Confused? Check out the glossary here.
1. Perfectly average, Part II
I may have been a little quick on the trigger in naming Washington the most perfectly average team in the country.
In the Adj. Points measure I use below, the idea is to take a team's performance in a given week and gauge what would have happened if that team had played a perfectly average opponent that week instead of whoever it played. It is an attempt to adjust for schedule and look at a team's in-season trends. But really, it could also be titled "WashingtonScore." because Washington has spent most of the last eight seasons as an almost perfectly average team.
Now, to be sure, Washington has been amazingly average, ranking between 50th and 78th in seven of the last eight seasons. But if you take out NC State's random 2010 peak (22nd and 9-4), the Wolfpack have ranked 65th, 64th, 50th, 64th, 58th, and 63rd from 2006-12. That's ... well, that's average.
In six years under Tom O'Brien, NC State went 40-35, building at least a little bit of momentum (16-21 first three years, 24-14 next three) but evidently not enough to buy O'Brien a seventh year. Averaging an 8-5 record, as the Wolfpack did over the previous three years, is certainly not bad for a program that hasn't been a consistent top-25 presence for quite a while.
But it's not necessarily something you aspire to; neither is "average," and almost everything about O'Brien's tenure was average.
2. MACtion road show
So now State starts fresh with a MAC transplant. Dave Doeren has taken the fast track to success; 13 years ago, Doeren was Montana's defensive backs coach. Just six years later, he was named Bret Bielema's defensive co-coordinator at Wisconsin. Five years later, he was named head coach at Northern Illinois. And two years later, at age 41, he's a BCS head coach. His last two Wisconsin defenses ranked in the Def. F/+ top-30, and in inheriting an 11-win conference runner-up from Jerry Kill at NIU, he didn't do much to change the program's trajectory. He went 22-6, won two conference titles, reached the MAC's first BCS bowl, and in 2012, fielded a legitimately strong, top-35 team.
We don't know Dave Doeren's ceiling yet because he hasn't reached it. He grew into previous jobs, and he didn't take long to do the same in his first head coaching position. He is tasked with taking NC State somewhere it really hasn't been in a while. The Wolfpack have had randomly good seasons -- 9-4 in 2010, 11-3 in 2002, 34-14-1 from 1991-94 -- but haven't been consistently strong for a while. He inherits a roster that is intriguing but thin, and it's conceivable that, before successfully bringing MACtion-level excitement and wins to Raleigh, he's in for another growing-into-the-job experience.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 7-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 63|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|31-Aug||vs. Tennessee||21-35||L||22.0 - 28.4||L|
|8-Sep||at Connecticut||10-7||W||20.7 - 21.1||L|
|15-Sep||South Alabama||31-7||W||25.9 - 29.1||L|
|22-Sep||The Citadel||52-14||W||35.0 - 32.1||W|
|29-Sep||at Miami||37-44||L||36.8 - 34.0||W|
|6-Oct||Florida State||17-16||W||31.9 - 16.9||W|
|20-Oct||at Maryland||20-18||W||22.9 - 39.1||L|
|27-Oct||at North Carolina||35-43||L||36.2 - 25.9||W|
|3-Nov||Virginia||6-33||L||13.1 - 31.6||L|
|10-Nov||Wake Forest||37-6||W||24.4 - 10.4||W|
|17-Nov||at Clemson||48-62||L||36.3 - 33.7||W|
|24-Nov||Boston College||27-10||W||16.9 - 20.3||L|
|31-Dec||vs. Vanderbilt||24-38||L||38.6 - 15.4||W|
|Points Per Game||28.1||71||25.6||52|
|Adj. Points Per Game||27.8||69||26.0||44|
3. One goes up, one goes down
Aside from a first-quarter slump versus Tennessee, NC State's defense was a rock early in 2012, allowing just 28 points to three bad offenses (UConn, South Alabama, The Citadel) and only 13 points to Tennessee in the final three quarters. But the offense wasn't good enough to keep up with the Vols, and it barely produced enough to get by UConn. As the year went on, the offense improved and the defense regressed. And then the offense regressed while the defense improved again.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 3 games): Opponent 26.2, NC State 22.9 (minus-3.3)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 5 games): NC State 32.6, Opponent 29.6 (plus-3.0)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 5 games): NC State 25.9, Opponent 22.3 (plus-3.6)
It was just one of those seasons. Aside from the second half of the Florida State game, both units rarely played well at the same time. And the result was, as you would expect, average.
