Wildcat In Raleigh?

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State's offense was rolling in the first quarter of the season opener. The Pack scored touchdowns on two of its first three drives with senior Brandon Mitchell at quarterback.

"We had some pretty good momentum right there in the first quarter where we could have really got going," said Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren.

However, on his third series, Mitchell sustained a foot injury that will sideline him for reportedly 4-to-6 weeks. According to his head coach, the redshirt senior remains upbeat.

"He's doing great," Doeren said of Mitchell. "He's very positive, upbeat, and very spiritual. He believes there is a plan. I'm not sure he understands what it is, but he's positive about why this is happening to him.

"He'll use the next four or five weeks to really focus on his graduate school classes and try to get a great headstart there."

"He'll be back for the latter half of our schedule, and it could have been worse I guess is the way to look at it," added Doeren. "We're happy with the way he started. They could have taken him right to the hospital and fixed him up, but he decided to stay on the sidelines with his teammates which says a lot about his commitment to us."

The next man up is redshirt junior Pete Thomas, who competed with Mitchell for the starting job throughout fall camp. Thomas took over for Mitchell and played 56 snaps in the win, completing 15-of-27 passes for 212 yards with an interception.

The big question is how much different will NC State's offense be with Thomas as the quarterback?

"Most of the stuff you see Pete do is the same you see Brandon do," said Doeren. "I just think there is a little more design-run game when you have a guy like Brandon, and also when you have depth."

That is a big reason why Wolfpack fans didn't see Thomas be nearly as active on the ground as Mitchell. Mitchell had five designed runs on his three drives, while none were called for Thomas.

"When you have Brandon and Pete you can run them knowing the next guy is pretty good too," Doeren stated. "Now we're down to some young backups. We have to be smart about when we do run Pete and how we do it because obviously we need him to be a guy that can play for more than just one game.

"That's why we have the other packages that we carry."

Those packages are why NC State fans will almost certainly see other players lineup at quarterback over the next few weeks. Doeren and his staff won't jeopardize the health of Thomas by running the football with him.

Look for true freshmen Bryant Shirreffs and Josh Taylor to receive some snaps, and they are listed as the co-backups to Thomas. Both played nine snaps in the game, and Shirreffs carried the football all nine plays he was in, totaling 34 yards.

But, Doeren also left open the door for some of the Wolfpack's skill position players to also line up at the position because the ability to run the football from the quarterback position is vital to the Wolfpack's offensive system.

Shadrach Thornton (who also played quarterback in high school) is back from his one-game suspension, providing more depth in the backfield, and offensive coordinator Matt Canada used the "Wildcat" formation last season at Wisconsin. In the Wildcat, a running back or skil position player will line up at quarterback and run the read-option with a back, often looking to run or potentially play-action pass.

"There may be some evolution, now that Shad's back," said Doeren. "Last year at Wisconsin they had James White playing quarterback in some of their sets. Whether we can get into some Wildcat-type formations using [Travares] Copeland, who was a high school quarterback, or Rashard Smith, who was a high school quarterback, or one of our tailbacks like Tony Creecy... we'll see.

"We're not going to lose the ability to run the quarterback. It just might not be a quarterback doing it all the time."

With that being said, Thomas is now the guy at quarterback. After a slow start he completed 10-of-14 passes in the second half versus Louisiana Tech and will look to remain hot this weekend against Richmond.

"Pete will prepare like he's the guy," said Doeren. "I think we'll be able to hopefully get a rhythm going with him.

"I know he's excited about the opportunity."

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