Preview 2017: NC State Wolfpack
Previewing and looking ahead at the NC State season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The NC State Offense
The offense wasn’t dominant last season, and it was only four yards per game better than it was in 2016, but it had a few strong moments. Now it has to be more consistent with eight starters back with the potential for a lot more pop.
QB Ryan Finley is back after a good year, and now he knows what he’s doing after throwing for 3,055 yards and 18 scores. The O line returns four starters after doing an okay job for the ground game that averaged just four yards per carry, but gave up a mere 17 sacks.
The top four targets from last year are back, including do-it-all H-Back Jaylen Samuels, but it’ll take a village to replace RB Matthew Dayes. There are plenty of options, but unless Reggie Gallaspy takes over, there might not be a true No. 1 back who can dominate.
Biggest Key To The NC State Offense
The Wolfpack have to come up with an answer for the loss of Dayes. He led the team in rushing with 1,166 yards and ten scores, getting 200 more carries than Gallaspy, who only ran 49 times for 234 yards and two scores.
Dakwa Nichols is a smallish, quick option, and Nyhiem Hines is a blazer who can potentially hit the home run, but Gallaspy has to be healthy and provide more power. Behind a veteran O line, there’s no reason to not hit the 2,500-yard mark after the team ran for just 2,030 yards and averaged four yards per pop.
What You Need To Know About The NC State Defense
Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable has a potential monster to work with. Star S Josh Jones might be gone, but eight starters are back from a D that finished eighth in the nation in rushing and was 24th overall.
The defensive front four might not be the best in the country – Ohio State’s is going to be at a whole other level – but it’s going to be sensational thanks to the end trio of Bradley Chubb, Darian Roseboro and Kentavius Street working around a terrific group has massive tackles.
Airius Moore might be the ACC’s most under appreciated linebacker, working on the outside while Jerod Fernandez cleans up everything in the interior. There’s enough experience in the secondary to be fantastic if the line plays up to its talent and gets to the quarterback like it’s supposed to.
Biggest Key To The NC State Defense
The secondary has to come up with more big plays. The defensive front did its part with 37 sacks and constant pressure, but the Wolfpack defensive backs didn’t come up with enough picks.
The Pack intercepted ten passes on the year, but two of them were in the opener against William & Mary, and three were in the bowl win over Vanderbilt. In between, there were just five picks over 11 games, and without two in any one game. Granted, every D would get bombed on if it had to face DeShone Kizer – albeit, in a hurricane – Deshaun Watson, Deondre Francois, Lamar Jackson, Brad Kaaya and Mitch Trubisky, but State only came up with two interceptions against them.
NC State Will Be Far Better If …
The offense takes advantage of all of its opportunities. The placekicking was a massive problem in the red-zone, but that was just part of the issue for one of the nation’s worst teams inside the 20. NC State scored just 74% of the time in the red-zone, scoring 40-of-54 times including 2-of-5 times against Clemson. By comparison, the Wolfpack scored over 85% of the time inside the 20 over the previous two seasons.
Best NC State Offensive Player
TE/FB Jaylen Samuels, Sr. – While he doesn’t fit the type at either fullback or tight end, and he might not be the typical H-Back, he produces no matter what he does. The 5-11, 223-pounder led the team with 55 catches for 565 yards and seven scores, dominating Vanderbilt in the bowl win with six grabs for 104 yards and three scores. While he didn’t crank up too many big plays, he was ultra-reliable. More than just a short-yardage runner, he averaged 5.7 yards per crack with 189 yards and six touchdowns.
2. QB Ryan Finley, Jr.
3. WR Stephen Louis, Jr.
4. WR/RB Nyheim Hines, Jr.
5. OT Tyler Jones, Jr.
Best NC State Defensive Player
DE Bradley Chubb, Sr. – The Wolfpack caught a huge break when Chubb chose to come back for his final year after a tremendous junior campaign. The team’s top pass rusher cranked up ten sacks with 21.5 tackles for loss and 57 tackles, dominating Notre Dame and camping out in the backfield in wins over Wake Forest and Syracuse. The 6-4, 275-pounder didn’t get enough credit in a loaded year for linemen in the ACC, but that should change this year.
2. LB Airius Moore, Sr.
3. DE Darian Roseboro, Jr.
4. DE Kentavius Street, Sr.
5. LB Jerod Fernandez, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
PK Kyle Bambard, Jr. – It was a rough, rough year for the NC State placekickers, and it turned out to matter on a national scale. They combined to hit just 9-of-17 field goal tries, with Bambard connecting on just 5-of-10 shots, and most famously, missing three of his four attempts in the gut-wrenching loss to Clemson. Bad kicking cost State the game against the Tigers and the loss to East Carolina – there’s your difference between going 7-6 and 9-4.
The NC State Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s a nine-win season. There might not be quite enough talent to pull off an Atlantic Division title, and it’ll be tough to get through the regular season without a few problems with South Carolina, at Florida State, Louisville, at Notre Dame, Clemson and North Carolina to deal with, among others. But this should still be Doeren’s strongest team yet, and in Year Five, coming up with the program’s best season since 2010 isn’t asking for the world.
Key Game To The NC State Season
Sept. 23 at Florida State. The ACC Atlantic season won’t exactly be over for the Wolfpack if they don’t be the Noles to kick off the conference season, but it’ll be tough to overcome. On the flip side, with Louisville and Clemson at home a win would send shockwaves throughout the league. The Wolfpack have lost four in a row in the series and haven’t won in Tallahassee since 2005.
2016 NC State Fun Stats
– NC State 1st Quarter Scoring: 55 – NC State 2nd Quarter Scoring: 115
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 17-of-27 (63%) – NC State 12-of-27 (44%)
– Field Goals: Opponents 20-of-24 – NC State 9-of-17