NC State’s offense last season was an adventure, but not like a fun adventure. It was like the kind of adventure where your car breaks down at 1 am on a deserted highway. A calamity may be a more appropriate term.
Some of this was forgivable, the ineptitude being partially sourced from injuries to playmakers like Demie Sumo-Karngbaye, Trent Pennix, and every quarterback to ever enroll in the school. Some of it, however, was not, and that is where the Pack hopes a reconstructed coaching staff and some new faces can rebuild this thing from the ground up.
The Pack loses its best running back, three of its top four receivers, Devin Leary, and three starters on the offensive line. It’s a complete reset for the most part, and State will turn to some new names or guys who have only played small roles at basically every position. Here are five that have the best chance to help get the engine started.
Armstrong is the most obvious choice here. Not to get too deep into it, but the hand wringing about this pickup was always very weird. Adding a quarterback with three years of power-five starting experience is a big win, and if Morris can redshirt, he’ll have three years of eligibility remaining, the same amount he would have had if he transferred out to play immediately, which did not happen.
It’s clear how good this guy can be. He was responsible for 40 touchdowns in only 11 games in 2021, and he threw for almost 4,500 yards. Armstrong will give State an experienced starting quarterback who has played at an all-conference level before, and his rapport with Robert Anae made this a no-brainer. Being able to plug the veteran into Anae’s offense is a huge win and can hopefully cut out some legwork in what frankly needs to be a rapid turnaround.
State needs a big play receiver in the absolute worst way. There is not really a way to pump sunshine here. State’s receivers were not good last year outside of Thayer Thomas, and Thomas is gone now. Timmons only had three catches in 2022, but two of them were two of the best plays by a receiver State had to show for the whole season.
There is obvious ability here, which makes Timmons a candidate for a bigger role in a receiving corps that is in search of anything to get the wheels turning. He’s on the smaller side for an outside receiver and he’s not overly physical, but he’s got good speed and he’s demonstrated surprisingly natural ball skills for a young player.
Pennix represents such a matchup issue for defenses that he really is an asset for an offensive coordinator provided he can stay on the field. Last year, he could not, only playing in five games. If he can stay healthy this year, it really could be the breakout campaign we were looking for in 2022.
Expect to see Pennix move around a lot presnap, as State will hunt matchups with a guy who is too big for many DBs and too fast for many LBs. The former running back averaged nearly 15 yards per catch in 2021 and scored three times despite relatively low usage. Pennix can be a problem in the open field because he’s both fast and big, which are two really good things to be if you want to play football. There really is a lot you can do with this guy, and hopefully Anae is as creative with him as we’re all expecting him to be.
Concepcion is another guy who could breathe some life into this receiving corps. He’s a true freshman, but chances are good he’ll see the field this year, and he may already be one of the best receivers on the team. He seems like a pretty polished player for a true freshman, and had two of the better plays by a receiver in the spring game, where he notably ran with the starters for most of the game.
I’m expecting State to play a lot of different receivers this year. A lot of guys will have their chances to elevate the receiving corps, but Concepcion seems ready out of the gate. He wasn’t State’s number one target at inside receiver for no reason. Don’t be surprised if he contributes immediately.
Allen saw his role increase last year after the injury to Sumo-Karngbaye, and he ended up leading State in rushing three times, including an apparent 77 yards on 14 carries effort against Boston College, despite no evidence that that game ever occurred. State was putrid running the football last year, but it wasn’t the fault of the backs. Allen is good at football, and should compete with Jordan Houston for the top of the depth chart.
Allen has a good combination of patience and speed, and he can be useful catching passes out of the backfield too, which is how he scored his lone touchdown of 2022. I personally think he’s the team’s best running back, and he actually averaged over 5 YPC last year, although that number comes from a small sample size and is buoyed by garbage time runs against Uconn.