CFN Preview 2013 - NC State Wolfpack
NC State DE Darryl Cato-Bishop
NC State DE Darryl Cato-Bishop
Posted May 19, 2013 2013 Preview - North Carolina State Wolfpack

NC State Wolfpack

Preview 2013

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By Richard Cirminiello

Dave Doeren
1st year: 0-0
3rd year overall: 23-4 Returning Lettermen
Off. 21, Def. 20, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best NC State Players
1. WR Bryan Underwood, Jr.
2. WR Quinton Payton, Sr.
3. DT T.Y. McGill, Jr.
4. DE Darryl Cato-Bishop, Sr.
5. DE Art Norman, Jr.
6. CB Dontae Johnson, Sr.
7. LT Rob Crisp, Sr.
8. NT Thomas Teal, Jr.
9. RB Tony Creecy, Jr.
10. RB Shadrach Thornton, Soph.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Louisiana Tech
9/7 Richmond
9/14 Clemson
9/28 Central Michigan
10/5 at Wake Forest
10/12 Syracuse
10/26 at Florida State
11/2 North Carolina
11/9 at Duke
11/16 at Boston College
11/23 East Carolina
11/30 Maryland
Tom O'Brien cultivated mediocrity at NC State. So did Chuck Amato and Mike O'Cain before him. Dave Doeren has been brought aboard to change the culture and bring championships to the Pack.

In Doeren, the Wolfpack nabbed one of the rising young stars of the coaching ranks. He's been a success everywhere he's worked, from a young coordinator at Kansas and Wisconsin to the head coach at Northern Illinois. In two years with the Huskies, he went 23-4, guiding the team to the 2013 Orange Bowl. Doeren maximized the potential in DeKalb. He was hired to do the very same thing in Raleigh.

NC State last won an ACC championship in 1979. It's won 10 games in a season just once in school history. It has never played in one of college football's marquee bowl games. And yet, the Wolfpack has terrific facilities, a supportive fan base and a recruiting territory that consistently produces NFL talent. So, it's no wonder that AD Debbie Yow is thinking big going forward.

The Pack's final year under the watchful eye of O'Brien was predictably run-of-the-mill. Seven wins. Six losses. Yeah, there was the shocking upset of Florida State on Oct. 6, but a 38-24 Music City Bowl loss to Vanderbilt was a classic reminder of just how far this program is from its goals.

Doeren inherits an average roster of talent by ACC standards. QB Mike Glennon must be replaced, as will three starting offensive linemen and last season's top four tacklers on defense. That coveted championship run is not likely to occur in 2013.

Instead, the new staff will spend much of the year installing new systems on both sides of the ball, and gradually attempting to improve the culture inside the locker room. The one storyline that'll make the most headlines centers on Glennon's successor, a tight battle that has Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas holding a slight lead on 2012 backup Manny Stocker.

After well over 1,000 games of football, NC State is fittingly just a couple of games above .500. Champs Sports Bowls and third-place finishes in the Atlantic Division were never acceptable in Raleigh. However, now the Pack has gotten serious about its restlessness, hiring a coach it feels can finally get this program closer to the Clemsons and the Florida States of the ACC.

What to look for on offense: The receivers to elevate the play of a questionable collection of quarterbacks. Russell Wilson is long gone, and Mike Glennon has joined his predecessor in the NFL. Still, Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker have an edge on recent Pack hurlers, a corps of receivers that'll rank among the most exciting in the ACC. Bryan Underwood and Quinton Payton combined to catch 95 balls and a dozen touchdowns in 2012. And converted defensive back Rashard Smith looks determined to become the best playmaker of the trio.

What to look for on defense: The linemen are going to take up squatter's rights in opposing backfields. The Pack is defensively challenged, but not in the trenches. Not only do four starters return, but the coaching staff feels the team will go two-deep with capable starters. Ends Art Norman and Darryl Cato-Bishop, and tackles T.Y. McGill and Thomas Teal combined for 36.5 stops for minus yards and 18.5 sacks a season ago to lay the foundation for an even more disruptive campaign in 2013.

This team will be much better if… the secondary vexes experts for a second straight year. In 2012, the loaded NC State defensive backfield surprised for all of the wrong reasons, failing to live up to expectations. Now that three starters are attempting to make NFL rosters, the Pack is determined to flip the script once again. The coaching staff is counting on its two best cornerbacks, senior Dontae Johnson and sophomore Juston Burris, to shorten the field by keeping receivers from getting behind them.

The Schedule: With four straight home games to start the season, and five of the first six, the chance is there to get off to a hot start. However, one of the dates against Clemson in the ACC opener. The other downside is the midsection with five road games in seven dates including the brutal road trup to Florida State. Fortunately, the games against the Coastal are against North Carolina at home and Duke - there's no Virginia Tech to deal with. The non-conference slate might be nasty early with Louisiana Tech, and tough late against East Carolina, but overall it's more than manageable.

Best Offensive Player: Junior Bryan Underwood. It's not where you start a game that matters. It's where you finish. At least that was the way Underwood operated in 2012. The fact that he started just four games could not keep him from catching 44 balls for 620 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's outstanding at locating soft spots in defenses and coming up with the clutch play, catching the game-winner with 16 seconds left to shock Florida State. Underwood will continue to flourish in a new offense that's searching for good athletes this offseason.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DT T.Y. McGill. McGill bloomed into one of the program's most unexpected stars in 2012, laying the groundwork for possible early entry into the 2014 NFL Draft. The 6-1, 293-pounder has many of the base attributes that the staff seeks in a gap-busting tackle, including quick feet and good hands. Despite getting limited reps in 2011, McGill took flight with 39 tackles, 10.5 stops for loss and five sacks. Expectations are soaring for No. 75 in 2013.

Key player to a successful season: Senior LT Rob Crisp. No, the former blue-chip recruit won't singlehandedly elevate the play of the O-line, but he could set the tone for the young blockers surrounding him. The Wolfpack was terrible at the point of attack in 2012, and could be even worse this fall now that three of the best blockers have graduated. NC State desperately needs Crisp to stay healthy and lead by example, keeping the new quarterback clean from his blindside.

The season will be a success if ... the Pack wins at least seven games, possibly eight. Aggressive considering the modest talent and need for a new quarterback? Not when the schedule is closely reviewed. NC State will play just two teams ranked in the preseason Top 25, Clemson and Florida State. The balance of the slate includes winnable games versus the likes of Louisiana Tech, Richmond, Central Michigan and East Carolina ... all at Carter-Finley Stadium. This is the kind of team that might not be as formidable as its final record indicates.

Key game: Oct. 5 at Wake Forest. This is a rivalry game, a swing game and the Pack's first road game of the year ... all rolled into one. The schedule consists of eight home games, most of which will not be out of reach. Every road trip that State can put in the win column puts this team a giant step closer to exceeding expectations in 2013. If this team even splits its four games outside of Raleigh, there's a very good chance that it'll go down as a table-setting first year for head coach Dave Doeren.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Yards per rush: NC State 3.1 – Opponents 4.1
- Touchdown passes: NC State 31 – Opponents 20
- Third-down conversions: NC State 41% – Opponents 27%
- 2013 NC State Preview | 2013 NC State Offense
- 2013 NC State Defense | 2013 NC State Depth Chart