North Carolina State may rank in the bottom third of the ACC in pass defense, but the Wolfpack has proven to be highly opportunistic against the pass, as well. N.C. State leads the conference in interceptions (12), and sophomore cornerback David Amerson has been responsible for half of those picks.
Amerson leads the nation with six interceptions, a mark that already is better than any other Wolfpack player has tallied in a season in the past 13 years.
Virginia Coach Mike London said Wednesday that for sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco – who has thrown a league-high eight interceptions – and true freshman quarterback David Watford, looking off their targets and not being fixated on one particular receiver will be critical objectives Saturday.
Amerson “anticipates and breaks on the . . . throwing indicator of the quarterbacks very well,” London said during his segment of the ACC coaches’ teleconference. “I can only imagine through film study and things like that that he really watches the quarterback’s eyes and the separation of the ball and the tendencies and things like that that he has a jump on and plays aggressively.”
N.C. State Coach Tom O’Brien said Wednesday that Amerson, who started nine games in 2010 as a freshman, has learned to play the ball well and not be fooled when wide receivers execute double moves.
“One of the things he got fooled on earlier in the year was a lot of double moves because he’s been so aggressive,” O’Brien said. “The last couple weeks he’s picked that up and played those very well.”
Amerson recorded two interceptions during N.C. State’s most recent game – a 38-24 win Oct. 8 against Central Michigan – and one of them occurred on a play in which a wide receiver tried to beat him on a double move, O’Brien said.
N.C. State linebackers coach Jon Tenuta – who was a three-year letter-winner as a defensive back at Virginia from 1978 to 80 – previously served as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Ohio State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. He has told O’Brien that Amerson is “probably one of the top five corners that he’s been around in coaching as far as talent goes,” O’Brien said.
Between Amerson and junior safety Brandan Bishop (three interceptions), London has taken note of the challenges Virginia’s quarterback will have passing the ball Saturday.
“There are several things that coincide with when you’re playing against a good secondary and particularly a really good corner that you’re going to have to be on you’re A-game part of it,” London said. “We always talk about those things, but you’re going against a guy that’s one of the best in the country, so there is a heightened awareness to it.”