AP — RALEIGH, N.C. More than 40 years have gone since the Wolfpack last won an Atlantic Coast Conference championship, and coach Dave Doeren is well aware of this.
The head coach thinks the wait might come to an end this year.
Doeren referred to the N.C. State supporters as “I want to bring it to them, man.” I want to lessen their suffering.
With the Wolfpack ranked 13th, matching the team’s highest preseason AP Top 25 finish from 1975, expectations are high. Despite having to defeat the Tigers in the Atlantic Division to compete for the league championship in the final season of the league’s two-division structure, N.C. State received the second-highest number of votes as the preseason favourite in the league, trailing only Clemson.
After placing strongly in the Bowl Subdivision rankings, the defence has 10 starters back, including top linebacker Payton Wilson who is returning from injury. Devin Leary, the team’s quarterback, is the preseason choice for ACC player of the year.
Nine games were won by N.C. State last season, including their first victory against Clemson since 2011. When a Holiday Bowl showdown with UCLA was postponed because of COVID-19 difficulties inside the Bruins programme, it missed an opportunity to become just the second Wolfpack club to win more than ten games.
Doeren, who is currently in his 10th season, stated, “It’s not like we won the ACC a year ago and we’re back here and how we’re going to do it again.” “We still have to get there,”
After losing a shootout at eventual division champion Wake Forest in a November clash of AP Top 25 teams, the team from the previous season was unable to go to its first ACC final game.
Leary stated, “I just think the level of expectation is obviously elevated. “The amount of work we put in last year only brought us to nine wins,” said the players who had previously played.
Leary’s development has been crucial to N.C. State’s success, beginning with his performance during a 2020 season cut short by injuries.
The fifth-year junior placed in the top 20 nationally in passing efficiency and average passing yards while finishing 10th in the FBS with 35 touchdown passes last season.
New ground and air leaders are needed for N.C. State’s offence.
Zonovan Knight (753 yards) and Ricky Person Jr. (636) were the Wolfpack’s top two rushers from the previous season; in addition, Knight scored two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Jordan Houston, a fourth-year junior, leads the returning rushers with 83 yards on 20 carries.
The team also lost its best receiver Emeka Emezie (802 yards), although Thayer Thomas (49 career games) and Devin Carter have more experience (40).
Last year, the Wolfpack’s defence was a strength, finishing second in scoring defence and third in the ACC in total defence (331.6 yards per game, 21st in FBS) (19.7, 14th). Despite numerous season-ending injuries, that happened.
Wilson, who led the ACC in tackles and was ranked 13th in the FBS with 10.8 per game in 2020, was most prominently featured on the list. He will now join fellow linebacker Isaiah Moore, nose tackle C.J. Clark, and safety Cyrus Fagan in bolstering the defence by returning from that injury list.