Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Preview: NC State Wolfpack
NC State Wolfpack
The Wolf Pack had an up and down season in 2016, finishing 7-6, but this could be the year where an opportunity awaits for NC State to push forward and make the big boys nervous at Florida State, Louisville, and Clemson. Dave Doeren really needs to prove himself this season, as the seat is getting hotter underneath him.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The offensive line may be the best that Doeren has had at NC State, as four starters return from last season. Will Richardson and Tyler Jones both return at the Tackle positions, while both Guards return in Tony Adams and Garrett Bradbury.
Lining up under Center will be returning QB Ryan Finley, the Boise State transfer. Finley looks ready to have the kind of season people were hopeful of him having after transferring from the Broncos. He passed for 3055 yards and 18 scores last fall, and completed just over 60% of his passes.
Leading receiver Stephen Louis returns as well, after catching 35 passes for 678 yards last fall. He averaged 19.37 yards per catch on the year.
Jumichael Ramos will also return at WR after missing last fall. He should step back into a starting role.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Losing RB Matt Dayes was a huge hit, as he absorbed 49% of the carries in the rushing attack last fall. Dakwa Nichols and Nyheim Hines were in a battle to win the starting job in the spring. There is little in the way of returning production at RB, so this is going to be a very green area in the fall.
Kelvin Harmon (X Receiver) and Gavin Locklear (S Receiver) are slated to start after the spring, as Ramos was unavailable. Harmon caught 27 passes, while Locklear caught just two. Someone will have to step up and provide some numbers in the passing game.
The kicking game was a mess last fall, as Kyle Bambard finished just 5/10 and Connor Haskins hit just 4/7 FG attempts.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Eight starters return on defense for the Pack in 2017 for a team that allowed just 22.8 points per game last fall.
The leader on defense is Bradley Chubb, one of the best defensive linemen in the college game today. The line as a while returns intact as well, giving the Pack one of the most fearsome fronts going. DE Kentavius Street, DT BJ Hill, and DT Justin JOnes all return with Chubb to be able to give opposing offenses fits in the trenches.
Jerod Fernandez returns at MLB to give the defense their key play caller back on the field, while Arius Moore also returns outside. Moore recorded 13 TFLs off of the edge at OLB last fall, while Fernandez finished with 88 tackles.
Half of the secondary returns in 2017, with SS Shawn Boone joining CB Mike Stevens in the backfield.
AJ Cole will return at Punter after averaging 41.25 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The secondary will be the weak link here as we head into the fall. Josh Jones was a huge loss at FS, and the Pack will feel that void heading into fall camp.
Nick McCloud will likely step into the open CB job after finishing with three PBUs as a reserve last fall. Dexter Wright will get the first shot at replacing Jones. Along with Jones, Jack Tocho is also gone, and they combined for 17 PBUs last season. JOnes also led the Pack with 109 tackles.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 South Carolina at Charlotte. 9/9 Marshall, 9/16 Furman, 9/23 at Florida State, 9/30 Syracuse, 10/5 Louisville, 10/14 at Pittsburgh, 10/28 at Notre Dame, 11/4 Clemson, 11/11 at Boston College, 11/18 at Wake Forest, 11/25 North Carolina
If the ball bounces right this season, NC State could be in a position t battle Clemson for third in the Atlantic Division in 2017 and advance to a New Years Bowl bid or better. With a few right bounces, NC State becomes the dark horse to steal the division this season. Either way, look for NC State to make a major push for improvement over what happened last season, and this could be a surprise team out of the ACC that is clearly getting some early poll love, as several early polls have them ranked in the low 20s.