|Q1 Rk||46||1st Down Rk||50|
|Q2 Rk||92||2nd Down Rk||97|
|Q3 Rk||39||3rd Down Rk||28|
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Manny Stocker||6'1, 212||So.||*** (5.5)||0||2||0||0.0%||0||0||3||60.0%||-2.8|
|6'4, 239||Sr.||*** (5.7)||2||8||45||25.0%||1||0||1||11.1%||4.9|
| Pete Thomas
(2011 Colorado State)
|6'6, 234||Jr.||**** (5.8)||161||261||1,607||61.7%||7||8||27||9.4%||5.0|
4. Transfer derby
Incumbent quarterbacks are often assets for new coaches, but sometimes a lot of new blood at once isn't a bad thing either. As morbidly interesting as it may have been to see Mike Glennon attempting to be Doeren's new Jordan Lynch, running and passing almost equally, it might have been for the best to start fresh.
There is a lot of new blood at quarterback this year. Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas came to Raleigh to play for Tom O'Brien, but he showed a little bit of mobility in Fort Collins. And at Arkansas, Brandon Mitchell showed enough mobility that the Hogs moved him to receiver for a while. It appears that while Thomas began fall camp ahead of Mitchell and everybody else, Mitchell has caught up quickly.
New offensive coordinator Matt Canada has gotten used to adjusting his system to the talent at hand. After working with Lynch at NIU in 2011, he became Wisconsin's offensive coordinator last season and worked with a pro-style passer at the start of the season (Danny O'Brien), more of a conservative, dual-threat type at the end (Curt Phillips), and an in-between in between (Joel Stave). It does appear that Doeren and Canada do enjoy a bit of mobility at the quarterback position, so that might help to explain why Mitchell is becoming an appealing option.
|Shadrach Thornton||RB||6'1, 203||So.||*** (5.6)||154||694||4.5||3.2||3||-6.6|
|Tony Creecy||RB||5'11, 210||Jr.||**** (5.8)||127||476||3.7||3.0||5||-0.4|
|Milton Hall||RB||5'9, 200||Jr.||NR||7||49||7.0||3.4||0||-0.4|
|Matt Dayes||RB||5'9, 213||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Josh Mercer||RB||5'11, 191||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
5. Finding a running game
Between Doeren and Canada, the odds are good that NC State will look to run the ball as much as it is able to do. Unfortunately, the Wolfpack weren't that able in 2012; they ranked just 100th in Rushing S&P+, with minimal ability to either break off a big play or keep Mike Glennon out of obvious passing situations. If there's quality to be found here, Doeren and Canada will probably unearth it, but it's hard to get too excited about anything regarding this running game.
Shadrach Thornton (suspended for the season opener) and Tony Creecy showed next to no explosiveness on the rare opportunity that they got to the second level of the defense, and the line is now tasked with replacing four two-year (or more) starters who combined for 137 career starts. Now, because of injuries and shuffling, NC State still returns four players with starting experience (41 career starts), including former five-star recruit Rob Crisp.
But this line was average at best last year, and there's nothing saying it will be any better this time around, especially since new offensive line coach Mike Uremovich is in his first year of coaching the offensive line. Sometimes you can just assume certain coaches are going to have quality lines; we have no data for assuming anything, good or bad, of Uremovich.
|Quintin Payton||WR-X||6'4, 212||Sr.||*** (5.5)||86||51||798||59.3%||9.3||15.9%||64.0%||9.3||93.3|
|Bryan Underwood||WR-F||5'9, 180||Jr.||*** (5.7)||83||44||620||53.0%||7.5||15.3%||54.2%||7.8||72.5|
|Tony Creecy||RB||5'11, 210||Jr.||**** (5.8)||51||34||182||66.7%||3.6||9.4%||41.2%||3.9||21.3|
|Shadrach Thornton||RB||6'1, 203||So.||*** (5.6)||46||30||274||65.2%||6.0||8.5%||54.3%||5.8||32.0|
|Asa Watson||TE||6'3, 237||Sr.||*** (5.5)||42||24||282||57.1%||6.7||7.8%||64.3%||6.7||33.0|
|Rashard Smith||WR-Z||5'9, 177||Sr.||** (5.4)||33||19||315||57.6%||9.5||6.1%||48.5%||9.0||36.8|
|Charlie Hegedus||WR-X||6'2, 210||So.||*** (5.5)||16||9||116||56.3%||7.3||3.0%||31.3%||6.5||13.6|
|Logan Winkles||FB||6'1, 260||Jr.||*** (5.6)||16||10||90||62.5%||5.6||3.0%||62.5%||5.6||10.5|
|Maurice Morgan||WR-F||6'2, 226||So.||*** (5.5)|
|David J. Grinnage||TE||6'5, 267||RSFr.||** (5.4)|
|Johnathan Alston||WR||6'3, 203||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
|Jumichael Ramos||WR||6'3, 198||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
|Bra'Lon Cherry||WR-Z||5'11, 180||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
