ACC Preview: NC State

ACC Preview: NC State

Football

ACC Preview: NC State

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North Carolina State improved greatly in head coach Dave Doeren’s second season with the Wolfpack.

In 2014, the team went 8-5 and 3-5 in the ACC and beat the University of Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

“I was really pleased with how hard our guys practiced and put the momentum from the end of our season, winning four of the last five games, and entered the off-season with a lot of good energy, good confidence,” said Doeren. “Guys learned, as a young team, the do’s and don’ts of preparation, I think, and saw the results in how we played at the end of the year.”

Doeren expects the success from 2014 to continue into next season as well with the experienced players that he has returning.

NC State will return star quarterback Jacoby Brissett to lead the offense in 2015. Brissett gained a lot of positive attention last season where he passed for 2,606 yards and ranked third in the ACC for total number of touchdown passes thrown in the season with 23. His stats from last season also rank him among Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. All three athletes are the only quarterbacks in Power 5 Conferences to have over 2,000 passing yards, 300 rushing yards, 20 touchdown passes and fewer than five interceptions.

However, when Brissett had to take on the nation’s number one defense in Death Valley, he had the worst performance of the whole season. Clemson shut out the Wolfpack’s offense to win 41-0, and it also held Brissett to just 35 passing yards. Brissett also had two fumbles that resulted in Clemson touchdowns that game.

North Carolina State’s passing game will take a hit in the 2015 season due to the transfer of top receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Bo Hines. Last season, Hines led all the receivers with his 45 receptions for 616 yards.

The Wolfpack lost some excellent talent at receiver, but Doeren made some changes in the spring and is hopeful about the returning athletes, especially at tight end.

“Benson Browne, David Grinnage, and Jaylen Samuels did some good things at tight end,” said Doeren.

Over the spring, Doeren decided to move defensive back Elliot Davis to fill the receiving void left by the transfers. The new position isn’t unfamiliar to Davis as he played both cornerback and wide receiver in high school. Doeren even stated that Davis appeared to be the most explosive receiver coming out of the spring. Doeren also mentioned that redshirt sophomore receiver Gavin Locklear has recovered from his leg fracture and has turned into a leader in the off-season.

North Carolina State’s running game should be sound in 2015 as both Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes return. Last season, Thornton was ranked as the seventh best rusher in the ACC after averaging 69.8 yards per game. He ended the season with 907 yards and as the Wolfpack’s leading rusher.

The offensive line will also have experienced players returning to protect the running backs and help the run game be even more successful. Veteran linemen Quinton Schooley, Joe Thuney, Tony Adams, and Alex Barr all return for 2015. Each one of them has significant experience playing on the line together.

The Wolfpack will also gain depth this summer when a tackle Darius Workman and three other new signees arrive on campus to train for the fall.

“Offensive line-wise, I think we got bodies on bodies,” said Doeren. “We picked up pressures pretty well. We need to work on our vertical movement in the run game, displacing people, creating some bigger lanes for our back.”

On the defensive side of the ball, there could be some improvement if the replacements on the line can be more productive than the ones who just graduated. Although the defensive line lost key defensive end Art Norman and tackles Thomas Teal and T.Y. McGill, those athletes were part of a unit that allowed 31.3 points per game against ACC opponents and were ranked as the 65th rushing defense in the NCAA.

The Wolfpack also lost linebacker Rodman Noel. Last season, he led the team in non-sack tackles for loss with 11. However, North Carolina State does return productive middle linebacker Jerod Fernandez.

Doeren has a lot of new talent that he can move around on the defensive line to fill the voids left by his veterans, and he was excited by what he saw in the spring. Redshirt senior defensive end Mike Rose had to miss the spring season due to a minor injury, so early enrollee Darien Roseboro got valuable time practicing with the first team.

Defensive tackles Monty Nelson and Garrett Bradbury, and defensive end Justin Jones all had to miss the spring as well due to minor injuries, but they are expected to fully return in the fall alongside four incoming freshmen linemen.

“Mike Rose is back. So is B.J. Hill, who played in every game as a true freshman last year, started almost all of them,” Doeren said. “Kentavius Street, we’ve moved to D-tackle and had a really good spring,” said Doeren. “So we’re happy with the D-line.”

The secondary is in great shape as North Carolina State returns seven of their eight best tacklers next season. They also return their two nickels that played last year. The secondary should be the strength of the Wolfpack defense early on.

“We have a lot of guys back that have taken valuable game reps, and it’s just a lot more fluid,” said Doeren.

North Carolina State returns a lot of experienced players in 2015, but their schedule allows for some younger talent to develop early on. The Wolfpack does not play an ACC opponent until Oct. 3 when they take on Louisville at home. North Carolina State will host Clemson on Oct. 31 in Carter-Finley Stadium.

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