NC State is coming off of back-to-back 9-4 seasons, and just recently head coach Dave Doeren signed a five year extension after leading the Wolfpack to five consecutive bowl appearances.
The Wolfpack were picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic Division in the preseason media poll, and looks to be in somewhat of a rebuilding year after losing most of their offensive production from last season.
NC State will have to replace the production it got from quarterback Ryan Finley, receivers Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers, and running back Reggie Gallaspy. That group helped the Wolfpack to be the top-ranked offense in the ACC last season. NC State also lost three starting offensive linemen, including Rimington Trophy winner center Garrett Bradbury.
In addition to replacing key personnel, the team must learn a slightly new offense this year, as offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz took the head coaching job at Appalachian State when Scott Satterfield left for Louisville.
The quarterback battle is wide open. Redshirt sophomore Matthew McKay has the most on-field experience in a Wolfpack uniform, but true freshman Devin Leary, and sophomore Bailey Hockman are also being given a chance to prove that they should be the starter.
Ricky Person Jr. looks to be the primary running back, as he ran for 471 yards and 2 touchdowns last season. Freshman Zonovan “Bam” Knight impressed in the spring game, and looks to serve as a second-look back in the backfield with Person.
Junior Emeka Emezie will lead the receiving corps, as last season he had 53 catches for 616 yards and 5 touchdowns. Sophomore Thayer Thomas should also have a bigger role after catching 34 passes last year.
The offensive line returns two starters from last year, and has four guys who have seen significant action in their careers.
The Wolfpack may not have the top-ranked offense in the ACC this year, but teams shouldn't sleep on their ability to produce on that side of the ball.
NC State returns eight players who started the majority of games from last year’s defense. Linebacker Jermaine Pratt is now in the NFL, and his production may have to be replaced by multiple players.
Defensive ends James Smith-Williams and Deonte Holden are redshirt seniors and graduate students, respectively, and provide lots of experience up front, allowing the Wolfpack to generate plenty of pressure on opposing offensive lines. Larrell Murchison started every game last season at defensive tackle, and adds to an impressive front four that also features talented freshmen Joshua Harris and Savion Jackson along with sophomore Alim McNeill.
Replacing Pratt at linebacker is no easy task, but one that redshirt junior Brock Miller will nonetheless be tasked with. Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Moore will anchor the middle of the defense, and looks to improve upon a solid year last year.
In the secondary, senior safety Jarius Morehead returns after leading the team with 81 tackles and also hauling in three interceptions last season. Seniors Tim Kid-Glass, Nick McCloud, and Stephen Griffin add to a secondary that is loaded with experience and looks to bounce back after struggling last year. Sophomore Teshaun Smith and junior Chris Ingram could also see time in the secondary if others struggle. This may be an all-hands-on-deck type position group for NC State this season.
Chris Dunn has the kicking job on lock after converting on all 51 PATs last year and making 23 field goals.
Mackenzie Morgan from Australia (wonder where teams came up with the idea to use Australian punters...) will be taking over the punting job after A.J. Cole’s graduation.
Thayer Thomas will likely remain as the primary punt returner, and the Pack have a number of freshmen who could be the kick returners.
Wake Forest welcomes NC State to BB&T Field on November 2nd, and looks to make it three straight wins against the Wolfpack. This rivalry game sets up nicely to be a big one for both teams.