Football is just around the corner, folks, can’t you feel it!? We figured what better way to get us all ready than counting down the top storylines heading into this season. Here’s the wrinkle: These are all things we’re either excited or worried about. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with the team receiving their highest preseason ranking in program history. We know that dreaded SSUPO wants to rear its ugly head, so while we’re mostly gaga over this team, there will be a few areas that are still question marks. Alec and Essad will break down the top 10 topics their thinking about as kickoff fast approaches.
And with that, let’s continue counting!
#8. Offensive Explosiveness
Excited or Worried? Honestly pretty excited
Essad: There are detractors who like to harp on Dave Doeren’s philosophy of “complimentary football”, and “remember in this game when they kept on running the ball when it wasn’t working??” My counter to that is Exhibit A: Devin Leary threw 35 touchdowns last year. Devin was cooking with grease, and this year he might be cooking with jet fuel. Doeren allows his QB’s leeway as long as they don’t violate Rule #1: take care of the football. Leary has shown he can do that and then some, so expect the offense this season to show a pass-heavy lean. We’re not talking about something like what Brennan Armstrong was doing last year, mind you. NC State will for sure still be running the ball a healthy amount. But we should expect downfield shots to increase this season. Hopefully, this also means they learned from their mistakes of being overly conservative in their first two downs, or going for it more often on fourth and short.
That isn’t to say those shots didn’t happen last year. Don’t be one of those people that only thinks about the completed long passes and discounts all the other shots that didn’t connect. For every CJ Riley bomb (my God that’s a beautifully thrown pass):
...There’s a pass to Devin Carter that JUUUUST misses:
That ball went about 54 yards IN THE AIR. I still think Carter just had bad luck with where the shadow was.
If he gets this pass maybe that game never goes to OT. The point is that these types of shots were happening last season. A couple to Anthony Smith, a couple to Porter Rooks, etc. that just didn’t connect. Don’t get me wrong, more of these shots are needed per game, like at least once per quarter you have to take a long shot. The difference is that all these guys, Carter, Smith, Rooks, are still on the team, and able to learn on those past almost’s. All signs are pointing to Smith, specifically, having improved his pass catching while still having his signature blazing speed. I look to him to be the defense stretcher this year.
TLDR: Leary gets more leeway and is asked to throw more big more often, and the guys he’s throwing too will be more capable of making that happen. If, however, you’re worried about their ability to consistently move the chains when needed...well, my friends, you’ll have to return for another episode of the countdown for that very topic...
Alec: I think this will be the strength of NC State’s offense again, maybe even more so because it adds speed on the outside and at tailback. I worry about State being able to consistently move the ball, but I feel pretty good that they’ll find their share of chunk plays.
The main reason is how good Devin Leary is at throwing the deep ball. He’s just like really good at it. It sounds like State is still very much sorting things out at receiver, but Lesane, Gray, Smith, and Jones are all guys who can burn some rubber. They may give up the physical mismatches they depended so much last year with Emezie (depending on what Carter looks like), but the speed should create plenty of opportunities to get the ball downfield provided these guys who didn’t see a lot of time last year seize the moment this year.
I also think State could find more explosive plays on the ground with a more explosive back in Jordan Houston. Knight and Person were so physical. I’m very interested to see what the running game looks like with more of a speed back on the field.
I have real concerns about State’s offense this year, but its ability to find big plays isn’t really on the list. It will hit its share of those with an elite quarterback. I’m quite confident of that.