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NC State The Dynasty, Year 2: We’ll have ourselves an Orange Bowl party

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NC State vs. Duke Photo by Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

When we left off in Year 2 of head coach David DeKalb’s now wildly successful NC State tenure—everyone about town is discussing this—the Wolfpack had just delivered a decisive ACC Championship Game win over Virginia Tech.

As a reward, State earned a bid to the Orange Bowl to play West Virginia, which is ranked fourth nationally and has Heisman-winning quarterback Pat White. Not to mention running back Steve Slaton. Remember those guys?

Unfortunately, West Virginia proves too much despite an outstanding defensive effort from State, and the Mountaineers win by a field goal. The Mountaineers finished 13-0 and received 15 first-place votes in the AP Poll even though Tennessee won the BCS Championship. So we don’t feel terrible about this loss.

(Also, the Colorado team we lost to in the Gator Bowl last season ended up in the BCS Championship game this year.)

We finish the season at No. 15 in both polls. Darrell Blackman wins Kick Returner of the Year honors: he averaged 31 yards per kickoff return and took a pair to the house. True freshman tackle (we started true freshmen at both tackle spots) Dallas Mcrae—one of the jewels of Coach’s initial class—earned Freshman All-America honors. Bright future for this kid.

Meanwhile, we can’t even crack the top 12 in Coach of the Year voting. However, Coach DeKalb’s efforts clearly are recognized by those that count—we are offered jobs by both Notre Dame (!) and LSU. The Irish are coming off a 3-9 season and they’re on NCAA probation, to boot. (Yuck.) We decline both, opting instead to sign a three-year extension with NC State.

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The offseason process begins with taking stock of who is leaving, either through graduation or early departure to the draft. Last year we convinced DeMario Pressley to come back to school and felt guilty about it, so that’s not a thing we will be doing anymore. A junior cornerback (No. 6, which is ... Levin Neal???) opts to declare early. That’s a tough hit since we were already losing a lot of defensive talent.

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Our 2007 signing class was outstanding, somehow finishing in the top 10 nationally. Since then, we’ve won a conference title and added another star in program prestige, making us a five-star school. (Coaching prestige, program prestige, location, playing time, etc., are various pitches you can make to recruits to aid your landing them.)

So we’re feeling pretty high and mighty heading into the 2008 recruiting cycle, which is probably why it goes off the rails. Flew a little too close to the sun. Mind you, pound-for-pound, our class is good—the problem is we only signed 14 kids. Eight of them are four-star prospects, but we had well over 20 scholarships to give out, and any of them that don’t get filled are replaced by computer-generated walk-ons. So, uh, this may cost in the depth department down the road. We’ll have a smarter approach for the 2009 cycle, and that is the promise we make to you, our most valued bag men.

But we are confident we landed our quarterback of the future in four-star Damon Chambers, who is a 6’2, 195-pound kid from New Jersey. He was an Elite 11 invitee this past year, he has outstanding speed, and he’s already the third-best QB on the roster. He’ll be redshirting the 2008 season.

We also love the future of this team’s secondary because we’ve landed several blue-chip players at corner and safety the last two years.

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The offseason part of the Dynasty feature is so detailed that you can actually play—or just watch—your team’s spring game. I have yet to do this, but I feel the temptation because it’s just a ridiculous waste of time.

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After everything else is sorted, we take stock of offseason improvements by the guys, set the depth chart, and move into the 2008 season proper. We’re redshirting where it’s prudent, but no such option exists for our comically loaded backfield, which includes three of our five highest-rated players, led by Andre Brown.

I can adjust certain general strategy elements on a slider (i.e., set it so 55% of plays will be passes and 45% will be runs), and with our backfield in mind, I’m moving to a 60% run tendency. Frankly I hate this, but I mean, if we’re just going to pound the shit out of people, then that’s what we’re gonna do, much as I’d prefer to air it out. The team has a first-year starting QB so this seems the right move. Let’s hope Toney Baker (now staggered a year behind true senior Andre Brown after redshirting 2007) gets a bit more burn, but if not, 2009 is his.

Brown is a 95 overall, making him the best player on the team.

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Marcus Stone walked off into the sunset after delivering an ACC championship to NC State, and he is a forever-legend for his outstanding performance in that game. Who’s next?

Quarterback shouldn’t be a huge liability—State has a redshirt senior who is an 87 overall (similar to Stone’s rating) stepping in—but he’s been a career reserve, so who knows. And maybe one of you can help me here: this is a guy I inherited at the beginning and so theoretically a real person, but he’s No. 16 and definitely not Russell Wilson.

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We enter 2008 at No. 15 in both preseason polls after beginning last year just outside the top 25. In the non-conference, we have Alabama A&M, Louisiana Tech, Army, and preseason No. 10 Nebraska. In conference play, we have four opponents ranked in the preseason top-25: FSU (17), Miami (19), Clemson (20), and Maryland (25). Our overall schedule strength is rated an A—perhaps we can earn a bit more respect from pollsters this season! This year’s gonna be a test for sure. Let’s go see if we can run ‘em all over.