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NC State Football

Ekwonu, Gibson Make PFF's Top 10 Returning Players

May 11, 2021

NC State center Grant Gibson and tackle Ikem Ewkonu have been cited by Pro Football Focus (PFF) as top-10 returning players among their position.

#3 Interior Offensive Lineman – Grant Gibson

Gibson is an athletic defensive tackle-to-center convert like Tyler Linderbaum. He flipped to the offensive side of the ball in the middle of the 2018 season, his second one with NC State. Gibson was named the starting center for 2019, performed quite well and then broke out in 2020 in his second year holding the job. He posted a grade above 80.0 as both a run- and pass-blocker, something only five other Power Five centers accomplished in the past five years. Four of those five are now in the NFL, with the other being Linderbaum from last season.

#10 Offensive Tackle – Ikem Ekwonu
Primarily playing left tackle for the Wolfpack in his two years on campus, dabbling at guard for a few games to start 2020, Ekwonu owns a 61.9 career pass-block grade with 15 combined sacks and hits allowed. That's not particularly impressive, but he's one of the best run blockers in the country. Ekwonu's 92.1 run-block grade as an underclassman was the fourth-best mark among FBS tackles. And two of the three ahead of him are now in the NFL.

North Carolina State deploys a zone rushing attack, with over three-fourths of the team's runs being such since 2019, and that's where Ekownu is a true mauler. He is tied with Kentucky's Darian Kinnard for the most big-time blocks — PFF's highest-graded plays for linemen — on zone runs over the past two seasons.

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