By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
When it became evident that Tom O’Brien was not a good fit, N.C. State turned the page once again and hired Dave Doeren as the fourth Wolfpack head coach since Dick Sheridan left for the beach in 1992.
Doeren worked magic at Northern Illinois in his only two seasons as a college head coach by winning 23 games and a couple of MAC titles, and earning the first BCS bowl berth in conference history, so it’s a bit like taking a chance. Much like hiring Sheridan from Furman.
Over the past two decades it has been painful for the proud Wolfpack program to see their ACC brethren leave them in the dust. With seven losing seasons in that stretch, N.C. State has finished in polls just once since 2002, and as high as second once each in the ACC and ACC Atlantic Division.
Nonetheless, N.C. State has remained a nuisance for Clemson, winning six times since 1992 and playing the Tigers to within touchdown in six others, teeth-gritting, white knuckle games.
Heck, last year’s game in Death Valley was a war.
Thursday, Sept. 14 @ Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
2012: 7-6 including a 28-24 loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl
ACC: 4-4, 3rd in Atlantic Division.
The series: Clemson leads 52-28-1 including last year’s 62-49 win in Death Valley.
Reconfiguring the offense
Returning starters: 5
QB: First order of business for Doeren was wiping the board clean. Mike Glennon threw 564 of the 569 passes attempted by State last season, leaving negligible playing time for Manny Stocker. Known for his quicks, Stocker was listed as co-starter on the spring depth chart with Pete Thomas, more prototypical at 6-foot-6. Thomas transferred last year from Colorado State after passing for 4,269 yards and 18 touchdowns in two seasons, so it should be worth keeping track. Also watching this season will be Jacoby Brissett, a transfer from Florida.
RB: When available, sophomore Shad Thornton and junior Tony Creecy were productive. Thornton missed the first three games, started only four yet had four 100-yard games – including 114 against Clemson – and finished as the Wolfpack leader with 694 in 10 games. Before an injury late in the season, Creecy started eight games and rushed for 476 and 5 touchdowns.
WR: Two of Glennon’s most productive targets return. Named to the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, senior Quintin Payton averaged 15.6 yards on 51 catches. Junior Bryan Underwood caught 44 balls for a team-high 10 touchdowns. And after switching from corner Rashard Smith averaged 16.6 yards and scored five touchdowns on 19 receptions
OL: A measure of experience on the left side provides some security. Tackle Rob Crisp missed five games early last season with a back injury and Duran Christophe played five games at left guard and three at right guard before a head injury cost him the final four games. Tyson Chandler started at left tackle for a few games then last nine at right tackle. Joe Thuney saw modest playing time at backup center. Alex Barr moved from tackle to guard, had significantly less.
TE: N.C. State always seems to have big, physical tight ends. Asa Watson, Anthony Talbert and David J. Grinnage fit the mold. Watson caught 24 passes last season for 282 yards, the others one.
Returning starters: 5
DL: Perhaps the most experienced and deepest area of the team, N.C. State has four linemen with substantial experience. Nose Thomas Teal had 9.5 tackles for loss. End Darryl Cato-Bishop, who led the team with 5.5 sacks, will compete with Mike Rose at one end. Rose blocked the punt to set up the game-winning drive against Florida State. Art Norman and Forrest West are going head-to-head at the other end. West was beginning to assert himself until a season-ending ankle injury against the Seminoles.
LB: There’s some experience here. D.J. Green, a starter in 2011, returns at weakside. Stronside Brandon Pittman started two games. Rodman Noel started five games but began losing playing time to nickel formations. Sophomore M.J. Salahuddin moved to the middle.
DB: Justin Burris replaces standout David Amerson to join Dontae Johnson at corner. As the primary nickel back, Burris intercepted three passes. Senior Jarvis Byrd, slowed by injuries for two seasons, moves to free safety from corner.
Returning starters: 2
PK: Niklas Sade scored 83 points on 13 of 23 field goals and 44 of 46 extra points
P: Wil Bauman averaged 38.9 yards on 74 punts, dropping 16 inside the 20-yard line.
Returns: Rashard Smith averaged 9.3 per punt return including a 73-yarder for a touchdown against The Citadel.
Doeren’s bottom line: “I didn’t take any shortcuts to get here. I’ve been coaching 17 years at the college level and I’ve lined the fields and driven the bus…. and now I’m standing here in the ACC and I’m jacked up about it.”