It is that time of year when college football previews start to litter the landscape and help us all set our sights on the upcoming season. We are already under 100 days before the start of the 2014 football season, so I guess it is time to gradually start preparing for what the ‘experts’ expect to see.
This week, USA Today provided their early look at Dave Doeren’s 2014 Wolfpack. I appreciate USA Today‘s approach of not falling for the simplest of ‘Level One’ analyses and that plagues today’s infantile ridden internet. So instead of getting some ignorant comment about how ‘7-6 under Tom O’Brien wasn’t good enough so impatient Wolfpackers chose to go 3-9 instead’, we actually got a premise of an article that made some sense:
Dave Doeren opened North Carolina State’s cupboard and found some stale bread, an open container of mustard, a half-eaten sac of pretzels and a bag of stale potato chips. It wasn’t totally bare, but it’s time to go grocery shopping.
As much as any program in the Atlantic Coast Conference – and perhaps most of all – N.C. State needs a roster overhaul. The holdovers from the previous coaching regime fell flat in Doeren’s system; a portion of the blame does fall on the new staff, to be fair, but the general lack of cohesive depth was the primary culprit behind the Wolfpack’s winless turn through ACC play.
The author also did enough digging into the season to realize the primary driver of the Wolfpack’s ills:
But to say the Wolfpack were entirely overmatched would be incorrect. Of those eight ACC games, only two were out of hand in the second half – Florida State, of course, and Maryland. The rest? N.C. State was either ahead or behind by no more than eight points at some point during the second half against its remaining six league foes; the Wolfpack were either tied or ahead of Duke and Syracuse in the fourth quarter. What this says is simple: one, depth was terrible, and two, the depth was really terrible. Yeah, Doeren’s reputation lost some luster, but don’t throw all the blame on his plate.
N.C. State started last season short on experience and lost bodies along the way. The Wolfpack entered the year with 11 returning starters, one of the lowest totals among major-conference programs. By year’s end, however, N.C. State had lost more than 40 starts to injury among its projected starters; more than 30 of those injury-lost starts came on the offensive side of the ball.
You should read the article, it does a great job of talking specifics on both sides of the ball. It ends with the following realistic assessment of what to expect for the season:
SEASON BREAKDOWN & PREDICTION:
What’s funny about this team is this: N.C. State isn’t good – no, not good – but don’t be surprised if the Wolfpack sneak into bowl eligibility. Thank the schedule, which should leave the Wolfpack no worse than 3-1 heading into ACC play and could – thanks to home games against Boston College and Wake Forest – yield two or three additional wins during conference action. The end result could be one of the flimsiest, least impressive six-win teams in all of college football … and that’d be cool, wouldn’t it? I mean, all six wins aren’t created equal; that doesn’t mean Raleigh wouldn’t smile all winter after a six-win finish.
But that’s probably not going to happen: N.C. State should win five games with this schedule, but this team has no discernable strengths whatsoever. What you see is potential, however, and at several key positions in particular. Quarterback is certainly one. Another is the offensive line, which could develop into something special during the next two years; likewise with the secondary. There are several weak links: N.C. State’s offense remains unbalanced, due to a faulty ground game, and the defense as a whole is sorely lacking in proven production. This is far from a complete team, to put it mildly, and as such should make little noise in the ACC.
Let’s revisit one key point. Doeren didn’t inherit a good situation: N.C. State’s previous staff did him no favors whatsoever, meaning Doeren and this staff must quickly rebuild this roster on the recruiting trail – paying close attention to today, of course, but also keep one eye on tomorrow. I really think it’s going to take this season and next for the Wolfpack to adequately stock this roster with the talent and depth needed to challenge for eight wins in this conference. This team has the schedule to eke out five wins, but that shouldn’t cloud the work that remains to be done before NCSU is a viable contender.