ACC: Joe Thuney

NC State Wolfpack season preview

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
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Previewing the 2014 season for the NC State Wolfpack:

Key returners: RB Shadrach Thornton (768 yards, 4 TD), WR Bryan Underwood (32 catches, 382 yards), OT Joe Thuney, DE Art Norman (9 TFL, 4.5 sacks), DT Thomas Teal (10.5 TFL, 3 sacks), S Hakim Jones (61 tackles, 2 INT), LB Brandon Pittman (63 tackles, 8 TFL, 3 sacks)

Key losses: WR Rashard Smith, WR Quintin Payton, DB Dontae Johnson, LB D.J. Green, LB Robert Caldwell

Most important games: Sept. 27 versus FSU, Oct. 4 at Clemson, Oct. 18 at Louisville, Nov. 29 at North Carolina

Projected win percentage: .479

Vegas over/under: 5.5 wins

[+] EnlargeShadrach Thornton
MCT via Getty ImagesShadrach Thornton rushed for 768 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Instant impact newcomers: Jacoby Brissett sat out 2013 after transferring from Florida. He’ll now be counted on not just as the team’s starting quarterback, but as its offensive leader and, in many ways, the program’s savior. Freshman wideout Bo Hines had a huge spring game and has quickly emerged as one of Brissett’s favorite targets. Defensive end Kentavius Street and tackle Justin Jones could add some serious physicality to a defensive line that was often boom-or-bust in 2013.

Biggest question mark: For a team that went winless in ACC play last year, there are plenty of question marks. Brissett’s emergence is chief among them, but coach Dave Doeren seems more than pleased with his QB. Who will emerge among the young receivers for Brissett to throw to? Can the offensive line protect better than it did a year ago? Can the defensive line be more consistently disruptive? Can injured veterans like Underwood, Rob Crisp and Jarvis Byrd come back to make an impact? The list goes on and on, but there’s certainly hope that the Wolfpack have far more answers than they did a year ago.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Brissett proves to be the answer to many of last year’s offensive woes and instantly transforms the Wolfpack into a more dynamic team. The running game proves a strength and the defensive line routinely disrupts the opposition’s game plan. Injured veterans return and young depth emerges. NC State improves as the season progresses, pulls off an upset or two, and returns to postseason play with seven or eight wins.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Brissett isn’t the answer State’s fans had hoped for, and he struggles with a shaky supporting cast. The offensive line never comes together and the defensive front can’t stop the run. Early tests against FSU and Clemson sink the season, and the Wolfpack limp to another lowly finish in an increasingly difficult division.

Number to know: 100, 100, 100. State tailback Matt Dayes is one of just four returning ACC players to accumulate 100 yards rushing, receiving and in the return game last year. He’s not exactly entrenched atop the Wolfpack’s depth chart now, but Doeren did show a propensity for utilizing his most versatile talent last season, when Rashard Smith topped 100 yards rushing (121), receiving (530), on kick returns (310) and punt returns (240). Dayes could easily fill a similar all-purpose role this year.

They said it: “He wants to win, and it's personal. He's got to go do it. We've got to get players around him to help him and all those things, but he has the skill set and the intangibles that you look for when you recruit that position.” - Doeren on Brissett’s role as the team’s leader
Brandon Mitchell stayed at home Saturday night. He spent his second bye weekend of the season watching Florida State's primetime showcase at Clemson. He had recorded the game, too, so he watched it again later. He noticed the speed of the Seminoles' defense, realized how tight the timing must be with his receivers and looked for hints, any hints, the unit was giving off that he could potentially exploit the next time he took the field.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Mitchell
James Guillory/USA TODAY SportsNC State signal-caller Brandon Mitchell, who has missed the last five games with injury, has completed all three of his passes this season.
Welcome back, Brandon.

NC State gets a familiar face under center this Saturday when it heads to Doak Campbell Stadium, as Mitchell will return after a five-game absence caused by a broken bone in his left foot. Recreating familiar scenes against Florida State may be a whole 'nother matter in light of the Seminoles' national statement against the Tigers this past weekend.

"We've got to go down there and play clean and play hard and take a shot at them and keep taking shots at them and hope that we can get a few takeaways and good field position and play well on special teams," Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said during his weekly press conference. "If they don't play well, that'd be great. But I'm anticipating a great Florida State team. That's what we've seen from every game that we've got on tape, is them dominating people. We know we've got to play well.

"The good things is our players have played against them and played well against them, so we know if we do things right we have a chance of winning this football game."

The narrative was similar going into last season's contest in Raleigh, N.C., before then-No. 3 Florida State stumbled in the second half, blowing a 16-0 lead and falling 17-16 to see national title hopes go up in flames with half of a season left to play. The Wolfpack have beaten the last four ranked Seminoles teams they have faced, though only the first of those games, in 2005, was in Tallahassee, Fla.

