The North Carolina State Wolfpack 2013 College Football Preview
2012 Record: 7-6; ACC 4-4
Introduction: The North Carolina State Wolfpack finished 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the ACC last season. The Wolfpack beat Florida State, but loss to UNC, Tennessee, and Virginia at home last year. In 2013, the Wolfpack welcome in a new head coach, Dave Doeren, who comes over from Northern Illinois. Doeren led Northern Illinois to a 23-4 record in two seasons by using a version of the spread offense that relies on a running quarterback. Last year, N.C. State ran a pro-style passing attack under former coach Tom O’Brien, so it will be interesting to see how the team adjusts. Defensively, the Wolfpack have some talent up front, but they are extremely thin at linebacker and are inexperienced in the secondary.
Offense: Doeren will be reunited with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who served as Northern Illinois’s coordinator in 2011 before spending last season under Bret Bielema at Wisconsin. Junior QB Pete Thomas, a transfer from Colorado State, is in line to replace Mike Glennon at quarterback. Doeren will probably not use Thomas like Jordan Lynch at Northern Illinois, but the Wolfpack will definitely ask him to run an up-tempo scheme. Running backs Tony Creecy and Shadrach Thornton will share time in the back field. Thornton led the Wolfpack in rushing last season with 694 yards, despite not taking a snap in the first three games. There are questions up front, where four starters from last year need to be replaced. Senior LT Rob Crisp will lead the inexperienced group, with help from senior G Duran Christophe. Bryan Underwood, Quinton Payton, and Rashard Smith, who are all veteran receivers, will excel in the new scheme. Underwood led the team and ranked second in the ACC in 2012 with 10 touchdown catches last season.
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Defense: N.C. State’s new defensive coordinator, Dave Huxtable, will need to find new starters at three linebacker spots and three more in the secondary in his 4-3 scheme. However, filling all of these spots might not be a bad thing for the Wolfpack. Finding players for the safety sports will be tough, with either young or injury-prone options, but the early exit of CB David Amerson to the NFL could be a case of addition by subtraction. Amerson was a big time playmaker but he also took big chances in the secondary and got burned in some of N.C. State’s worst losses in 2012. Senior CB Dontae Johnson, who can play either corner or safety, will be the Wolfpack’s best playmaker on defense. The secondary unit, which ranked 83rd against the pass last season, should be boosted by the return of senior LB D.J. Green from a season-long NCAA suspension for testing positive for a banned supplement. There’s also strength up front with three returning starters, including potential NFL players in junior tackles Thomas Teal and T.Y. McGill.
Special Teams: K Niklas Sade and P Wil Baumann enter their third seasons as starters with room for improvement. Senior Rashard Smith is a dynamic returner who will have the duty of returning punts and kickoffs this season.
Final Analysis: This may be a rebuilding season for the Wolfpack, considering they have plenty of new starters and a new head coach. However, Doeren won quickly at Northern Illinois with a roster he inherited from another coach. The offense will have to run the ball more effectively, and Thomas will have to learn a new scheme. The defense should hold its own, especially with the first four games at home, as the team adjusts to the new staff. I don’t expect the Wolfpack to be a big factor in the ACC Atlantic Division race, but there is enough talent on the roster to return to a bowl game for the fourth straight season.