jackson is back to being healthy and is a guy a lot of people are expecting to really explode this year. Jackson really came on down the stretch last year before an injury in the FSU game ended his season early. He scored 14 of his 23 tackles in his final three games. Jackson should have a starting role locked up next to Durden and could be in for a big year, but he may not even be the highest potential guy over there.

The opposite end spot may see a bit of a position battle between C.J. Clark, who shifts out there following Durden’s emergence, and Davin Vann. Vann is a freak of an athlete. Here he is doing a backflip at 300 pounds.

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