Know Your Enemy: NC State Season Preview

Staples and McGahee take a look at what to expect from the NC State Wolfpack

We continue our season preview series with NC State. The Wolfpack won three of their first four games last season (Louisiana Tech, Richmond, and Central Michigan) before closing the year on an eight losing streak, going 0-8 in ACC play.

The Wolfpack looked completely overmatched in Tallahassee last year as Florida State put up 35 first quarter points, pulling the starters after the first drive in the second half on the way to a 49-17 victory. Rashad Greene led the Seminoles with 8 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown.


Win Probability

Aug. 30 Georgia SOUTHERN




Sept. 13 @ South Florida




Sept. 27 Florida STATE


Oct. 4 @ Clemson


Oct. 11 Boston College


Oct. 18 @ Louisville


Nov. 1 @ Syracuse


Nov. 8 Georgia Tech


Nov. 15 Wake Forest


Nov. 29 @ North Carolina




NC State has a reasonable chance to be 4-0 coming in to the Florida State game thanks to a soft early schedule. They do have to travel to South Florida, but the Bulls were one of the few teams worse than the Wolfpack last season and they don’t look to be much better this season. After FSU and a trip to Death Valley, NC State then hosts Boston College in a game that should be close to a toss-up.

After that the Pack will be back-to-back road underdogs against Louisville and Syracuse, followed by a home matchup against Georgia Tech, which again will favor the Yellow Jackets. Wake Forest should be a win, as the Deacons are down. NCSU closes the season with rival UNC, a game that was close last year despite the talent differential between the programs. UNC should win comfortably, but nothing is guaranteed with the Tar Heels.

The Simplified Football formula projects NC State to win five games, and we’re a bit divided on what to expect from the Wolfpack ourselves. Wayne: This looks to be very close to reality as the Wolfpack has four fairly easy out of conference games before they start ACC play. If they can win both the Wake Forest and Boston College games NC State may be bowling this season. Jason: I think Jacoby Brissett is a potential game-changer for the Wolfpack. Their quarterback play was terrible last year, and he just may make them dangerous this year. I don’t think they actually beat FSU, but NCSU may be a good bit more stubborn in Raleigh than expected this year.


Projected Starters


Jacoby Brissett

Running Back

Shadrach Thornton

Full Back

Tyler Purvis

Wide Receiver

Bryan Underwood

Wide Receiver

Marquez Valdez-Scantling

Tight End

David Grinnage

Left Tackle

Rob Crisp

Left Guard

Joe Thuney


Quinton Schooley

Right Guard

Tony Adams

Right Tackle

Tyson Chandler

Key Players

QB Jacoby Brissett: Florida State fans should be very familiar with Brissett, a transfer from Florida. Brissett had to sit out last season due to transfer rules but won the starting job in the spring and drastically improves the quarterback position for the Wolfpack. Jason: I continue to believe that UF made a mistake choosing Driskell over Brissett as the latter was the more consistent passer and makes quick decisions with the football. He was one of the four or five best QB prospects in the country coming out of high school and should get the opportunity to showcase that in Dave Doeren’s spread.

RB Shadrach Thornton: Thornton was NC State’s leading rusher last season with 768 yards and 4 touchdowns. He needs to improve as a receiver but is a tough, physical runner with size and should provide the offense with a reliable rushing threat in Doeren’s spread-to-run offense.

Question Marks

The Receivers: The top two receivers from last year have moved on, and Underwood and Valdez-Scantling will both need to step up from role players to starters. Brissett should be able to do a much better job getting them the football, but this unit will need to be much better than last year. Underwood at least has outstanding speed, which will help.


NC State’s offense should be worlds better with Brissett than last year’s 100th rated F/+ unit, but the overall talent level just isn’t there for them to compete consistently in the ACC. This was a true rebuilding project for Doeren, and he’s still a couple years removed from having the talent that he will need to compete in the ACC. Jason: I expect the offense to be about 100% better, finishing around the 50s in the F/+ this year.


Projected Starters

Defensive End

Art Norman

Defensive Tackle

T.Y. McGill

Defensive Tackle

B.J. Hill

Defensive End

Mike Rose

Outside Linebacker

Jerod Fernandez

Middle Linebacker

Rodman Noel

Outside Linebacker

Brandon Pittman


Jack Tocho

Strong Safety

Tim Buckley

Free Safety

Hakim Jones


Juston Burris

Key Players

LB Brandon Pittman: Pittman is the Pack’s leading returning tackler from last season and the unquestioned leader of the linebacker unit. They will need a big year for him if they want to improve from last season.

DT B.J. Hill: Hill, a true freshman rated as a 3-star defensive end coming in, has earned the starting job from day one. It will be interesting to see how he holds up with 30 pounds of added weight.

DE Kentavius Street: The highest rated player in the Pack’s 2014 class and an early target for FSU before choosing NCSU. He is second on the depth chart at defensive end right now but is expected to step into a starting role early in the season. He is easily the most physically gifted player on the NC State defensive line.

Question Marks

Rush Defense: Last season the Wolfpack allowed over 5 yards per carry which was good for 101st in the nation. It’s no accident that two key players to watch are freshman defensive linemen. They will need to be much more physical at the point of attack, and the linebackers will have to do a much better job in run support.


This defense should be better than last year, but that isn’t saying much (77th in the F/+ defensive rankings). The secondary should be a strength of the team, but they still lack elite athletes even there. The defense will have to find a way to do a better job of stopping the run or they will again spend a tremendous amount of time on the field this season. It will be very interesting to see how well the freshmen come in and play.

Special Teams

Projected Starters


Niklas Sade


Will Baumann

Punt Returner

Bra’Lon Cherry

Kickoff Returner

Johnathan Alston

Bra’Lon Cherry

Key Players

K Niklas Sade: Sade was solid last season, making 19 of his 23 attempts with a long of 48. He is also a solid kickoff specialist with 29 touchbacks on 58 attempts.

Improvement needed

Kickoff Returners: Cherry and Alston both averaged less than 20 yards per kickoff return last season. They will need to improve there to avoid a field position hole to start every drive.

How They Matchup With FSU

Wayne: Florida State fans still have nightmares about the last trip to Raleigh, but this year should be different. The talent disparity between the two schools is as large as it was during the 90s. NC State will have a very tough time moving the football against the Florida State defense. The last time Jacoby Brissett played against the Seminoles he went 4/13 for 27 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT during the 2011 Florida State-Florida game, and the NC State offense was unable to move the football against the Seminole defense last season until Florida State had pulled its starters and some of its second teamers.

The NC State defense against the Florida State offense will not be much prettier for the Wolfpack. Winston finished last year’s game with 292 yards and 3 scores in just over two quarters of play. Karlos Williams, who will be getting most of the carries this season, averaged 6.6 yards per rush and a touchdown on 13 carries. Expect the Seminoles to come out and take the crowd out of it with another dominant first half before pulling its starters.

Jason: Call it post traumatic stress, but I think this is the one potential trap game on the schedule as it follows what should be a violent game against Clemson. Raleigh has continued to be a house of horrors for FSU as the Seminoles haven’t won there this decade, one of the more baffling streaks in the game. That should end this year as FSU has finally turned the corner and widened the gap between the programs, but Brissett is capable of getting hot and causing some problems. Aside from Miami, I think this is likely FSU’s toughest road test. I do think FSU winds up winning comfortably, but only after taking a couple early punches in Raleigh before slaying the Carter-Finley demons.

Wayne’s prediction: 49-6 (Win Probability: 88%)

Jason’s prediction: 41-21 (Win Probability: 83%)

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