6. So can they pass then?
So if running is an issue, will State have the pieces to pass in 2013? Both Mitchell and Thomas are probably more adept than their previous passing experience would suggest -- Mitchell was tossed into an awful experience at Arkansas last year, throwing a few passes while spending most of the year as a receiver, while Thomas just had no weapons whatsoever in 2011 at CSU -- but what about the receiving corps? It might be rather underrated, actually.
The Wolfpack didn't have amazing depth at receiver, but the pieces they did have were pretty strong; they weren't strong enough to prevent Glennon from throwing 17 interceptions, often into coverage (and since interceptions don't have target data attached to them, the picks make these players' catch rates look a bit better than they were), but in Quintin Payton, State returns a No. 1 receiver who averaged a healthy 9.3 yards per target. Bryan Underwood averaged a decent 7.5, and reserve Rashard Smith averaged 9.5. The O'Brien offense saw a ton of dump-offs to the running back, and those passes tended to go nowhere last year (Creecy and Thornton combined to average just 4.7 yards per target), but the receivers themselves were relatively impressive.
Still, you have to avoid passing downs to pass consistently and effectively, and this run game might put Mitchell, Thomas, or whoever into quite a few second- or third-and-longs.
|R.J. Mattes||LG||43 career starts; 2012 2nd All-ACC|
|Camden Wentz||C||39 career starts|
|Zach Allen||RG||31 career starts|
|Andrew Wallace||RG||24 career starts|
|Duran Christophe||LG||6'5, 300||Sr.||*** (5.5)||18 career starts|
|Tyson Chandler||RT||6'7, 334||Jr.||**** (5.8)||12 career starts|
|Rob Crisp||LT||6'7, 300||Sr.||***** (6.1)||11 career starts|
|Cam Fordham||RG||6'2, 294||Jr.||*** (5.6)||1 career start|
|Joe Thuney||C||6'5, 286||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Andy Jomantas||RT||6'7, 297||Jr.||** (5.2)|
|Alex Barr||RG||6'7, 326||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Bryce Kennedy||G||6'3, 310||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Jon Tu'uta||C||6'2, 311||RSFr.||** (5.3)|
|Tylar Reagan||OL||6'5, 298||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Cole Blankenship||LG||6'2, 290||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
|Q1 Rk||90||1st Down Rk||80|
|Q2 Rk||18||2nd Down Rk||53|
|Q3 Rk||79||3rd Down Rk||35|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|T.Y. McGill||DT||6'1, 293||Jr.||** (5.4)||13||32.5||4.3%||10.5||5||0||0||1||0|
|Thomas Teal||NT||6'1, 303||Jr.||*** (5.7)||13||28.5||3.8%||7.5||1.5||0||0||0||0|
|Darryl Cato-Bishop||DE||6'3, 286||Sr.||** (5.4)||13||28.0||3.7%||10.5||6.5||0||1||0||0|
|Art Norman||DE||6'0, 250||Jr.||** (5.4)||13||27.5||3.7%||8||5.5||0||0||1||0|
|A.J. Ferguson||NT||6'2, 301||Sr.||*** (5.5)||11||8.0||1.1%||2||2||0||0||1||0|
|Mike Rose||DE||6'3, 252||So.||*** (5.6)||13||6.0||0.8%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Carlos Gray||DT||6'3, 296||So.||*** (5.5)||11||5.5||0.7%||0||0||0||1||0||1|
|Forrest West||DE||6'1, 251||Sr.||NR||6||2.5||0.3%||1||1||0||2||0||0|
|K'Hadree Hooker||DT||6'0, 307||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Monty Nelson||DT||6'2, 310||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Kenton Gibbs||DT||6'2, 290||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
7. Weakness is strength
O'Brien and company tried to keep things pretty aggressive on defense, but it was a lot more difficult to do that after two awesome linebackers -- Audie Cole and Terrell Manning, who combined for 28 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 12 passes defensed, and eight forced fumbles in 2011 -- left. State's Adj. Sack Rate fell from 16th to 42nd, and a defense that made a living on picks in 2011 didn't reel in quite as many. (This was expected, of course: David Amersen picked off 13 of his 18 defensed passes in 2011, which unsustainable. That ratio dropped to a still strong five of 17 in 2012.) Thirty-nine takeaways in 2011 became 24 in 2012. Considering turnovers are worth, on average, about five points of field position, that's nearly six points per game that State wasn't benefiting from in 2012.
