Hello and welcome to Backing The Pack’s Big Ol’ Sweaty 2019 NC State Football Preview. I promise that I have been in the weight room all summer to get myself into better football preview shape than ever before. Six o’clock every morning, hittin’ that adjective machine hard.
I’m going to go by position groups, beginning today with the running backs.
Reggie Gallaspy gave NC State its third different 1,000-yard rusher in as many seasons, and while that alone may imply that the Wolfpack’s ground attack managed to compensate for the losses of Nyheim Hines and Jaylen Samuels, that was not the case.
Maintaining the same effectiveness in 2018 after losing two NFL-caliber talents in the backfield was an impossible ask, particularly with the Wolfpack transitioning to a veteran with more limited talents—that’s Gallaspy—and some true freshmen (Ricky Person, Trent Pennix).
State finished the 2017 season ranked 47th in rushing S&P+, but fell to 66th last year. The Pack averaged 3.9 yards per carry as a team in ‘18, down from 4.6 in ‘17. The team averaged 33 fewer rushing yards per game in about the same number of carries.
Not all of this is on the running back group, or Gallaspy more specifically. Reggie certainly had his moments and he was excellent in goal-to-go spots, hence his impressive touchdown total. But clearly the offense suffered some from a lack of big-play creators here: the ground game ranked just 114th in Bill Connelly’s marginal explosiveness metric.
It didn’t help that Person, who was really good in spots, spent the entire year nagged by injuries, which limited his carries and hampered his effectiveness. He was able to play in only nine of 13 games.
The offensive line will have a considerable say in how well the team fares on the ground, as is always the case, but I think we can safely expect a more dynamic attack simply by replacing Gallaspy’s carries with attempts from Person, Pennix, and true freshman Zonovan Knight, who showed big-play ability in the spring game.
The Wolfpack is deeper and more talented heading into 2019, albeit with that talent still largely unproven. Person needs to prove he can shake the injury bug, while Pennix and Knight have to show they’re capable at this level. But there’s good reason for optimism about what these guys can do, and NC State is going to need a solid year from them to help the new quarterback along.