A three-year starter at linebacker for Fort Myers High, Ray Michel departed as the school's all-time leading tackler and also recorded the most career sacks. He finished his senior season with 127 tackles and six sacks and was named Florida's 4-A Player of the Year by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Michel redshirted as a true freshman but did see the field a year later, mainly on special teams. He would play in all 12 games, seeing action only on special teams in eight contests. Defensively, he was in for a season-high eight snaps at Maryland, and he had three tackles in the games at Maryland and at North Carolina.
In 2007, Michel received plenty of game experience backing up James Martin at middle linebacker. He earned his first career start in the season finale against Maryland, totaling seven tackles in the loss. Michel finished the year with 43 tackles and two tackles for a loss while playing 264 snaps from scrimmage.
NC State will need the experienced redshirt junior to provide some leadership and stability at middle linebacker. He believes the linebacker unit continues to progress.
"I feel we're coming together pretty good," said Michel. "Now that school is over, everybody is really getting into their playbook. We're keying into our plays. It's coming along good for us at linebacker."
Ask anyone about NC State's defense and most will say linebacker should be a weakness. The Wolfpack lost all three starters to graduation and return just two players who have started games at the position. Does Michel believe linebacker is going to be a concern for the Wolfpack?
"I don't think so," he said. "We had a good spring. We have a couple of guys with experience and some young guys. We're going to be alright."
Michel is battling for the starting job with true freshman linebacker Sterling Lucas. Lucas flew under the recruiting radar before blowing up at the 2007 Shrine Bowl where he was named defensive MVP for South Carolina. He would earn offers from NC State, UNC, South Carolina, Maryland, Wake Forest and Michigan State before eventually inking with the Wolfpack.
Extremely productive, Lucas totaled 161 tackles and five sacks as a senior at Orangeburg (SC) Wilkinson High School, and he was tabbed the No. 23 middle linebacker prospect in the country by Scout.com.
With all of the accolades, Lucas has impressed Michel the most with his work ethic.
"Sterling Lucas is there with me now," said Michel. "He's doing good... he's good. He came in early, and he's really getting to know the plays. He came in and took a different attitude towards the game. He got into his playbook and worked hard right away."
At 6-foot and 224-pounds, Michel is undersized, but he has very good quickness and a nose for the football. His instincts and ability to shed blocks enable him to be in on a lot of plays. Still fairly inexperienced, Michel knows that he can keep improving.
"I need to improve on many things," he said. "I'm not a perfect guy. I just need to keep working hard and getting better.
"My job right now is to focus on the linebackers. We're getting better. We're trying to get better everyday."