Senior Nick McCloud and junior Chris Ingram were the starting cornerbacks for NC State's season opening football game against East Carolina.
They played together for all of 59 plays after McCloud -- one of four captains selected by his teammates -- suffered a knee injury. Six games later, he has yet to return.
In his place, sophomore Teshaun Smith filled in admirably. Meanwhile, Ingram emerged as one of the Wolfpack's top defenders -- leading the team with two interceptions and ranking second in tackles with 33.
But now both Ingram and Smith are also sidelined with injuries, both of the season-ending variety. Their loss has left State both thin and young at two of the most important positions on the field.
Here's a look at the players being asked to fill the void, how they're doing and what to expect from them over the final five games:
◼ Kishawn Miller: Undersized at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, Miller worked his way back from a torn ACL during his final junior college game to earn a starting spot in State's 2018 season opener against James Madison. He ended up playing in nine games, making seven tackles. He's been a regular part of State's cornerback rotation as a senior this season, starting the past four while recording 27 tackles, two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry.
Miller is a competent cover corner who makes up for his lack of size with quickness and a surprising physicality. But the fact is that at just 5-9, he's going to have trouble and be targeted often when matched up against a tall receiver.
◼ Malik Dunlap: Dunlap is the antithesis of Miller in stature at 6-3, 216, but he's just as fast -- if not more so -- having been a sprinter at Harding University High School in Charlotte. . He's a 3-star prospect who saw action in two games last year, but until last Saturday at Boston College, the redshirt freshman had played only 19 snaps on defense this year. He's got talent, It's just raw right now, as illustrated by the touchdown pass his man caught against Syracuse after Ingram went out two weeks ago.
◼ De'Von Graves: Graves. a 6-1, 197-pound sophomore, has seen extensive action at safety, contributing 14 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. He was shifted over to cornerback against Boston College to help ease the numbers crunch there. It's tough to tell how well he handled the new assignment since the Eagles attempted only three passes over the final three quarters. But his experience he's gained from over 200 snapes in game situations this season can't hurt.
◼ Jakeen Harris: Harris doesn't play cornerback. But because of Graves' position change, the true freshman has moved into the rotation as a replacement at safety. Harris has played in all but one game on special teams, but had seen just five snaps against Western Carolina before playing 30 on Saturday, making eight tackles. LIke Dunlap, his the rest of his season will be trial by fire.
So what happens if somebody else goes down at corner. It's a scenario coach Dave Doeren and his staff would rather not consider. But if it does, freshmen Isaac Duffy or Syheim Battle -- neither of whom have seen much action from scrimmage -- could be potential options.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the situation on the offensive line, where both starting tackles are also out with injuries.