In addition to replacing their signal caller, the Eagles must cope with a brand new offensive line that had to replace four starters from 2011.
There is planty of speed and experience at the skill positions, but several questions still face head coach Henry Frazier.
Top 5 to watch NC Central Offense
1. QB Matt Goggans (6-2, 225, Sr.): will be the second straight rookie quarterback to face the Blue Devils. Goggans spent last season at Fullerton (Calif.) College where he completed 30-of-52 passes for 352 yards in six appearances. Since relocating across the country and into a new offense, however, Goggans has struggled.
Some of it has to do with the offensive line taking time to work out the kinks of four new starters, and some of it has to do with inconsistency. Through two games Goggans has completed 16 of 38 passes (42%) for 233 yards and one touchdown. He's also thrown a pair of interceptions.
When flushed from the pocket, Goggans isn't much of a running threat and will most likely try to get rid of the ball. Last week he ended up on the sideline, in favor of Jordan Reid, a much more mobile QB, after tossing a pair of interceptions against Elon. Still, Goggans has his coach's confidence and will start this week:
"He's definitely the guy," said Frazier. "He just had a rough night [against Elon]".
2. QB Jordan Reid (6-1, 190, R-Jr.): When Goggans struggled throughout the early game against Elon, Frazier didn't hesitate to sub in Reid - much more mobile option. Reid doesn't have the accuracy of Goggans, and is a bit unorthodox in his mechanics, but does provide his team the ability to make plays when the offensive line breaks down in protection.
Against Elon he entered the game shortly after Goggan's relative ineffectiveness became apparent. From there Reid managed to complete one long pass to Geovonie Irvine for 43 yards, but aside from that there was little in the way of down the field action. The reminder of the night yielded just 30 yards on 4-of-11 passing with one interception.
3. Geovonie Irvine (5-7, 161, R-Sr.): is considered NCCU's top big play threat with tremendous speed and elusiveness that makes up for his slight stature. Despite his less than ideal size, Irvine produces in a big way.
Against Elon he caught just two passes - including the 43 yard strike from Reid - but managed to become the school's sixth player to eclipse 2,000 career receiving yards. For his career, Irvine has hauled in 146 catches for 2,052 yards and 15 touchdowns. Irvine needs 64 more catches to tie the program record, but with inconsistent quarterback play that record seems to be fading out of reach.
Irvine will also factor into the return game as the Eagles try to get the ball in his hands as much as possible. So far this season he's returned seven kicks for an average of 28.1 yards per kick. He's already taken one of his two punt return attempts back for a touchdown as well.
4. RB Arthur Goforth (5-8, 171, Sr.): The top back in a stable that'll play at least three against the Blue Devils, Goforth leads the team in attempts, yards gained, and yards per attempt.
In the season opener he led the Eagles on the ground with 85 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. The next week against Elon, with the offensive line being overmatched, he still managed 50 yards on eight attempts with a long of 17.
Much like Irvine, Goforth uses speed and quickness to overcome a lack of size. He's also a factor in the kicking game as a secondary option to Irvine.
5. RB Andre Clark (5-10, 232, R-So.): if Irvine and Goforth do it with speed, Clark is the compliment with power running. A much bigger back, Clark scored two touchdowns against Fayetteville State and followed that up with a one yard plunge against Elon.
Clark isn't the threat out of the backfield on swing passes and pitches that Goforth or even Gary Douglas is, but he's the Eagles' best short yardage option and factors in when NCCU is attempting to protect Goggans on the pass.