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NC State Football: Wolfpack's 2022 Spring Preview

Devin Leary, NC State Wolfpack Football

Devin Leary and the Wolfpack have their eyes on competing for the ACC title

The last two seasons for Dave Doeren and the NC State football program have been some of the best in recent memory.

Following an 8-4 showing during the 2020 pandemic-impacted, the Wolfpack finished 9-3 last year. Now NC State will be one of the favorites not only in the ACC Atlantic, but also in the entire conference.

NC State will begin spring practice on March 2 as it will find out its strengths and weaknesses leading up towards the annual spring game April 9 at Carter-Finley Stadium.

So what will it take for the Wolfpack to become ACC champions next season? Let's take a look at some of the storylines this spring for NC State.

5 Storylines to Watch During NC State's Spring Practice

1. Can Devin Leary become a Heisman candidate?

As one of the underrated quarterbacks in the nation, Leary had an amazing 2021 season. He passed for 3,433 yards and 35 touchdowns with only five interceptions.

Last year after suffering an injury, Leary was a question mark under center. Now he is the leader of the Wolfpack offense.

Leary threw for more than 300 yards in six games, including a season-high 408 yards and four touchdowns in the 45-42 loss at Wake Forest last November. He also went six straight games where he didn't throw an interception.

If Leary can build on his 2021 season, not only can the Wolfpack contend in the ACC, they could be a dark horse for the College Football Playoff.

Related: Early 2022 ACC QB Preview and Rankings

2. Who replaces Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr.?

Last year at this time, the Wolfpack's strength was their rushing attack. Now the backfield is an area of concern.

Both Knight and Person are off to the NFL. Knight led the Wolfpack in rushing with 753 yards and three touchdowns. Person wasn't too far behind with 636 yards and a team-high five ground scores.

Jordan Houston is the leading returning rusher for the Wolfpack, but he gained just 83 yards on 20 carries a season ago. Although he hasn't had many opportunities, Houston has shown flashes of his potential.

Houston will compete with freshman Demo Sumo-Karngbaye to lead the new-look backfield.

3. Who replaces Ikem Ekwonu?

Ekwonu was NC State's left tackle protecting Leary's blindside. Now Ekwonu will likely be a top-five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Wolfpack will now try to replace Ekwonu on the offensive line. The candidates to replace Ekwonu are Anthony Belton, Anthony Carter Jr. and Tim McKay.

Last season, McKay played in every game so he has experience. Belton and Carter on the other hand, played in two games combined. Bryson Speas could also moved from right tackle to left tackle.

4. Who takes the lead at receiver?

Emeka Emezie is NC State's all-time leading receiver. But he is headed to the NFL, which leaves a void in the corps this spring.

The good news is Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter are back and should help fill some of the receiver void. Thomas caught 51 passes for 596 yards and eight touchdowns, and Carter brought down 31 catches for 556 yards and six touchdowns.

Porter Rooks will likely be the candidate who could have a breakthrough season. Last year he caught 23 passes for 298 yards while averaging 13 yards per catch.

5. How will NC State hand expectations?

NC State is used to being the underdog in the ACC Atlantic and the conference, and now many are picking them to win the league.

In August, the Wolfpack will likely be ranked in the top 15 of the preseason AP poll. With four non-conference games, NC State should win, Dave Doeren's team could be in the top 10 coming into the October matchup at Clemson.

We won't get an answer on how the Wolfpack handles being the favorite in the spring, but it should be interesting to see how players perform with the high expectations.

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— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.