NC State will be shorthanded against Kentucky in the Gator Bowl. Three members of the Wolfpack defense will not suit up Saturday afternoon, including their leading tackler.
Injuries will sideline linebackers Payton Wilson and Drake Thomas. Safety Tanner Ingle will not play after he was ejected three times for targeting calls this season.
Wilson is not just NC State’s leading tackler. His 108 take downs were the most in the ACC this season. He also recorded eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and a pair of interceptions. His absence is significant.
Thomas ranks fourth on the team in tackles this year with 58, serving as Wilson’s righthand man at inside linebacker. Ingle had 33 tackles and a pair of pass deflections. Those numbers don’t pop off the page until you realize that without him, the Wolfpack will be starting a former walk-on at free safety, daring UK to take a couple of deep shots down the middle of the field.
One person who is expected to take the field for NC State’s defense is Alim McNeill. Many believed the NFL-bound All-American nose guard might decide to opt-out of the game, but less than 24 hours away from kickoff it appears McNeill will be lining up across from Drake Jackson Saturday afternoon.