That said, the pass defense was still a relative strength for NC State; the Wolfpack's biggest problems came up front, where they ranked 88th in both Rushing S&P+ and Adj. Line Yards. They still made plays behind the line -- they were 10th in the country in tackles for loss -- but allowed too many opportunities to opposing rushers.
To the extent that experience can help this, experience will help this. The top four linemen, and five of the top six, return. Ends Darryl Cato-Bishop and Art Norman combined for 12 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss last season, and tackles T.Y. McGill and Thomas Teal combined for 18.0 TFLs themselves. New defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable (yes, Huxtable) led a Pittsburgh unit that was at least a little bit less all-or-nothing on the ground, and if he can teach these upperclassmen some control, good things could happen, and a weakness could become a strength. And while Rickey Dowdy was a hell of a play-maker at linebacker, there should be enough returning talent at linebacker to do well, as long as the LBs aren't asked to clean up quite as many messes.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Rodman Noel||SLB||6'4, 221||Jr.||**** (5.8)||12||36.5||4.9%||6||1||0||1||0||0|
|Brandon Pittman||WLB||6'2, 224||Jr.||*** (5.5)||13||28.0||3.7%||4||1||0||0||0||0|
|D.J. Green (2011)||SLB||6'4, 228||Sr.||*** (5.5)||7||24.5||3.6%||5||1||1||4||0||0|
|Zach Gentry||MLB||6'1, 233||Sr.||NR||13||5.0||0.7%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ryan Cheek||MLB||6'0, 235||Sr.||*** (5.5)||11||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|M.J. Salahuddin||MLB||6'2, 227||So.||*** (5.6)||12||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ernie Robinson||LB||6'1, 227||RSFr.||NR||4||1.0||0.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Drew Davis||WLB||6'3, 232||RSFr.||** (5.4)|
|Jerod Fernandez||LB||6'1, 226||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Dontae Johnson||CB||6'2, 195||Sr.||*** (5.5)||13||61.0||8.1%||6||1||0||8||1||0|
|Juston Burris||CB||6'1, 206||So.||*** (5.6)||13||39.0||5.2%||3||1||3||6||0||0|
|Hakim Jones||SS||6'2, 202||So.||*** (5.5)||13||7.0||0.9%||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Josh Stanley||FS||6'0, 198||So.||NR||13||3.5||0.5%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jarvis Byrd||FS||5'11, 183||Sr.||**** (5.8)|
|Tim Buckley||SS||6'0, 200||So.||** (5.4)|
|Niles Clark||CB||5'11, 188||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|J.J. Jones||S||6'3, 206||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Marchez Coates||CB||5'10, 178||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Jack Tocho||CB||6'1, 195||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
|Sean Paul||CB||5'10, 184||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
8. Strength is weakness
The secondary was, like the line, a bit too prone to give up big plays in 2012, but it still led a pretty efficient life overall. Considering the regression in the pass rush, the defensive backs held their own alright.
Of course, a lot of that "holding their own" was done by safeties Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop and, yes, corner David Amerson. The three combined for eight tackles for loss, 10 interceptions, 26 passes defensed, and three forced fumbles; that's a lot of production, enough to offset some of the big plays. Like the linebackers, they were asked to do too much (Wolff and Bishop alone recorded nearly one-quarter of State's tackles), but they were solid. And now they're gone.
While corners Dontae Johnson and Juston Burris had their share of moments last year (17 passes defensed, nine tackles for loss), they could find themselves pretty lonely in 2013. Returning safeties combined for just 10.5 tackles last year, and it is all but guaranteed that newcomers will be playing a hefty role in the secondary. