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!
#4. More veterans than you can shake a stick at
Excited or Worried? Couldn’t be more excited, honestly
Essad: I was originally going to dedicate this post to Thayer Thomas, and how we should all enjoy watching every game he plays in since it will be his last for the Pack. Then I was like, wait, what about Tyler Baker-Williams, or Tanner Ingle, or this guy, or that guy...? Basically, we should be soaking in every play with this squad, as teams like this do not come around that often. In the previous post about Dave Doeren, we talked about the culture he has created as the NC State coach. I can’t remember a coach who emboldened the roster with such a love for the school they play for. So many of them came back because of their love for each other, their coach, and their school. It means something to them to be back, so it means something to me as a fan to see that. I don’t take this team for granted one bit.
I still sometimes feel like Chris Dunn just got here, since he was needed so badly, but then other times I feel like he’s always been here. The same can be said for Grant Gibson, with his 828 career snaps played from scrimmage. He’s started the last 35 games at center, the second-longest starting streak on the team, second only to the aforementioned Dunn. I could name all the guys, but it’s a long list. It says nothing of the guys with time still on the clock, but are most likely off to bigger and better things after this year (Devin Leary, pick a starting LB, etc.). If you’re planning to attend senior day this year, expect a long procession.
The team is likely to look quite different next year, but that’s okay as the cycle must continue. Ultimately, I hope the young guys are taking in as much as they can from the vets, so that they can pass it on when it’s their turn. The oldest guys on this team were young bucks when Bradley Chubb and company were still here. What we can hope for is they have continued to expand the standard set by the old guard, and pass on that responsibility to the next group. In this way, we’ll be speaking about the current crop of freshmen and sophomores just as wistfully.
Alec: Get old and stay old as they say. The experience on this team is a rare find in modern college football, and not to toot the horn too much, but a lot of it is due to the culture of the program. Cory Durden, Tanner Ingle, Shyheim Battle, Thayer Thomas, Tyler Baker-Williams, Grant Gibson, and even more guys including Devin Leary all could have left this year and taken a real shot at the pros. They came back because they care about what happens here. It matters to them, and that cultural element is something State could cash in on in a big way this year.
Additionally, the extra year of eligibility and the injury issues of the last three years have given so many guys so many snaps that State is just loaded with experience, not just in the starting lineup, but even in the two-deep, which is largely made up of guys who have played a lot of ball.
Experience matters everywhere, but at a place like NC State that depends heavily on development, it’s a requirement to win. Getting an extra year of guys who State is maxing out as college players is what can take State from good to great.