Cole Making Progress

Audie Cole

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Audie Cole doesn't have any delusions about how bad this season has been for NC State.

"We aren't going anywhere after the next two games, but we still have those two games ahead of us," Cole said. "No one wants to go out and lose games so we are still trying to go win. No one wants to lose any games, the worst thing to do is lose in front of your friends, family – its embarrassing."

The Pack has been embarrassed plenty this season, a trend they are hoping to stop when the team travels to Blacksburg this weekend to take on the No. 16 Virginia Tech. Cole realizes that the defense has to make big strides in a short amount of time if his team has any hopes of pulling off an upset on the road.

"We know what they are going to run, you can tell by how they line up," Cole said. "But they are good players and they are going to come and try to run right over us... that's what we have to stop. We are just going to have to make sure we wrap up and bring our feet when we tackle and hopefully we show up better this week than last week."

At the top of the list for the Pack defense is stopping quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back Ryan Williams. In Taylor, the Hokies have yet another dual-threat quarterback who is just as capable of beating a team with his feet as he is with his arm.

"I don't know if we are going to have to spy on anybody, but we have to be aware that he can run more than most people we play," Cole said. "He's gonna create some problems and we are going to have to be able to stop that because he's definitely a versatile player who can run or pass."

The Pack, while no longer bowl eligible, can maintain hopes of a .500 season if they can escape Blacksburg with a win on Saturday. Cole explained that its become a new goal for a team desperately looking to find positives.

"We aren't planning on losing," Cole said. "Getting to .500 is the goal now."

Cole, a high school quarterback who was recruited to play defense with the Wolfpack, currently leads the team in tackles (62) and is second in tackles for loss (7.0) and sacks (4.0). Despite the numbers he admits that he's made plenty of mistakes this year, but believes he has improved in all phases of his game as the season has continued.

"I've progressed a lot actually," he said. "I've started making my tackles and not missing them as much and quit using my arms and started wrapping up. I think my pass routes have gotten a lot better.

"I'm not going to lie, usually receivers are faster than me. I'm not the slowest person but they are wide receivers and I'm not. It took awhile getting used to but now I think I'm comfortable at it and it doesn't feel awkward anymore."

The sophomore linebacker has been on the field for 560 plays this season, far and away the most by any defensive player on the team. By contrast the next highest snap total is from senior Willie Young, who has been on the field for 438 plays this year. That means Cole has been on the field almost 25 percent more than any other defender on the roster. Even with all that time on the field, head coach Tom O'Brien feels that Cole is still in the learning process.

"I think Audie is still learning," O'Brien said. "Its not a natural position for him – he's a guy that has to see some things but when he sees it he gets it. He's a great effort guy. I think in time he's going to be a great player for us."

One area Cole feels like he's still learning is on the field communication, particularly with the defensive backfield. Since he's asked to cover quicker receivers, the sophomore has to rely on his knowledge of where the safeties are playing and their assignments to know if he has help on a receiver that's too quick for him.

"I have to know where they are going to be and they have to know where I'm going to be," Cole said. "Some of the miscommunication has hurt us this year. That's what we have been trying to work on. We are all kind of young and we're still growing. Communication with me and my safety is one thing I have to work on."

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