Pack Opens 2014 Season Against Georgia Southern
Aug. 29, 2014
Thursday Football Notebook | Heat Precautions in Place for Saturday’s Home Opener
Game 1: NC State Wolfpack vs. Georgia Southern Eagles
August 30, 2014 • 12:30 p.m.
Raleigh, N.C. • Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583)
TV: ACC Network/ESPN3 | Radio: Wolfpack Sports Network | Live Stats
Game Notes | @PackFootball Twitter | Ask the Analyst
RALEIGH, N.C. - Everything will be new again on Saturday when NC State hosts Georgia Southern in the season opener at Carter-Finley Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m., and as far as both teams are concerned, it can’t get here soon enough.
The Wolfpack has endured a long offseason, one that has given coaches and players plenty of time to deal with the many disappointments that piled up during last year’s 3-9 campaign. A new season, however, brings hope and a chance for atonement.
“As the summer went by, we had it in the back of our minds during the offseason that this is going to be a new season,” said senior defensive tackle T.Y. McGill. “I believe the leadership we’re going to have really shows how great of team we’re going to have.”
The leadership theme is something NC State head coach Dave Doeren and his seniors have been pushing since January, and perhaps no team in America will need more leadership from its upperclassmen than the Wolfpack. As many as 19 true or redshirt freshmen could see action against the Eagles on Saturday, meaning a lot of fresh faces will be playing in a college football game for the very first time.
“The talent we have in the freshman class is very evident, and several of them are going to play,” Doeren said.
True freshman Tony Adams is slated to start at right guard, while rookie receivers Bo Hines and Stephen Louis will get plenty of chances to make plays as well. On defense, first-year defensive linemen B.J. Hill, Justin Jones and Kentavius Street figure to play prominent roles in the rotation up front.
“All of them have really impressed me,” said senior defensive end Art Norman. “They’ve really picked up the defense quickly. It’s really surprising because it was new to me last year and I thought it was pretty tough. I think they’ll make a positive impact sooner than later.”
When the injuries were piling up throughout all of last season, Doeren and his staff scrambled to hold things together with a roster that lacked quality depth at many positions.
If nothing else, the youngsters in the freshmen and sophomore classes have given this year’s Wolfpack team more athleticism across the board.
“It’s been a different camp this year primarily because there’s more depth,” Doeren said. “There’s more competition at certain position groups, especially with the receivers, the D-line, and running backs. I’m excited about the depth and quality competition at some of those positions, although, as documented, a lot of those players are young.”
Ironically enough, one of NC State’s oldest players almost seems like a freshman as well. After sitting out all of last season to comply with NCAA transfer rules, quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s long wait will finally come to an end when he makes his first start for the Pack. In two years at Florida, Brissett completing 55 percent of his passes for 455 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games and three starts.
The redshirt junior believes the tough decisions he had to make off the field will ultimately enhance his performance on it.
“I feel like I’m a lot more mature,” Brissett said. “The transfer process helped me grow up a lot because at the end of the day I left somewhere where I knew everybody and knew where everything was. Then I had to pack a bag and go and make it work. The team and the coaches made me feel so welcome that it went smoothly. I’m happy.”
Perhaps no one is happier than Brissett’s teammates, who are giving the signal caller rave reviews.
“The main thing I can say about Jacoby is he’s a great leader,” said fifth-year offensive tackle Rob Crisp, who has played with both Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon in his career. “Even going back to last year when he was waving his towel and trying to get the crowd hyped. He’s accountable, he puts everything on himself and he’s the leader of the offense. More than being a great athlete and good player, he’s a great leader.”
Along with leadership, NC State will need some production from Brissett, something that was missing from his position most of last season. Wolfpack quarterbacks had more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes (14) in 2014. Of course, not all of it could fall on the shoulders of Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas, who saw injuries cut into the playing time of many of the key players around them.
Saturday’s opponent, Georgia Southern, should have no problem getting the Wolfpack’s attention. In bidding farewell to the Division 1-AA ranks last November, the Eagles flew into the swamp and drowned Florida in front of 84,000 stunned Gator fans. Georgia Southern is the winningest team in FCS history to go along with six national titles.
On Saturday, the Eagles join the big boys as a member of the FBS, and will do so under new head coach Willie Fritz. Although Georgia Southern’s new offense won’t totally abandon some option schemes for which they were known under previous coaches when they were running the triple option, they are likely to run more plays out of the pistol and spread formations. For a team that averaged only nine pass attempts per game last season, the transition was somewhat challenging back in the spring.
“It was quite a bit different for our guys, in particular for our offensive linemen,” said coach Frits, who comes to Georgia Southern from Sam Houston State. “They really weren’t used to pass protecting. They didn’t pass protect very often. We had to work a lot on passing back in the spring because that was an area of weakness for us.”
Returning quarterback Kevin Ellison, a 6-0 sophomore, threw only 79 passes for 756 yards last season, while rushing for 982 yards and eight touchdowns.
“In all opening games, there’s a lot of ghost chasing,” Doeren said. “You say, ‘maybe they’ll do this or maybe they’ll do that.’ At the end of the day, your systems have to have rules built in place to handle whatever they do. You make sure you show the guys enough things so that they’re ready.”
This will mark the first ever meeting between NC State and Georgia Southern. The Wolfpack’s all-time record in home openers at Carter-Finley Stadium is 33-13-2.
The Wolfpack Sports Network will begin its coverage on Saturday two hours before game time at 10:30 a.m. Once again this season, veteran color analyst and former Pack All-American Johnny Evans will field questions from fans on Ask the Analyst. Questions can be tweeted to Johnny @packradio or by submitting here.
A full recap of this weekend’s opener will be available on the Dave Doeren TV Show, which will air Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. on WRAL TV-5 in Raleigh and on WILM in Wilmington. A stream of the show can be seen Monday’s on Gopack.com.
Coach Doeren will field questions from fans on his TV show that can be sent on Twitter by using the hashtag #CoachDTV.