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NC State enters the 2022 college football season with the hope of making a breakthrough to elite status. Not content to contend, the Wolfpack's stated goal is to play for and win an ACC title. 

As NCSU navigates the final season of division play, the Pack will face several serious threats in the ACC's Atlantic Division, including Clemson and defending division champs Wake Forest. NC State also faces stern tests in the non-conference portion of its schedule with a trip to Greenville, North Carolina, to battle East Carolina in the season opener. The Wolfpack will also host Texas Tech in its third game of the campaign. 

Here are four NC State defensive players to watch in 2022:

1. Payton Wilson

The native of Hillsborough, North Carolina, enrolled at NC State with great fanfare in January 2018. His arrival allowed him to get acclimated to school, but Wilson was unable to participate in spring drills that year due to an injury suffered at Orange High School during his senior season. Unfortunately for Wilson, that is a recurring theme in his football career.

Wilson has missed games to injury in each of his four years in Raleigh, but the 2020 campaign showed what he could be when he gets extended run on the field. He was named ACC Linebacker of the Week three times that season en route to finishing First Team All-ACC and leading the Wolfpack back to postseason play after the program slipped to 4-8 the season before. 

NC State has to be pragmatic and accept that Wilson might not be what he once was, and it would also be against the grain for him to feature in every game. His history and aggressive style of play will lend themselves against it, but whatever he can give the Wolfpack is important, both in the context of the particular moment and the tone that his presence sets. NCSU is a better team when Wilson is on the field. 

Payton Wilson brings down Florida State ballcarrier Cam Akers during the first half of Saturday's game

2. Isaiah Moore 

Moore has been issued the number one jersey, which means something at NC State. Like Wilson, the Wolfpack linebacker has spent several years in Raleigh, arriving in 2017 and redshirting as a freshman. Moore also sat out in the spring after suffering a season-ending injury at Miami in 2021. 

In each of the past two seasons, Moore has been named Honorable Mention All-ACC. He has started 42 of the 43 games he has appeared and has a whopping total of 2,374 plays total in his career, and has another season of eligibility. 

If Moore gives the Pack what he is capable of without missing action, NC State will be better for it. If he and Wilson can stay on the field, the Wolfpack could reach another level. 

Doeren and Isaiah Moore celebrate

3. Tyler Baker-Williams

Baker-Williams is another NC State defensive player with at least 40 games of college experience. The nickel is yet another member of the Wolfpack who skipped spring practice due to injury.

This will likely be the third season that Baker-Williams starts at nickel. He also has started at free safety in his career, and his assignments have given him a wealth of experience in handling a myriad of responsibilities. 

He also is not afraid to mix it up. Baker-Williams has over 135 tackles in his career and has been named the program's top defensive back in each of the past two seasons. He has started 10 games in each of the past two seasons.

Tyler Baker-Williams and Jakeen Harris flying

4. Savion Jackson

Like Moore and the number one, Jackson has been issued the number nine for the 2022 campaign, and that has a significant sentimental value at NC State. Worn by legends Mario Williams and Bradley Chubb, the defensive lineman from Clayton, North Carolina, has been awarded the honor, and, almost by default, it speaks to the expectations that the Wolfpack has in the rising senior.

Jackson will position at the end as an anchor on one side of the defensive line. It will require discipline as the player the offense will often use as the read-guy, understanding of responsibilities, avoiding 'ball-chasing' when his gap or lane must remain protected, and knowledge of the tasks his teammates will be given on each play. 

In short, Jackson will have to be a leader. With his experience, potential, and the trust he has been given, this is a season for him to reach a higher level. 

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