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2020 ACC Football Collaboration: The North Carolina State Wolfpack

North Carolina State v Georgia Tech Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Today we get to know the North Carolina State Wolfpack, courtesy of Steven Muma from our friends over at Backing the Pack.

Key Departures:

Wide Receiver Tabari Hines (37 receptions, 402 yards, 2 TDs)

Linebacker Louis Acceus (out with injury; 50 tackles in nine games in 2019)

Defensive Tackle Larrell Murchison (team-high 12.0 TFL).

Key Returnees:

Running back Zonovan Knight (ran for team-best 745 yards in 2019)

Quarterback Devin Leary

Wide Receiver Emeka Emezie (team’s leading receiver in ‘19)

Punter Trenton Gill (I’m half kidding)

Key Additions:

Linebacker Vi Jones, a transfer from USC

Defensive end Daniel Joseph, a transfer from Penn State

Wide Receiver Porter Rooks, a true freshman

Brief overview of 2020 team:

NC State was destroyed by injuries last year and struggled to find any sort of consistency at quarterback, rotating through three different guys as the year went along. Devin Leary was one of those three and enters 2020 as the unquestioned starter. I expect he’ll be better but he’ll need to make a substantial leap in order for the Wolfpack to finish the year with a winning record.

NC State also needs more out of its wide receivers, but the offensive line should be solid and the running back position is deep and talented. State also has a new offensive coordinator, which hopefully leads to a more cohesive-looking unit overall. It’s difficult to imagine they could be any worse.

The special teams unit is excellent, while the defense is deep at linebacker and has a potential all-conference performer in defensive tackle Alim McNeill. Depth up front and in the secondary are concerns.

A whole lot went wrong last year, much of it outside the team’s control, and some degree of bounce-back is likely. NC State isn’t about to make a run at the ACC title game, mind you, but I’d expect the Pack will be much more competitive across the board.

Key players to know on offense:

Once again, NC State is heading into a season without really knowing what to expect from the quarterback position. Devin Leary is the most important player on this team, since his performance will largely determine whether this year is decent or another disaster.

Tight end Cary Angeline is a big target who led NC State in touchdown receptions a year ago. He’s a tough matchup in the red zone.

Running back Zonovan Knight showed some impressive flashes for a true freshman and should be difference-maker.

Key players to know on defense + special teams:

Payton Wilson was a fast learner at linebacker and finished the season as the team’s leading tackler—not bad for a freshman. If he stays healthy, he should be highly productive. And I love defensive tackle Alim McNeill, who I expect to have a big year.

NC State’s special teams unit returns placekicker Chris Dunn, who was 21-24 on field goals last year. Punter Trenton Gill led the ACC in yards per punt last season. This is the best group of kickers that Dave Doeren has ever had.

What is your team’s biggest strength?:

Punting, baby, punting. And also field goal kicking.

What is your team’s biggest weakness?

Until proven otherwise, it’s the passing game. It was a disaster in every sense last year—the quarterbacks were inefficient, and the wide receivers failed to consistently provide any sort of deep threat. That simplified things a lot for opposing defenses.

Who is your team MVP?

I’ll go with Zonovan Knight here, though I won’t be surprised if it’s Payton Wilson.