There's no question that 2013 was a disaster for head coach Dave Doeren and N.C. State. However, the Wolfpack will enter the 2014 season with a clean slate, a new quarterback and a new slogan that will finally silence the ones who mocked the school's poorly defended "This Is Our State" moniker. Here are three aspects of the Pack that will be closely examined in the 2014 campaign.
Brandon Mitchell was hindered with an opening-week injury and struggled to get back into the swing of things while Pete Thomas was stuck in a system where he didn't belong. Now, Brissett is at the helm, and all eyes are on him. The Florida transfer lit up the White team's defense in the Kay Yow Spring Game, completing 24 of 37 passes for 365 yards, two touchdowns and only one pick. He has plenty of potential for success, but with the tough competition in the ACC, he'll have a tough uphill climb.
If Brissett has an uphill climb to succeed in the ACC, then the Wolfpack's secondary will have to make a climb of Mt. Everest proportions. The defense was atrocious last season, and with Dontae Johnson gone to the 49ers, it will be farther behind. However, Jarvis Byrd was granted a sixth year of eligibility, and the secondary has promising defensive backs in Juston Burris and Jack Tocho. The secondary can flourish with the defensive-minded Doeren at the helm. Will it? Against tough arms like Florida State quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy-winner Jameis Winston, it doesn't look likely.
3. The running game
The Pack has three primary running backs that should have the majority of the carries for State this season: Tony Creecy, Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes. Also, Brissett has the capability to take off for a large gain, and wide receiver Bryan Underwood broke off multiple huge gains on end-around runs, one of which was the infamous botched call against then-No. 3 Clemson. Despite the skills from Brissett and Underwood, the backs will carry the bulk of the running, and that frightens me. Thornton has to start the season as hot as he finishes it, and he'll need to stay out of legal troubles. Dayes has a lot of potential, and he showed occasional glimmers of top-tier talent, but he has a long way to go until he reaches that point. As for Creecy, he either needs to get faster or just come into the game for red zone carries and blocking. He can succeed against Division II and low-tier Division I opponents, but once conference play starts, it's like he keeps running into brick walls. There's no doubt he's the biggest back in the group and that he'd be a huge blocker for Brissett, but if he's entering the season as No. 1 on the depth chart, there's still some work to be done before he'll legitimately earn it.