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2023 NC State football preview: The offensive line

NC State v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

NC State’s offensive line has its share of questions to address heading into the 2023 season, and it has three veteran contributors to replace in the process. That includes Chandler Zavala, who stayed healthy and was excellent at left guard, parlaying his season into an NFL Draft selection.

Grant Gibson and Bryson Speas took a combined 80 college starts with them.

Key Losses

Player 2022 GP-GS Plays Career Starts
Player 2022 GP-GS Plays Career Starts
Grant Gibson (C) 10-10 643 46
Chandler Zavala (LG) 12-12 747 17
Bryson Speas (T) 13-8 477 34
TOT ... 1867 97

Still, State’s left with a decent foundation of returning players—guys who combined for 35 starts last season.

Returning Production

Player 2022 GP-GS 2022 Plays Career Starts
Player 2022 GP-GS 2022 Plays Career Starts
Anthony Belton (T) 13-8 631 8
Dylan McMahon (C/G) 13-13 830 10
Tim McKay (T) 13-10 763 33
Derrick Eason (G) 13-3 465 11
Anthony Carter (G) 8-1 118 1
Dawson Jaramillo (T) 11-0* 77* 0*
TOT ... 2224 51

(*At Oregon.)

Dylan McMahon moved over to center after Gibson got hurt last season and will start 2023 in that same position, and he may be the team’s best player up front. Anthony Belton and Tim McKay probably will fill the left and right tackle spots, respectively, just as they did for the majority of 2022.

There is more uncertainty at guard, though Derrick Eason is a good bet to slot in on the right side—he started every game at right guard after McMahon shifted to center and there’s no reason to think he lost that job in the time since.

At the other guard spot, we could potentially see Anthony Carter, who started the bowl game at left guard, or Patrick Matan, who got his feet wet last year but little else, or perhaps Lyndon Cooper, who logged 54 snaps in ‘22, with more than half of those coming in the bowl game.

NC State added a couple of depth pieces via the portal in Dawson Jaramillo (Oregon) and Yousef Mugharbil, but as both are best suited at tackle (though Jaramillo did briefly play inside at Oregon in 2021), they don’t appear likely to be major contributors this season.

The Pack will also from its freshman ranks as camp progresses. Could Jacarrius Peak or Davin Vann’s younger brother Rylan factor into the rotation inside? Will a true freshman find his way into the two-deep come week one? (I’m guessing no.)

As for this group’s overall outlook, well, I suppose the good news is that the offensive line probably can’t be any worse in the ground game than it was last fall. This is a good snapshot of the struggles there:

(Chart via CFB Data.)

NC State had a lot of running plays stuffed at the line off scrimmage relative to its league peers and was not so good in terms of line yards (which estimates rushing yardage attributed to the OL independent of the RB).

In more traditional terms, NC State in 2022 set Doeren-era lows for yards per carry (3.35) and rushing yards per game (113.8). It was a rough year.

Though it would be completely unfair to place all of the blame on the big uglies, since it’s not their fault that the team shuffled through four quarterbacks and rarely had a passing game capable of keeping defenses honest. The Pack’s best running back spending the bulk of the season hurt sure didn’t help, either.

Here’s hoping that State’s offensive makeover will make a positive difference for the big fellas, too.