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NC State Football

Daniel Joseph: "The First Goal Is To Beat Liberty"

November 20, 2020

As NC State continues to get healthy on the defensive side of the ball, that unit will look for a strong finish in the last three games of the season. 

Graduate defensive end Daniel Joseph figures to play a key role in that regard. Joseph spoke to the media ahead of this week’s game against Liberty; here’s a full breakdown of everything he had to say: 

Ikem Ekwonu, who plays left tackle and sometimes left guard, is a guy I’m sure you’ve gone up against several times in practice. We’ve all seen what he does on Saturdays pancaking and smashing people.  What’s it like practicing against him?

We start off practice with our stretches and he’s screaming at the top of his lungs at the O-Line during a stretch. Ickey in general is just a great kid that brings a lot of energy to the team. So going up against him has been a blessing, just knowing that a guy like that is honestly probably going to make it to the next level, but is constantly going to be better through his work ethic and preparations, as well. 

When you’re not playing and the offense is on the field, do you catch yourself watching him to see one of those pancake blocks? 

Most definitely. Ickey’s that guy that stands out. So you’re kind of forced to pay attention. Ickey’s one of those guys that I most definitely pay attention to when on the field. 

We were just talking to Tanner Ingle.  What does it do for the mentality of the defense to have him back? 

I think it’s just a great piece to have back. We obviously missed him for the first few games. But having him back really just gives us more depth at that position and more guys to rotate and keep more fresh legs in there, as well. I think the great thing about having Tanner back is that he’s a guy that brings a lot of energy, as well. And so having him back has, I think, lifted up the intensity and level of emotion being played with on the field from day-to-day practices, and hopefully it’ll carry to the game. 

Do you guys feel pressure as a defense with the offense playing so well?

There’s always pressure on us to play well. I think it’s just looking past that and playing complementary football to the best of our ability each week, week in and week out, that’s really just more appealing to me. When it comes to the offense, I think them doing well is more than great. It just makes it better for us, and easier for us. I think it allows the defense to understand that and pull our own weight on a consistent basis. 

It also seems like you guys are getting healthy at the right time with three games to go,-- three winnable games. You’ve got the bowl possibilities ahead of you. How exciting of a time is it? 

I think it’s more so a matter of being focused, rather than focusing on the guys being healthy. I don’t think you really focus on that initially of guys not being healthy. It’s more of just understanding, “OK, we’ve all got to do our part and prepare like we’re all starters.” Whether you’re a first, third, or fourth string, it doesn’t really matter. But once again, guys being healthy has been beneficial, but I don’t think that’s really been the reason why. 

You guys are going against a quarterback in Malik Willis who is very similar to D’Eriq King. What did you learn from the game against Miami that you can apply here? 

I think it’s just understanding his strengths and understanding where his shortcomings come. Just like any other team and any other quarterback, you obviously find the positives and negatives and try to exploit the negatives and limit those positives. So with Malik, obviously we’re well aware of his ability, both in the run game and the pass game. 

You were talking about what a great guy Ickey is off the field and then he turns into a monster on the field. Who are some other guys on the team that are just kind of happy-go-lucky dudes but you don’t want to see their face across from you on the field? 

Alim McNeill, C.J. Clark, Bryson Speas, Justin Witt, I can keep going. Grant Gibson. I think our whole O-Line are guys you don’t want to line up against. But I think it’s a matter of when you do, are you ready for it?

Is that a special characteristic to have, that you can transform yourself into a different head space? 

Once again, it’s a man’s game. I really don’t think you can be playing, especially in the trenches like that, if you were. I don’t think happy-go-lucky guys make it too far on the D-Line. It’s almost like that drill that this is what made the basketball players, and you know exactly what drill I’m talking about. It’s the same idea; you can’t be a happy-go-lucky guy and expect to last on the offensive and defensive line. You’ve got to have that ability to turn it on.

From a players’ perspective, you guys are one win away from bowl eligibility, but with how unorthodox this season has been, do you guys care about that? 

The first goal is to beat Liberty. When people mention bowl eligibility, I don’t ever like to look at that stuff, because I view it as a distraction. It’s kind of like, if you get so caught up in the end goal, you forget about the steps. So I don’t like to focus on, ‘OK, we’re one win away from being bowl eligible.’ With that stuff, I really don’t pay it any mind until it’s at the forefront of things. I really just think we’ve got to keep going with what we’ve got despite the situation we’re in. If you’ve learned anything, it’s that you’ve got to prepare for everything in 2020. So for me, my goal right now is to go out there this Saturday, compete, and beat Liberty. 

Putting the focus back on Liberty, they’re undefeated and No. 21. How good would it feel to get a nonconference win like this late in the season, considering normally you guys are playing an out of conference opponent during this time of the season, and they’re considered a cupcake? This isn’t a cupcake. What would a win mean? 

I think that’s the first problem. Most people always view teams in college football and attach too much attention to the division or the conference they play in. It’s college ball. Anything can happen. So I know the schedule may seem like a cupcake to everyone else, but to me, it’s still a game. I give all my opponents the respect that they deserve. We’re all part of the 1% of people that are able to do what we do. Not many people in this world can come out here and play ball on Saturday like we do. So it’s like you can’t knock on any team that’s able to do that, just because they’re not able to do it as well as you can. So for me, Liberty is obviously a team that I’m well aware of their ability and capability to play the game. I obviously respect them a lot. So them being ranked this late in the season we may not have foreseen [but] doesn’t change my outlook and way to approach them.

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