After making three straight bowl games, NC State decided to part ways with Tom O’Brien in hopes the program could take the leap to the next level of success. Instead, things went backward in a big way in Year 1 under Dave Doeren, but the Wolfpack view 2014 as a fresh start. That new outlook begins at quarterback, where Doeren believes he’s got the player capable of leading NC State back to respectability -- and maybe beyond.
Spotlight: Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, 6-foot-4, 231 pounds, redshirt junior
2013 summary: Brissett spent all of last season waiting, watching and practicing. A transfer from Florida, Brissett was forced to sit out all of 2013, but he wowed Doeren enough during practice for the coach to tab Brissett as NC State’s new starting QB for 2014. Brissett’s time at Florida illustrated some potential -- 23-of-35 for 249 yards and a TD as a sophomore in 2012 -- but Doeren is investing a lot in a player whose best work has been done behind closed doors.
The skinny: There is actually some encouraging precedent here. A quarterback undervalued by Florida’s coaching staff decides to transfer, moving to a dormant program and sitting out a year. While outsiders wonder if he’s up to the task of running an offense, coaches rave about the work he has done behind the scenes. When he finally gets his chance, he quickly blossoms into an overnight sensation.
Can Brissett be the next Cam Newton? That’s obviously an unfair comparison, but NC State certainly hopes it’s one that doesn’t sound completely absurd by the end of 2014.
Brissett brings a lot to the table. He’s big, athletic and a playmaker. At Florida, his chances to shine were sporadic and short-lived. At NC State, he’ll have the luxury of a full year of study under his belt and the unwavering confidence of his head coach. At Florida, he was perhaps not an ideal fit for Will Muschamp’s offense. At NC State, he’s exactly the type of quarterback Doeren is looking for.
No sooner had the 2013 season ended than Doeren named Brissett his starter. Incumbent Pete Thomas decided to transfer soon after. Freshman Jalan McClendon doesn’t arrive until the fall, meaning the spring will be all about Brissett, and that’s far more latitude than he got in Gainesville.
The confidence of his coach and the template set by Newton certainly won’t be enough to ensure Brissett’s success. Even if he’s outstanding in 2014, NC State has a long way to go in several areas (13th in rushing defense in the ACC, allowed the second-most sacks in the conference, finished 10th in scoring offense). But it also means there’s a low bar for success for Brissett. NC State’s quarterbacks mustered just eight touchdowns, tossed 11 interceptions and completed fewer than 55 percent of their passes in ACC play last year. It’s hard to imagine Doeren would have so much confidence in his new starter if he wasn’t certain Brissett could far eclipse those pedestrian totals.