"I think from last year we learned that if we play to our potential we can play up there with the top teams in the country," offensive lineman Joe Thuney said. "We remember it and I'm sure they do, too. But it is a new year this year and we've just got to focus on taking this game and just giving it our all."

NC State finished just 3-3 after topping Florida State last season, leading to coach Tom O'Brien's firing.

After a 3-1 start this season that included a noble effort against Clemson, the Wolfpack have dropped two in a row and find themselves in an 0-3 hole in ACC play, with the offense averaging just 12.3 points per league contest under quarterback Pete Thomas.

They know the challenge that awaits this weekend against a team ranked No. 2 in the initial BCS standings.

"They capitalize on every opportunity that they have," receiver Bryan Underwood said. "The first play of the game (Clemson) turned it over, the offense came on the field and a couple plays later they scored. They forced a bunch of three-and-outs, they were attacking the players and the quarterback and disrupting a lot of routes, made Tajh Boyd uncomfortable in the pocket. So what I learned from them is they played very, very fast like they always do. They're going to come out ready to go no matter if it's home or away."

Underwood was on the receiving end of the memorable fourth-and-goal play last season, catching a game-winning two-yard pass from Mike Glennon with 16 seconds left to clinch the upset.

The redshirt junior will have a new quarterback looking for him this time around with Mitchell making his return.

Mitchell was a perfect 3-for-3 for 93 yards and a touchdown and tallied 19 yards on five rushes before leaving his Wolfpack debut in the first quarter of a Week 1 win over Louisiana Tech. The redshirt senior and Arkansas transfer dressed for NC State's last contest against Syracuse but opted to let a bye week handle the final phase of his recovery.

"That's been the hardest part," Mitchell said of being so close to a return. "I could've played, but if I got out there I wouldn't have been myself, and me not being able to play to my highest ability wouldn't do any good for the team. I didn't want to go out there and put the team in jeopardy as far as the game or then also putting myself in jeopardy for the rest of the season."

Midseason report: NC State

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
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NC State may very well have been a close call away from possibly upsetting Clemson in its ACC opener. It came back and routed Central Michigan to get to 3-1, and things looked bright for first-year coach Dave Doeren and his squad with a favorable schedule awaiting it. Instead, the Wolfpack dropped games at Wake Forest and against Syracuse. They enter a bye, and the midway point of their season, at 3-3 overall but 0-3 in ACC play, and Florida State is awaiting them Oct. 26 in Tallahassee.

Many winnable games are left on the schedule, so the postseason does not appear to be in jeopardy. But the Wolfpack could certainly use a boost offensively, one they are likely to receive next time out from quarterback Brandon Mitchell, who was on the brink of a return from a broken bone in his left foot this past Saturday but ultimately sat out against the Orange.

Pete Thomas, who replaced Mitchell in Week 1 and has started since, has completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,314 yards with three touchdowns and eight picks. NC State has averaged just 12.3 points in its three conference games, and its 24.7 points per game on the season has the Pack ranked 91st nationally in that department.

The Wolfpack have gotten help from the run game, which has been solid but not great, and the defense has allowed just 21.2 points per contest, 28th nationally.

The opportunities are there for Doeren and the Pack to have a successful Year 1 together, and perhaps a bye week is coming at the perfect time. But they need to get better and take care of business down the stretch against a lineup that features the likes of struggling North Carolina and nonconference foe East Carolina.

Offensive MVP: Joe Thuney, OG/OT. Talk about versatility: The right guard filled in at right tackle in the opener in place of Tyson Chandler, replaced an injured Rob Crisp at left tackle in the Clemson game and, last year, was the No. 2 center. He has played every offensive line position but left guard so far for the Wolfpack, proving to be an invaluable piece to the unit.

Defensive MVP: Art Norman, DE. The redshirt junior has been a force, tallying a team-best three sacks and six tackles for loss while generating three quarterback hurries. He also has a forced fumble and has a fumble recovery.
NC State announced its leadership council for 2013 on Friday, a group of 20 players voted on by the team that represents each position on the field.

They are:
Since coach Dave Doeren became head coach, he has had meetings every two weeks to discuss the importance of leadership.

“In each meeting, we have discussed the ‘Wolfpack Commandments,’ which are the qualities and characteristics that I want our team to display," Doeren said in a statement. "In spring practice and in our offseason conditioning program, the team was able to identify which players best display these qualities.”

The “Wolfpack Commandments” are: accountability, hard work, family, faith, detail, loyalty, pride, discipline, urgency, focus, perseverance and “the three P’s” -- preparation, practice, playing to win.

One name that stood out to me: Brissett, who transferred in from Florida and must sit out this season because of NCAA rules. Brissett has only been in Raleigh since January, so he clearly has made a mark on his teammates and coaches with all the hard work he has done in a short period of time, all while knowing he cannot play this season.

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