Yesterday, we covered North Carolina State's offense along with Doeren and his staff. Now we'll delve into the Wolfpack defense and special teams.
Last season the Wolfpack allowed 30 points per contest, and were ranked 91st nationally in yards allowed per play. Their rush defense was horrendous and allowed more than 5 yards per carry, which good for 103rd nationally. The pass defense was 47th nationally in yards per play, which is pretty good considering the terrible pass rush from the defensive line.
I'm not sure if it's necessarily good news, but North Carolina State's defensive line does return its four leading tacklers from last season. They also add a pair of freshmen four-star defensive ends in Kentavius Street and Justin Jones. The addition of Street should be a big bonus to this pass rush and rush defense.
The linebacker unit will probably take a step back this season with the loss of middle linebacker and leading tackler Robert Caldwell. Brandon Pittman is slated to start, but can former four-star Rodman Noel have a breakout senior season? He had just 16 tackles last season, but could play an important role in an improved rush defense.
The secondary, like last year, should be the strength of this defense. The unit returns five of its six leading tacklers, and also adds four-star safety Germaine Pratt. When you also consider that Jarvis Byrd only played in six games last season, all of a sudden it could be pretty difficult for opposing offenses to pass against this team. When you also consider the question marks at quarterback throughout the ACC, this suddenly becomes a big advantage.
The Wolfpack have a very good kicker in Niklas Sade, who made 19 of 23 field goal attempts and 31 of 31 extra point attempts last season. Will Baumann was an above average punter last season, who averaged more than 42 yards per attempt. In the return game, they will miss Rashard Smith, who had two punt return touchdowns last season.
North Carolina State certainly won't be a great team, but with improved health and experience gained last season, they have the ability to at least be average. With their schedule, that means they have the chance to go bowling in Dave Doeren's second season in Raleigh. As far as the contest with Wake is concerned, I do think it will be a tight contest. I expect this Wake team to improve as the season goes along, and could easily beat the Wolfpack in Raleigh. That said, I think N.C. State has the edge in this one and will pull away late.
Wake Forest 17 - North Carolina State 20