The NC State Wolfpack football team is less than a week away from their matchup with Texas A&M in the Ad Blocker Gator Bowl (or something like that). With the team already undergoing several changes since the December 1st demolition of Eastern Carolina University, let’s go ahead and take a look back at how the players performed during the regular season before the team begins morphing into what we’ll start to see in 2019.
For the regular season wrap up, I included a chart with the players’ snap counts in every game which shows how the lineup evolved over the course of the season. I also included some offensive stats that I haven’t included in the past.
Ryan Finley is good at football. You guys already knew that. It has been announced that Finley is definitely playing the bowl game so that’s a relief. Based on these numbers, I think Matt McKay goes into the Spring at the top of the QB depth chart. He has been in the program the longest and is the only player in the upcoming QB competition that has taken snaps in an actual college football game. He did very well in that limited action. It is very cool that the staff got Woody Cornwell some snaps and that he was able to score a touchdown against ECU.
Congratulations to Reggie Gallaspy on 1000+ yards rushing on the season! Ricky Person showed some flashes of what he can do although he may not have ever been 100% healthy this year. I included RB receiving stats for the first time in the participation report and, as you can see, passes to the RB were not a big part of the offense. Trent Pennix, though, did average more than a catch per game so there’s evidence that the staff may have wanted to use him more in the passing game. That may be how he fits into the offense going forward.
Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers became the first 1000+ receiving duo in program history. Meyers also set the single season receptions record. Behind them is an exciting group of talented, young receivers. The one area where the Wolfpack receivers were not successful is running the ball.
Dylan Autenrieth was the Pack’s primary TE this year and his main job is to create running lanes for the RBs. Cary Angeline came in as a heralded transfer from Southern Cal and never quite lived up to the hype. The tall tight end made some big catches and was enough of a threat to serve as a decoy to get others open at times. The receiver corp was so stacked this season, though, that he was never able to really establish a major role in the offense. The redshirt sophomore still has the potential to be an important piece of the offense for the next couple of years.
Garrett Bradbury won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top Center. Both he and Terronne Prescod received All-America honors. They also combined for one of the most memorable rushing TDs and celebrations in Wolfpack history in their final game at Carter-Finley Stadium. NC State has had the luxury of one of the best offensive lines in the nation for the past couple of years. Hopefully that can continue with Bradbury, Prescod, and Jones all graduating and a new offensive line coach coming in.
After all the accolades for the defensive line last season, this year’s group didn’t get a lot of hype. Despite the lack of individual awards, they performed well as a unit. NC State finished the regular season 16th in the nation in sacks, 38th in tackles for loss, and 13th in rushing defense - all things the defensive line played a major role in achieving. James Smith-Williams came into the season as the biggest question mark on the defensive line and finished with the most tackles, TFLs, sacks, and QB hurries of the entire group. The defensive line has a bright future ahead between the underclassmen that performed well this year and the stacked recruiting class coming in.
In his only year as a starter, Germaine Pratt was an absolute beast. He lead the team in tackles and finished second in the ACC in tackles (one behind the leader). He also led the team in TFLs, tied Smith-Williams for first on the team in sacks, led the team in QB hurries, and tied for the most forced fumbles. Isaiah Moore had a great first season at the other linebacker spot and finished third on the team in tackles. Acceus and Miller also proved to be capable backups. It will suck losing Pratt, but the future still looks bright at the LB spot with the underclassmen performing well and some stud recruits ready to join the team next season.
The nickel position is one of the areas where the Wolfpack struggled this season. An injury to Stephen Griffin in Fall camp put true freshman Tanner Ingle on the top of the depth chart to start the season. Ingle became an early crowd favorite with his big hits, but lost some of that favor when it became obvious he was struggling in coverage. After the bye week, Griffin became healthy enough to begin taking the majority of the nickel snaps. While Griffin still struggled at times, he was a definite upgrade in pass coverage. Veteran Freddie Phillips did not factor in much at nickel. Achilles tears are a tough injury to bounce back from even with a year of recovery time.
Jarius Morehead was easily the best player in the secondary this season and, at times, seemed like the only bright spot. Morehead finished second on the team in tackles and first in interceptions.
Chris Ingram and Nick McCloud got the bulk of the work at the cornerback position this season. Injuries to Kishawn Miller and McCloud forced true freshman Teshaun Smith into action midway through the season. The conversion of Maurice Trowell from WR to CB never really materialized as he only got CB snaps in two of the bigger blowouts of the season. In general, the CBs definitely struggled this year. The good news moving forward is that while CB depth has been an issue for the Pack for several years now, the ‘18 and ‘19 recruiting classes are adding a lot of talent to that position. That means more competition for playing time and the ability to confidently switch personnel if someone is having a bad game.
The first, and most obvious, thing to discuss is Chris Dunn’s season. The freshman made 87.5% of his FG attempts and one of those misses was blocked. His 21 made FGs in a season is a school record and is more made FGs than the past two seasons combined (10 in 2018, 9 in 2017). Great job, Mr. Dunn! You did your job well! There is a glaring negative here that I’d like to point out and it has nothing to do with Dunn. 16 of his 24 FG attempts were from less than 30 yards. This is a huge red flag that our offense was good at getting into the red zone but not good at finishing with a TD. That fact is not news to anyone who was paying attention this year, but it is an indicator of that weakness.
For the season wrap up, you’ll see that I also included a lot of other special teams stats that I haven’t included in the past. This is to show how valuable someone like Brady Bodine was to this team. Not only was he a reliable backup RB, but he was also the second leading tackler on special teams. Unfortunately, it also shows why kickoffs were frequently a source of frustration for us fans this season - 23 touchbacks on 80 kicks. If I’m reading those stats correctly, our opponents had 33 touchbacks on 56 attempts. We need a stronger leg on kickoffs.
Some late season usage has burned De’Von Graves and Tyler Baker-WIlliams’ redshirts. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess Trent Pennix won’t be playing in the bowl game since that would burn his redshirt.
That’s it. One more game to go - assuming the game doesn’t get First-Responder-Bowl’d (aka - cancelled due to weather during the first quarter).
The source of these stats: GoPack.com