Junior linebacker Terrell Manning has entered the NFL draft, N.C. State confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
Manning, one of the team's best defensive players, finished the 2011 season with 76 tackles and three interceptions, including one in the Wolfpack's bowl win over Louisville.
Manning, a fourth-year junior, led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and shared the team lead in sacks (5.5).
Manning missed two games with a knee injury, including the 44-14 loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 22. His return was one of the main reasons for the defense's improvement over the second half of the 2011 season.
Manning, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday, has hired an agent which means he can't return for his final season. Some online draft sites project Manning to be a mid-round pick, in the fourth or fifth rounds.
On Nov. 22, Manning said after team practice that he would be back for his senior season.
"I'm definitely looking forward to coming back next year," Manning said then.
At 6-3 and 233 pounds, he has the size to play in the NFL. He submitted the paperwork to the NFL to have his draft status evaluated but did not wait for the league's official response.
A two-year starter from Laurinburg, Manning had 75 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a sophomore.
Without Manning, the Wolfpack's depth at linebacker will be tested in 2012. Seniors Audie Cole, the team's leading tackler, and Dwayne Maddox also depart.
Sophomore D.J. Green, who started seven games before being sidelined for the year with a foot injury, returns. Sterling Lucas, a senior who missed the season with a knee injury, is also expected back.
Freshman Michael Peek and sophomores Ryan Cheek and Rickey Dowdy were listed as backups on the depth chart but did not see significant action this season.
Staff photo by Ethan Hyman - firstname.lastname@example.org -- N.C. State's Terrell Manning celebrates after sacking Clemson's quarterback Tajh Boyd during the first half of N.C. State's game against Clemson Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.