2013 NC State Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - North Carolina State Wolfpack Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Just about everything is set to change on offense at NC State, and that is not such a bad thing. Gone is Tom O'Brien's conservative attack, replaced by Dave Doeren's faster tempo that uses more read-option looks and hurry-up situations. Other than at wide receiver, where Quinton Payton and Bryan Underwood are all-star-caliber, the Pack has question marks that transcend just playbooks and formations. Either Pete Thomas or Manny Stocker will be replacing current Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon, a key battle that likely won't be decided until the summer. It was Doeren's system that birthed Jordan Lynch at Northern Illinois, so Raleigh is beginning to look attractive to high school and transferring quarterbacks. Above all else, though, NC State needs to somehow bolster the front wall. The Pack was an absolute sieve in the trenches in 2012, and will be replacing three key starters from that unit.
Star of the offense: Junior WR Bryan Underwood
Passing: Manny Stocker
0-2, 0 yds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
Rushing: Shadrach Thornton
154 carries, 694 yds, 3 TDs
Receiving: Quinton Payton
51 catches, 798 yds, 2 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior LT Rob Crisp
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Shadrach Thornton
Best pro prospect: Crisp
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Underwood, 2) Senior WR Quinton Payton, 3) Crisp
Strength of the offense: The skill position players, depth of talent at wide receiver
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, big plays, the O-line, consistency, turnovers
For the first time since Russell Wilson was just a pup in Raleigh, NC State is facing a lot of uncertainty at quarterback. Wilson is a Seattle Seahawk and Mike Glennon is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, leaving the Pack with a question mark under center. While the new staff has yet to name a starter, it was clear in the spring that 6-6, 234-pound Pete Thomas will take a slight lead into the summer. The junior transfer from Colorado State is built an awful lot like Glennon, a traditional pocket passer, with limited mobility. He's on his third system in college, which should actually help this year, and started 21 games in Fort Collins. While accurate, Thomas came under scrutiny with the Rams, throwing just 18 touchdowns and 21 picks.
Battling Thomas is last year's little-used backup to Glennon, 6-1, 212-pound sophomore Manny Stocker. He's by far the better all-around athlete, which ought to help in the new offense being installed by Dave Doeren. However, he didn't show as much progress as Thomas during the spring, especially as a passer. Winning the job is going to require improved overall play from the former three-star recruit in August.
Watch Out For .... Thomas and Stocker to generate only slightly more headlines this fall than Jacoby Brissett, who won't even be eligible until 2014. Brissett is the heralded former four-star recruit of Florida who opted to transfer to NC State. He'll work with the scout team this fall before mounting a challenge next spring.
Strength: Diversity of skills. The Pack has two very different choices to run its new attack this season. In an ironic twist, Thomas shares many of the same attributes as Glennon, while Stocker resembles a poor-man's Wilson. State can do a lot of different things with this pair.
Weakness: Consistency as passers. When last seen, Thomas was struggling to avoid mistakes in the Mountain West. And Stocker still doesn't appear quite ready to lead an offense. Throw in a very different playbook, and the Wolfpack could be staring at a rough year through the air in 2013.
Outlook: After employing next-level quarterbacks for the past five years, NC State is bracing for a decline in passing efficiency in 2013. The program is fortunate to have Thomas, who was on campus in 2012, and is an experienced starter. Still, neither he nor Stocker is Glennon, which will be obvious early on. The Pack will attempt to coach up all of the quarterbacks, including Brissett who gets unveiled next year.
The Pack's top two rushers return, lending hope that the ground game will possess punch for the first time in a long time. Junior Tony Creecy has been second in rushing the last two years, yet was first on the depth chart coming out of spring. The 5-11, 210-pounder went for 476 yards and five scores on 127 carries, adding 34 receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown. Rugged and powerful, with soft hands, he needs to do a better job of making his own yards when running behind a mediocre Pack O-line.
Running stride-for-stride with Creecy is sophomore Shadrach Thornton, last year's leading rusher, despite sitting out the first three games. The 6-1, 203-pounder ran for 694 yards and three touchdowns on 154 carries to go along with 30 catches for 274 yards and a score. He's a smooth athlete, with the stride to glide through the hold. However, ball security has been an issue that'll keep Thornton at No. 2 if not rectified.
Watch Out For .... the rookies to get an opportunity to contribute right away. Joshua Mercer of Georgia and Dakwa Nichols of North Carolina will have no limitations this summer as they join a unit with plenty of openings and upward mobility.
Strength: Two players capable of starting. Creecy and Thornton are virtually interchangeable in the backfield, providing State with ample depth. Thornton started four games in 2012, and Creecy the other eight, so the coaches will have no worries about going with the hot hand or the fresh legs in the fall.
Weakness: Fumbling. This is more of a Thornton issue than a Creecy concern, but one that bears a close watch nonetheless. Thornton put the ball on the turf in 2012, and again repeatedly in the spring, earning himself a depth chart demotion.
Outlook: NC State doesn't have a breakaway back or even a sure-fire feature back, but it does harbor two players who can gobble up carries. Creecy is steady, and the best is still ahead for Thornton as long as he can find the handle on the ball. Both are hoping to flourish in the new up-tempo attack that'll spread the field, giving both a chance to make plays as runners and receivers.
No one knows for sure who'll be the quarterback in Raleigh this fall. His targets, however, are already proven commodities. Led by junior Bryan Underwood, two of last season's best receivers are back for another year. Underwood was one of the ACC's most clutch pass-catchers of 2012, turning his 44 grabs into 620 yards and 10 scores. One of those touchdowns was a game-winner with 16 seconds left to stun Florida State. The 5-9, 177-pound scoring machine at "F" spent most of the season coming off the bench, yet time after time would crush opponents by locating the soft spots in the D.
