David Kehrli, Correspondent
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After enduring many heartbreaks and letdowns, N.C. State fans have historically been cautious when the Wolfpack enters a season with high expectations.
Senior defensive end Bradley Chubb embraces those expectations, specifically those of his position group.
“We’ve got a lot of great defensive players on every team (in the ACC),” Chubb said during the 2017 ACC Kickoff at the Westin Charlotte on Thursday.
“I feel like week in and week out we’re going to fight to be the best defense and best defensive line.”
The Atlantic Coast Conference boasts many elite defensive lines including N.C. State’s, but Chubb doesn’t believe the Wolfpack’s is one of the best; he believes it is the best.
“The thing is we’re trying not to be third,” Chubb said when told N.C. State’s defensive line was ranked third best in the country by Phil Steele.
“We’re pushing to be the best, and we’re pushing every week to not be comfortable and to never be complacent.”
It’s hard to argue with Chubb when you look at the Pack’s returning players on the defensive line.
Chubb led the N.C. State defense last season with a team-high 10.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss.
That production landed Chubb on the 2017 preseason watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (National Defensive Player of the Year adjudged by the Football Writers Association of America) and the Chuck Bednarik Award (College Defensive Player of the Year adjudged by the Maxwell Football Club).
Senior defensive tackle B.J. Hill had 39 tackles and was a major stopgap in 2016, placing him on the 2017 preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy (nation’s top interior lineman adjudged by the Football Writers Association of America).
In 2016, senior defensive tackle Justin Jones had three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss, while senior defensive end Kentavius Street had 5.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss.
In such a competitive conference with so many great players across the league, it would be a mistake to not use that to your own advantage.
“When I’m watching Florida State play Boston College, I’m looking at what Harold Landry did, and I’m trying to top that,” Chubb said.
“But if I’m watching Clemson play Florida State, I’m looking at what Christian Wilkins did, and try to top that. Competition is what’s pushing this conference to be so much better and it’s good to see.”
Chubb and his teammates understand the amount of talent in the conference, but unlike previous years when N.C. State couldn’t get over the hump, it seems the Wolfpack finally has the confidence to win the big games.
“If y’all say those are the best teams, then I’m ready for the challenge,” Chubb said.
The Wolfpack has come up short against those great teams during head coach Dave Doeren’s tenure, most notably last year’s heartbreaking loss to eventual National Champion Clemson.
For the first time under Doeren, the Pack finally has the depth that is needed to beat the top teams in the ACC.
“Our coach likes to say that we have a starting eight. So the first two lines (starting four defensive lineman and backup four) I feel like can start anywhere in the country; I firmly believe that,” Chubb said.
“Every player is amazing and they’re putting in the work; that’s why I’m confident about this season because I know the work that we’re putting in. Guys like Darian (Roseboro), guys like Eurndraus Bryant, guys like Tyrone Riley — they’re good players, they’re just behind us.”
Chubb and his teammates know how great a league the ACC is and how many elite teams are a part of it, but ultimately he’s confident in his Wolfpack.
“Me being a competitor, I feel like we’re the best team in the conference,” Chubb said.
“… We want to be the best we think we can be.”