NC State football: 11 seasons and counting since the Pack's last 1,000-yard rusher

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

NC State hasn't had a 1,000-yard running back since T.A. McLendon was taking handoffs from Philip Rivers, which makes sense as that was around the last time I ever had any confidence in State's ability to establish an effective ground game. And according to ESPN's Andrea Adelson, nobody in the ACC has waited as long as the Wolfpack for another player to hit the 1,000-yard plateau ACC.

The Wolfpack is unlikely to put an end to that dry spell in 2014 for all the reasons Adelson mentions in her piece, not to mention the fact that we can't be entirely sure about Shadrach Thornton's status with the team.

If you want to take the optimistic approach and assume that State has a 13-game season ahead of it (which is to say State reaches a bowl game), then Thornton or Matt Dayes or Currently Anonymous Future Running Back Hero would need to average about 77 yards per game to hit 1,000 yards (that average jumps over 83 YPG for a 12-game season).

No one in recent memory has come close to either of those averages.

Year Leading Rusher Rushing Yds Rushing Yds/Game
2013 Shadrach Thornton 768 69.8
2012 Shadrach Thornton 694 63.1
2011 James Washington 897 69.0
2010 Mustafa Greene 597 45.9
2009 Toney Baker 773 64.4
2008 Andre Brown 767 59
2007 Jamelle Eugene 667 55.6

State had enough talent in the backfield to find a worthy successor to McLendon, but injuries and perpetually mediocre offensive lines derailed the likes of Andre Brown and Toney Baker, both of whom were highly-touted prospects out of high school.

James Washington was the closest to 1,000 since 2007, though he needed 13 games to approach 900 yards, and his modest talents contributed to his average of a smidge under four yards per carry, which was not exactly an ideal figure.

Thornton posted much healthier per-carry numbers in 2012 and 2013, but he has yet to play a full season as a member of the Wolfpack. He missed a game in 2013 because of a suspension, and I'm guessing the same will be true in 2014, assuming of course that Dave Doeren ultimately decides to keep him on the squad. That seems to be where we're headed.

Is Thornton or Dayes talented enough to get to 1,000 yards this season or the next? More importantly, will they get enough support from the line and the passing game to put them in a position to get there? Unfortunately for those guys, most likely there's just too much around them in need of fixin'. The same foundational problem confronted Tom O'Brien, and it confronts Doeren now.

TOB never did find the solution. Doeren just might, led by the offensive linemen he's already added to the roster, and in any case, his ability to recruit higher-caliber players makes him more likely to get the program out of this particular flavor of purgatory.

It's probably too late for Thornton to benefit from the rebuilding efforts. It looks that way right now, at least. When we get to August, I'll completely change my mind because August is the designated GET HYPE EVERYONE IS IN THE BEST SHAPE OF THEIR LIVES WE WILL WIN 10 GAMES month. I don't like to mess with tradition.

Bleak, sorry reality will have to do until then.

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