Underwood will once again pair with senior Quintin Payton to give State an eclectic duo on the outside. While the former relies on his quickness and route-running, the latter is able to create mismatches with his size. At 6-4 and 211 pounds, Payton can often be too big and too strong for opposing defensive backs. He filled an important void in the passing game a season ago, catching 51 balls for a team-best 798 yards and two touchdowns from "X". After benefitting from being a battery mate of Mike Glennon, it's now Payton's turn to assist in the transition to a new quarterback at NC State.
Rounding out the starting wide receivers from "Z" is underrated senior Rashard Smith. The converted cornerback showed flashes in his debut at wide receiver, catching 19 balls for 315 yards and five touchdowns last year. He shows a knack for competing for the ball and playing bigger than his frame. And when the ball is in his hands, there's always a chance for fireworks.
When a tight end is needed, 6-3, 237-pound senior Asa Watson is going to get the call. He's a terrific athlete for the position, causing problems in pass defense for linebackers. Coming off his best season in Raleigh, he caught 24 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown.
Behind Payton at "X" is his likely successor, 6-2, 200-pound sophomore Charlie Hegedus. One of only two Wolfpack true freshmen to start a game in 2012, he cut his teeth by catching nine balls for 116 yards and a touchdown. He's a good 10 pounds bigger and stronger than he was last fall. The staff would like to make use of the size of sophomore Maurice Morgan at "F". He's a physical 6-2, 226-pounder who's like having an H-back on the field.
Watch Out For .... Smith to take the next step in his maturation on offense. Last season, he laid the groundwork. This fall, he builds upon it. He's a dynamite all-around athlete, who'll benefit from the attention that Payton and Underwood receive from opposing defenders.
Strength: Depth of talent. In Underwood, Payton and Smith, the Pack boasts three quality sets of hands for which the new quarterback can utilize. Two of the three wide receivers will challenge for All-ACC honors, a distinction few teams in the league can boast.
Weakness: Drops. This group just had way too many bobbled and dropped balls in 2012, some of which wound up as turnovers. The receivers must smooth out the wrinkles and improve their ball skills in order to help elevate the play of the new and relatively inexperienced starting quarterback.
Outlook: The wide receivers will be the strongest unit on the offense, and possibly the entire team. Yeah, depth and consistency must be addressed, but occasional lapses in performance will be offset by the clutch playmaking of Underwood, Payton and Smith. If this trio can quickly digest the nuances of the offensive, it'll be very dangerous this season.
Of the 65 starts along the O-line last year, just 26 are back for 2013. And the pack wasn't very good a year ago, when it was a veteran group. It's going to be a busy offseason for new assistant Mike Uremovich. It's now or never for LT Robert Crisp, the one-time can't-miss recruit who has yet to play up to that level. He's only started 11 career games, including eight last year, when he suffered a broken tailbone. However, Crisp has the 6-7, 298-pound frame, long arms and good feet to use this fall as a salary run.
The team's right tackle will be monstrous junior Tyson Chandler, a starter in 12 games last season. While the 6-7, 360-pounder will maul opposing linemen in a phone booth, he can get exposed around the edge by quicker pass rushers. He struggled early in 2012, but did improve as the season progressed.
The Pack has a big hole to fill in the middle now that three-year starter Camden Wentz has graduated. Looking to fill the void will be 6-5, 276-pound sophomore Joe Thuney. Coveted coming out of high school, he got his feet wet in eight games last year. He's a natural-born leader who now needs to add some bulk and clean up his snaps.
The veteran among the guards from the left side will be 6-6, 300-pound senior Duran Christophe. He's been in the lineup for 18 games during his Wolfpack career, though has missed some time due to injuries, including a head injury that cost him four games in 2012.
Taking the lead at right guard is sophomore Alex Barr, who has played his way into a starting job this offseason. Limited in terms of experience, the 6-7, 326-pounder plays with the aggressiveness and physicality that the coaching staff likes. Barr has remained ahead of 6-2, 284-pound junior Cameron Fordham, the former LSU blocking tight end who started last year's upset of Florida State.
State's most experienced tackle off the bench will 6-7, 295-pound junior Andy Jomantas, a versatile all-around blocker who has appeared in 21 career games and earned a couple of letters.
Watch Out For .... the play this summer of rookie interior lineman Cole Blankenship. One of the nation's top-rated centers back in February is already lining up behind Christophe at left guard. There's no denying that he's a big part of the future, but that future might begin earlier than expected.
Strength: The tackles. Yeah, they have to stay healthy and perform better, but the ceilings are lofty for both Crisp and Chandler. The 6-7 bookends have an opportunity to use Raleigh as a take-off point to the NFL, so there's hope for improved performance in 2013.
Weakness: Production. Not only must the Pack do a markedly better job at the point of contact, but they'll need to do so without a few of last year's key parts. Even with Wentz and All-ACC G R.J. Mattes, NC State still finished the year 106th nationally in sacks allowed and 108th in rushing offense.
Outlook: Might this be the ACC's flimsiest offensive line in 2013? The Wolfpack is rebuilding … off a year in which they were horrible in the trenches. Crisp will have an opportunity to attract the attention of NFL scouts in his finale. Otherwise, the O-line is going to simply attract a lot of opposing linemen eager to pad their personal statistics. The group is a work in progress in every sense of the term.
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