The NC State Wolfpack in 2019 will look to make their sixth straight bowl game under head coach Dave Doerean.
NC State Wolfpack
9-4 (5-3) – Dave Doerean (7th season: 43-34)
Carter-Finley Stadium (Raleigh, NC)
In 2018, the NC State Wolfpack had their second-straight 9-4 season under head coach Dave Doerean. The Wolfpack got off to a strong 5-0 start last season before dropping two games to Clemson and Syracuse at the end of October. They would then pick up a nice win over Florida State before dropping a game to Wake Forest by a final score of 27-23, a game they should’ve easily won most days. They would take on Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl but were crushed 52-13 in a game that they never stood a chance in. The 2019 season will be one of the harder seasons for Dave Doerean’s program and will be a real test as the Wolfpack lost a ton of talent from last season including quarterback Ryan Finley.
As mentioned just above, the Wolfpack have to replace a good amount of talent in 2019. The biggest departure from the program is quarterback Ryan Finley, who started each of the last three seasons for the Wolfpack after transferring in from Boise State. Last season, Finley completed 67.4% of his passes for 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Wolfpack have yet to name their starter for 2019 as they have a three-man competition between sophomore quarterback Matt McKay, sophomore Bailey Hockman, and redshirt freshman Devin Leary. Mckay was the favorite to land the job heading into camp but can he land the job officially?
At running back, Reggie Gallaspy II is gone after exhausting his eligibility, meaning the Jackets lost their 1,000-yard rusher from last season as he carried the rock 228 times for 1,091-yards and eighteen touchdowns. Replacing Gallaspy will most likely be sophomore Ricky Person Jr. who saw time in nine games last season as a true freshman. In those nine games, Person rushed for 471-yards on 112-carries, he also had two rushing touchdowns on the season. Behind Person, the Wolfpack’s running back pictures gets a little murky.
So far, we’ve noted the Wolfpack have lost their starting quarterback from 2019, their starting running back, and now it’s time to mention that they’ve lost each of their top wide receivers. Those wide receivers are Jakobi Myers (92 receptions, 1,047-yards, and four touchdowns) and Kelvin Harmon (81 receptions, 1,186-yards, and seven touchdowns). It will be hard to replace that type of talent and production but nonetheless, the Wolfpack will try to do so.
Their top returning wide receiver in 2019 will be junior Emeka Emezie who had 53 receptions for 616-yards and five touchdowns last season. Sophomore Thayer Thomas is another wide receiver to watch out for after a solid 34-reception, 383-yard, and three touchdowns. He’ll be one player to watch in 2019 as a major breakout candidate.
The Wolfpack’s offensive line last season was strong in pass protection but struggled rather hard in the rushing game, picking up just 143 yards per game last season. In 2019, they’ll have to replace three of five starters from last season including Rimmington Award winner and first-round draft pick, Garrett Bradbury. Despite the talent loss, the Wolfpack offensvie line should be strong again in 2019 as they have one of the best offensive line coaches in the country in Dwayne Ledford.
(It’s also worth noting that North Carolina State’s offensive coordinator for the last three seasons, Eliah Drinkwitz has moved onto become the head coach at Appalachian State.)
While NC State lost a ton of talent on offense from last season, they return a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball which may need to lead the Wolfpack early on in the season. Last year, the Wolfpack were among the best defenses in the ACC, ranking top five almost across the board. That being said, they’ll need to find ways to force more turnovers in 2019 after just forcing 19 a season ago.
Their top returning tackler from last season is linebacker Isaiah Moore, who as a freshman had 69 tackles including 7.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. He could very well be an All-ACC candidate in 2019 and will be a dangerous player on NC State’s front seven. Defensive end James Smith-Williams also has a chance to be he next great NC State pass rusher after putting up 36 tackles last season including nine for a loss and six sacks.
In the secondary, safety Jarius Morehead is a name to know going into this season. Last season, he had 81 tackles to go along with a trio of interceptions which led the team. Cornerbacks Nick McCloud will be expected to be another leader of the Wolfpack’s secondary after posting 51 tackles last season as well as two interceptions. The Wolfpack’s secondary last year had it’s moments last year and will need to take a step up this season. The Wolfpack have the talent to have a nasty defense and if the secondary can take another step in the right direction, the Wolfpack could become a dangerous and sneakily, a very goodnight team in 2019.
Sophomore kicker Christopher Dunn returns in 2019 after having a tremendous freshman season, hitting all 51 extra points as well as making 23-for-26 field goals on the season. The Wolfpack may not be able to score touchdowns as much as they did in 2018 which will make Dunn an even bigger part of their offense in 2019. Punter A.J Cole III exhausted his eligibility, meaning they’ll need to find a new starting punter in 2019 and it appears that they’ll turn to McKenzie Morgan in 2019, a native of Australia.
In the return game, wide receiver Thayer Thomas will most likely take over as the starting kick returner with Maurice Trowell now gone. Thomas served as the Wolfpack’s punt returner last season, returning 15 punts on the season for 140-yards.
What to expect on November 21st:
The Yellow Jackets and Wolfpack will meet for the first time since 2013 when the Jackets walked out of Carter-Finley Stadium with a 56-23 win. That being said, this game between the two programs should be rather even on November 21st and could end up being a big game for both programs when it comes to their season especially with it being each team’s second to last game.
NC State season outlook:
The Wolfpack in 2019 could be in a rebuilding mode or perhaps a better word for it, is a “retooling” mode. Head coach Dave Doerean has done a great job during his time in Raleigh so far but 2019 will be one of his bigger tests. The good news for the Wolfpack is that they start the season off rather easy with three should be wins in their first four games. In week three, they’ll get an early-season test however with West Virginia traveling to Raleigh. Their conference schedule isn’t the easiest but isn’t terribly hard either. They’ll start conference play off against Florida State before taking on Syracuse and Boston College in the next two weeks. Following Boston College, they’ll take on Wake Forest before taking on the Clemson Tigers. The best-case scenario for NC State through those five conference games is 3-2 but the good news is, if they struggle, they end their season off against three teams they should beat in Louisville, the Yellow Jackets, and North Carolina.