Red & White Preview: Offensive, Defensive LineJuniors Alan-Michael Cash and Julian Williams discuss the defensive and offensive lines, respectively.
Editor’s note: Throughout the preseason, GoPack.com has presented a Q&A with one player from each position on offense and defense to talk about the personalities and players within that group. Today,in the final preview prior to Thursday’s season-opener at South Carolina, juniors Alan-Michael Cash and Julian Williams discuss the defensive and offensive lines, respectively.
RALEIGH, N.C. Alan-Michael Cash already knows the start of this season will be better than the start to last season, when he was told two days before the first game that his father, Byron, had died of cancer. It was an emotional time for Cash, as he played in the season opener and missed the Boston College to attend his father’s funeral. He played in every other game last year, and was recognized by NC State’s coaches as one of the steadiest performers on the Wolfpack defense, tallying 50 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He returns this year at right defensive tackle, with a much happier outlook: less than two months ago, Cash married his high school sweetheart, Natasha, making him the team’s only married player.
Junior Julian Williams enters his second season as a starter. After seeing no action as a redshirt freshman, Williams started nine games last year. (He missed three because of a knee injury.) He heads into this season as a steady influence on a group that has welcomed a pair of converted defensive tackles, John Bedics and Ted Larsen, into the starting lineup.
Cash and Williams talked about the defensive line and offensive line, respectively, with GoPack.com managing editor Tim Peeler.
GoPack.com: You were one of the most consistent guys on defense last year. What is your role this year, in terms of leadership and responsibilities? Cash: I am kind of quiet. I go over and give the younger guys a little advice. You don’t have to be that vocal to be a leader. You can lead by example. You can do a lot of things. If you go out there, do what the coach tells you, make plays, let other guys see that, they want to get on the same ship and do like you do.
GoPack.com: Last year started out in such a horrible way, losing your father. How did that affect the way you played the rest of the season? Cash: It was a terrible situation, but I think it motivated me to play better. I knew then and I know now that he wanted to see me play well. So I always try to play as hard for him as for myself. It was real difficult to come in and play that first game. I could hear his voice telling me: “Go ahead, everything will be fine. This is what God wanted.” I just went ahead and played. I felt his presence in every game. I would always say a prayer for him. It helped me so much during the game. I felt motivated.
GoPack.com: What do you think you did well last year? Cash: There were things I know I didn’t do well I played high, which is something I need to work on. I did OK staying in my gap most of the time. What I did do well was get off my blockers. I think my footwork helped me out a lot.
GoPack.com: How good can the defensive front be with you and Willie Young on the right side? Cash: I think we can be very good. I think we are going to really out-physical a lot of guys. I think a lot of people will focus on the fact that Willie is real skinny, but he is pretty physical and very fast. We are going to surprise a lot of people up front.
GoPack.com: How much have you guys emphasized creating more turnovers? Cash: That’s going to be real key for us this year, getting pressure on the quarterback and knocking the ball out of his hands, stripping the ball from running backs and getting fumbles. If we put a lot of pressure on the offense on every day, we will force a lot of turnovers, because our defensive backs are pretty good and they will benefit from that pressure.
GoPack.com: When you were recruited to play here, NC State’s defense was ranked No. 1 in the nation, and all those starters on the defensive line were NFL draft picks. GoPack.com: It wa Cash: That definitely drew me in. I played a little tight end in high school, but I knew IO was going to play on defense in college. I saw Mario Williams, Tank Tyler, Manny Lawson and John McCargo in here and they taught me and Willie what we know now. We still stay in contact with all of them now. We have to take that and run with it. They were real strong, they were pretty physical, and that’s what we want to be.
GoPack.com: Talk about getting married to Natasha in early July. Cash: It was a goal of mine for a long time. We have been together since junior year of high school and we have a 3-year-old little girl, Jada. She is going to help me stay more focused, and not worry about the parties and all that other stuff. I can concentrate on my family and football.
GoPack.com: Do you look for your wife and daughter in the stands on game day? Cash: They are right there, all the time, beside my mother. Jada says it’s too loud in the stadium for her. But before and during the game, I look over there and say “That’s what I am playing for.” After the game, I go over and see them.
GoPack.com: What do you want to accomplish this season? Cash: I just want us to win and make it to a bowl game.
New Bern, N.C.
GoPack.com: This is your second year as a starter. What is your role on the offensive line this year? Williams: My role is just to keep working hard and show the young guys how to work harder and to know what the coaches expect. Along with the other seniors on the line Meares Green, Curtis Crouch, Matt White we have to try to keep everybody together as a unit and be positive role models.
GoPack.com: What did you need to improve on in the preseason? Williams: I wanted to improve on everything there wasn’t one set thing. I wanted everything to improve for us to be successful.
GoPack.com: Talk about some of the other upperclassmen on the offensive line. Williams: You have Curtis Crouch, he is the most athletic guy on the offensive line, other than maybe Jeraill McCuller. He brings a lot to the table. When he is on, there’s no stopping him. Meares Green is probably the hardest working we have. He is out there, leading by example every game. He is the handy man around here.
GoPack.com: Coach O’Brien said the competition for the starting jobs went down to the final day. How did that competition help you guys? Williams: The competition has made us all better. If they had just come out with the depth chart to start the fall, everybody wouldn’t have worked as hard as if they had to work for a starting job. It is keeping everybody better, making them work hard and keeping them on their toes.
GoPack.com: How did those two guys who came over from the defensive line John Bedics and Ted Larsen make an impact on the offensive line? Williams: They came in and did a great job, especially as far as technique. They picked it up quicker than I thought they could. I am in my fourth year and I am still learning, and they picked a lot of it up in the spring and in preseason practice. They surprised me how at how quickly they got it down. It’s kind of scary to think how good they would have been if they had been on the offensive line the whole time. It’s crazy to think about.
GoPack.com: Did they add an element of nastiness? Williams: Yeah, I think so. Especially Teddy, he is real aggressive. When John gets going, he is wild out there. When the switch clicks in their head, they get nasty out there.
GoPack.com: Have they taught you any secrets of the defensive line, what to expect from the guys on the other side of the line? Williams: They have definitely helped teach us what keys to look for, if the other guy is leaning one way or the other or what stunts they might run by the way they are lined up. It’s been a great help.
GoPack.com: Coach has promised a stronger rotation of players this year, so that each starter won’t have to be in for as many snaps. Do you feel good about the depth on the offensive line? Williams: All the guys have been here all summer, working hard. I am pretty comfortable with any combination we put out there. Everybody deserves to be out there.
GoPack.com: Who is the funniest guy among the offensive linemen? Williams: The guys who like to keep things going are Jeraill, Curtis and Jake Vermiglio. They are a bunch of nuts.
GoPack.com: Who is the meanest guy? Williams: Probably a freshman, R.J. Mattes. He’s a prankster. He’s mean in a sinister way.
GoPack.com: Coach talked about last year’s inability to establish control of the line of scrimmage. Can you accomplish that this year? Williams: That’s the goal for every team. You have to be able to run the ball on offense and stop people on defense. Coach is always going to want that. We have to put all the pieces together. We have the running backs. We just have to the offensive front together, and we will play a long time this season.
GoPack.com: Do you expect the team to rely on more passing this season? Williams: Just like we have a stable of running backs, we have a stable of receivers. We just have to protect the quarterback long enough to get the ball out to those guys. We have skill players and guys who can make big plays. You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.