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NC State Football: 2018 Wolfpack Preview and Prediction

Ryan Finley, NC State Football

Ryan Finley, NC State Football

NC State should have no trouble throwing the ball over the field and may have to do that with so many changes on defense. The Wolfpack boast the ACC's best quarterback and wide receiver corps, which they will need to come through after losing seven players to the NFL Draft. Dave Doeren will need some new playmakers to emerge on defense if he wants his team to finish in the upper half of the Atlantic Division for the second straight year.

Previewing NC State Football's Offense for 2018

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With quarterback Ryan Finley, his top three receivers and three starters on the line back, the NC State offense is in position to carry the load in 2018. Finley decided a sixth year of college was better than a jump to the NFL. The 6'4", 210-pound graduate transfer threw for 3,518 yards and completed 65.1 percent of his passes in 2017, his second year as the Wolfpack starter. He threw for 17 touchdowns with six interceptions.

He didn't compile those numbers without some help. "There's no doubt we have the best receiving corps in the ACC," Finley says. Kelvin Harmon has developed into Finley's favorite target. What the athletic 6'3", 213-pound junior lacks in speed, he makes up for in his ability to win 50-50 balls. Harmon led the Wolfpack with 1,017 yards on 69 receptions last season. He also caught four touchdowns. Junior Jakobi Meyers was a breakout performer last season and is in for a bigger role with the loss of Jaylen Samuels. A converted quarterback, Meyers is elusive with the ball and has breakaway speed. He caught 63 passes for 727 yards with five touchdowns.

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Coach Dave Doeren is hoping senior Reggie Gallaspy, who ran for 506 yards and seven TDs last season, can stay healthy and develop into a workhorse back. Gallaspy has had nagging foot and knee injuries slow him throughout his first three seasons. The Pack would love for him to be the program's third 1,000-yard back in three years (Nyheim Hines in 2017 and Matthew Dayes in 2016). Ricky Person, a four-star recruit from nearby Wake Forest, has speed to burn and could help to replace Hines' big-play potential.

Previewing NC State Football's Defense for 2018

The Wolfpack have to replace eight starters on defense, including defensive end Bradley Chubb, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Senior end Darian Roseboro leads a rebuilt group that will try to improve against the pass (No. 104 in the country) while remaining strong against the run (No. 26). Space eaters Eurndraus Bryant and Shug Frazier, who both played a lot of snaps as backups last season, will help in the middle, but depth is a concern.

Senior linebacker Germaine Pratt has a knack for the big play but will need to be more consistent. Sophomore Louis Acceus will be counted on to replace Jerod Fernandez, the team's top tackler, at middle linebacker.

The secondary struggled with injuries and inexperience last season and never really stabilized. Junior cornerback Nick McCloud is the best of the returning bunch, which should get a boost from Tennessee transfer Stephen Griffin at safety.

Previewing NC State Football's Specialists for 2018

Hines was the team's top rusher but will be missed even more in the return game. There are no obvious replacements. Freshman Christopher Dunn will be relied on to solve the program's ongoing kicking woes, although both Kyle Bambard and Carson Wise - who combined to go 10-of-20 on field goals last season - are still with the team. There have been no such problems in the punting game. Steady senior A.J. Cole returns for his fourth year as the starter.

Final Analysis

NC State got a preview of life without Chubb in the Sun Bowl. The offense did the heavy lifting behind Finley and the receivers and put up 52 points in a win over Arizona State. With so many personnel changes on defense, the same formula will have to work in 2018 for the Wolfpack to avoid a step back after their first top-25 finish under Doeren and only third in the past 20 years.

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National Ranking: 33

ACC Atlantic Prediction: 3