The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 65 NC State.
Previewing NC State’s Offense for 2014:
Coach Dave Doeren declared quarterback Jacoby Brissett his starter last year, but the Florida transfer had to sit out the season. After juggling quarterbacks through a 3–9 season, Doeren is ready for some stability and production at the most important position. NC State’s starting quarterbacks combined to throw 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season, numbers Brissett will be counted on to improve significantly.
Junior running back Shadrach Thornton, who ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State’s stout defense, and senior receiver Bryan Underwood will be counted on to make plays for Brissett. So will freshman receiver Bo Hines, one of nine early enrollees and a standout in the spring game. “I like him a lot,” Brissett says. “He can catch the ball and make plays.”
NC State ranked 70th in total offense (403.5 ypg) and 97th in scoring (22.8 ppg) in 2013. To make a significant improvement, the offensive line will have to get better. Junior Joe Thuney showed versatility last season, moving from center to left tackle, and now he will slide over to left guard to make room for the return of Rob Crisp, who missed all but two games last year with a concussion.
Previewing NC State’s Defense for 2014:
With so many spread teams in the ACC, Doeren and second-year coordinator Dave Huxtable are switching to a base nickel defense with five defensive backs and two linebackers. Given the problems at linebacker — the drop-off since sending three linebackers to the NFL in 2010 and ’11 has been alarming — the decision makes sense, especially if the young secondary can develop ahead of schedule.
Starters Juston Burris (corner), Jack Tocho (corner) and Hakim Jones (safety) give the Wolfpack three experienced options. Redshirt freshman Josh Jones was one of the best players during the spring and will be counted on to help at safety, especially in the tackling department.
In the middle, junior M.J. Salahuddin takes over for Robert Caldwell (105 tackles). Seniors Rodman Noel and Brandon Pittman both figure to contribute from the outside slot.
The Wolfpack have plenty of experienced options up front with seniors T.Y. McGill and Thomas Teal in the middle (39 starts between them), and senior Art Norman and junior Mike Rose back at end for another season. But Doeren might be most excited about the new additions to the defensive front. Freshman end Kentavius Street was the top-rated defensive player in the state and a four-star prospect by Rivals. Freshman tackle B.J. Hill enrolled early and won a starting job, over the veteran Teal.
Previewing NC State’s Specialists for 2014:
Seniors Nik Sade (kicker) and Wil Baumann (punter) have started since their freshman seasons. They’ve both made progress, especially over the last year, and will be counted on again. Sade, in particular, was a bright spot on the season with a career-best 19 field goals, and he made a career-best 82.6 percent of his kicks. There was never any consistency to the return game, and Doeren will try a combination of players to make strides.
Little went right for Doeren in his first season. The Wolfpack lost their final eight games and went winless in ACC play for the first time since 1959. But with Brissett and a staggering 51 new true or redshirt freshmen on the roster, Doeren’s hoping the only way to go is up. With a manageable schedule, especially out of the league, there might be a way to speed up the rebuilding process and get back to a bowl game.
After such a poor finish in 2013, the Wolfpack do have motivation on their side.
“We want to make people forget last year," Underwood says. “This is us now, we’re a new team.”