Let’s open the first edition of the mailbag and see what’s inside. Oh it’s mail!
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions, if you have one for the next edition, feel free to drop it in the comments or post it on twitter with the hashtag #BTPMailbag.
Who is the breakout player on this year’s football team that didn’t make a significant impact in 2021? - @TreyLowerPxP
Alec: Jordan Houston. I actually feel very comfortable with the ball-carrying duties transitioning to him. He’s a good running back and he’s been around forever, so it really should be pretty seamless. He’s a different type of back than Knight or Houston, smaller but I think more explosive, which I actually hypothesize might be a beneficial tradeoff if we get some growing pains on the blocking front. I think that skillset is easier to block for.
My other answer was going to be Anthony Smith. He’s less likely to just walk into snaps than Houston is, but I think he’ll be hard to keep off the field. This should be the fastest receiving corps State has had in a while and Smith is probably the fastest of all of them. Reports out of spring camp are really good on him too.
Essad: Savion Jackson. The former stud recruit from a few years ago has battled a few injuries, played behind some NFL talent, and worked through a strategy change to a 3-down linemen set. Coach Doeren has been vocal about his progress in offseason training and spring so far, I would imagine/hope we’re going to see a lot of Action Jackson (I just made that up so that’s his nickname now).
Other answer is Demie Sumo. This is going off nothing but hype train, but people have been effusive about the potential of this rising sophomore. He played sparingly on special teams last year, but appears to be in position to fight for major RB reps next season.
Why do people think we are going to win the ACC title when we didn’t even have a winning road record last year? And we took a step back with running game and offensive line, losing our best players to NFL. I want to believe but reality is situation says we ain’t quite there. - @jwckauman
Alec: This feels very pessimistic to me. State was 2-2 in the league on the road last year, losing to two of the best teams by a combined four points. I think there are valid concerns about the offense, particularly the offensive line, but I think how good the rest of the team looks is kind of souring the opinion of that group a little too much. It wasn’t bad last year, even after Zavala went down. It was just kind of mediocre. Now there obviously isn’t another Ickey on the team, but that’s the only starter gone from the back half of the season. State actually ran the ball pretty effectively in the last three games, and four of the five guys who started on that line are back this year. I don’t expect they’ll be great up front, but the defense should be world beaters so it’s not as if State needs to run for 200 yards a game to win. This isn’t last year’s UNC team. It’s anchored by its defense. I’d say they’re in good shape.
Essad: Because when else is NC State possibly going to be in a position to likely be favored in every game they play minus at Clemson? The advanced metrics love this State team loaded with returning talent, and they return about as much as you possibly can in this day and age of football. Are there areas of concern? Sure, every team has those. We’re almost to June so for now it’s positive vibes only from me. Would I bet the farm that the Pack with the ACC? Probably not, but in my eyes it’s a two horse race between State and Clemson in the Atlantic. My biggest worry is not an Ickey replacement, actually. I think we can not undersell the impact of a surehanded receiver like Emeka Emezie. At least there’s still Thayer, but another WR1 will need to emerge quickly for those must-have possessions. If it’s Devin Carter, great, if it’s someone else, that’s great too. Just find someone to fill the shoes of the all time receptions leader in Wolfpack history. Easy peasy. The advantage of having a veteran loaded team is they know they CAN beat Clemson. They just have to do it...again.
(I said positive vibes only and then immediately gave some not positive vibes, my bad)
Now that we’ve won a title in Women’s Cross-Country, which sport is closest to pulling off another NCAA title? Women’s Tennis? Swimming? Wrestling? Women’s Basketball? - @paulpettengill
Alec: This question probably requires a detailed analysis of the national landscape of each sport, which I won’t pretend to be capable of. I feel like it could be any of them though and it’s just a matter of time until one breaks down the wall. Tennis hit #2 in the country and went to the wire with #1 just last week. That’s a team that’s certainly a serious contender already and hasn’t received quite the fanfare State’s other non-revenue’s have. Wrestling is obviously at the peak of the sport but still has to overcome the stupid Big Ten, and WBB will get back to title contender status at some point but probably is a hair short of that next year. I think it’s tennis or swimming.
Essad: I would say Swimming. I watched the Wolfpack wrestling team in the national semifinals. The squad has won the ACC 4 times in a row, but got overmatched by the stronger teams, many from the Big 10. Women’s basketball will be rebuilding next year, and time will tell if Wes will be able to build a team THAT stacked again. To be honest, this was their chance, but the NCAA and the refs took that chance away. The NC State Swim team has been ridiculously successful in the conference. They just won their 31st ACC title, and 7th in 8 years. If anyone is overdue, it’s them.
Who’s the MVP on next year’s women’s hoops team? - Steven Muma
Alec: This is a tough one because State shares the ball so well, it really could be any of Johnson, Hobby, Brown-Turner, or Boyd. I think Camille Hobby was the most underrated player on the team this year and she’s going to get maximum minutes next year (barring some major transfer portal action), so I kinda like her as a sneaky pick, but I’m still going to take Diamond Johnson, who feels like the favorite with how much the ball will be in her hands. She’s going to be the engine for that team and she’s so hard to guard with how explosive she is and how good of a perimeter shooter she is. If she can find a little more consistency, and she shot a much higher percentage last year so there is proof of concept there, she could be in for an absolutely monster year.
Essad: The seniors are leaving this team in the capable hands of Diamond Johnson. She has big shoes to fill taking the reins after Raina Perez. Her challenge is her role will be different next year. Raina was always sure-handed, knowing where to go and when, looking for her shot when the moment called for it. Diamond was asked to be the microwave off the bench and was the ACC 6th Player of the Year because of it. Hobby, JBT, and Jada will all be needed to contribute, but Diamond is the one who will be getting preseason ACC POY buzz.
Which of our linebackers is going to win ACC DPOY? - AlwaysJune
Alec: It’s insane that you can actually seriously ask this question. What’s the ceiling for this group this year? Could this be one of the five best positional units in NC State football history? I think all three of them could win it, and I have no idea how I’m supposed to pick just one. If Payton Wilson can stay healthy, I still think he’s the best one and I’ll take him, but watching Drake Thomas last season, that’s a hard man to pick against. I think the problem for this group is going to be that you can only make one tackle per play.
Essad: I think if I HAD to pick just one, I’d go Drake Thomas. I love Payton Wilson and Isaiah Moore, but coming off season ending injuries will take a minute to get back to game speed. I also think this past year Drake was pushed into the leadership role out of necessity and he wore it well. On a side note, I’m hella bummed Levi Jones isn’t on the team anymore. He was such an underrated flex piece on that defense, having the size to be able to line up at WIL or as a 4th lineman. Not sure if there’s another guy able to take on that role but it lowkey helped the team a lot last year.
What are the current boundaries of “Arizona” - WolfBrew88
Alec: There are none, Arizona isn’t real. It’s a front for Texas to hide how much additional land it has that it doesn’t want you to know about.
Essad: The true lesson was that Arizona was in our hearts all along.