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Players to Watch: NC State Wolfpack

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The impact players on a robust ACC Atlantic team.

Boston College v North Carolina State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Last week, the Deacons set off against No. 19 Syracuse Orange. The team looked good initially, as it scored the first ten points in the first quarter. Everything looked to be going in the right direction as both sides of the ball seemed to be on pace for something great.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it panned out. The Syracuse offense was able to wake up with around six minutes left in the first to score 28 unanswered. From there, it never looked back and went on to win 41-24.

In that game, I told you to keep an eye of running back Moe Neal and safety Andre Cisco.

Here’s how those two performed.

Neal: 11 carries, 67 yards, 1 touchdown

Cisco: 2 tackles, 1 pass deflection

Neal was a key contributor in the Orange offense during the first half of the game. He, along with dual-threat quarterback Eric Dungey, was able to maintain a one-two punch on the ground. The former gave the explosive runs out of the backfield between the tackles while the latter was able to find running lanes on passing plays. Even though Neal didn’t play in the second half, as the team assigned power back Dontae Strickland to carry the load, his impact was seen nonetheless.

As for Cisco, his impact was never truly given the opportunity. This is because the Deacons offense shied away from throwing in his vicinity on passing plays. Usually, there were quick, short passes or ones with one-on-one coverage down the sideline against the opposing corner. As a result, Cisco didn’t get the chance to do what he does best, locating the ball in the air and coming down the turnover.

As for this week, the Deacons have a short time to prepare. The game is on Thursday night against the NC State Wolfpack.

The Pack has been pretty successful this season as it has a 6-2 record, getting key victories against both Florida State and Boston College.

With senior quarterback Ryan Finley still under center, the team’s offense has been in constant motion since his arrival in 2016.

That said, here are the players to watch out for come Thursday night.

Jakobi Meyers

Myers has truly transformed his game since arriving at Raleigh.

Regarded as a talented dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school, he was able to make all kinds of plays with the ball in his hands. This made him a prime target for head coach Dave Doeren and his staff.

After redshirting his freshman season, Meyers found a new, and transformative position of which he can become. That, of course, was transitioning to slot wide receiver.

This change has proven to be nothing short of successful.

His two main assets that have been evident over the past two seasons.

The first one has been his route running. Being able to correctly run the designed direction is key in becoming a successful slot receiver. He has a bigger field of opportunity than say a wideout and needs to use this field to his advantage. Luckily for Myers, he has been able to figure that out. He can do it on the three key stages of core receiving. Running on the outside near the sidelines for a catch, primarily near the red zone, has been a successful style of play for him. Quick inside slats as well as being able to run down the middle of the field help open up his offensive versatility and gives defenses a hard time in predetermining his moves.

His catch IQ is also a big part of his game. What this means is that he has the ability to shift his body in the direction that the ball is going to. Either reaching on the other side of his body or understanding to jumping over his defender for the jump ball, Myers has shown to understand how to handle an incoming target.

I can see Myers having yet another big game this time around. He’s been able to match up well against ACC defenses, as he went for 125 yards on nine catches against Florida State and nearly one hundred yards against Boston College.

Germaine Pratt

Pratt wins this essentially by default. He is the quintessential leader on the defensive unit and is a prime reason for the Wolfpack’s success this season.

Like Myers, Pratt came into the program playing a different position. He was recruited as a safety, but has since transitioned over to linebacking duties.

His explosive speed, which was one of his trademarks coming into college, has stayed with him throughout his four years on his team. The ability to move sideline to sideline, identify where a play is going, and ultimately pursue he ball carrier down the field is the reason why he’s been able to become a maniac on the defensive side of things.

In terms of sheer tackling, Pratt is one of the conference’s best. He has shown the ability to wrap up pursuing backs and receivers who are charging at full speed. This causes him to be not only a great run stopper up the middle, but also a key figure in zone coverage as he is able to stop bigger plays from happening down the field.

This has translated well statistically, where, according to NCAA.com, he is tied seventh with the most solo tackles in the country.

Let’s not forget the third part of Pratt’s game: sacks. This year, in particular, he’s learned to locate the opposing quarterback and bring him down for a sack. Of course, his two other skill sets come into a major role in helping him with this process. The explosive speed gives him an better opportunity to reach the man under center before play is fully run, and his tackling ability allows him to wrap up at a high level, forcing the quarterback down.

He currently leads his team with 5.5 sacks this season, and that number may rise if the Deacons O Line can’t fix its mistakes from last week when it allowed five sacks against Syracuse.

I can see Pratt being a problem all over the field for the Deacons. His experience understanding team’s schemes make him a great adapter throughout the course of the game. He could become a staple in limiting the team’s running attack, and Wake need to find a way to overcome that level of sheer talent if it wants to be successful on Thursday.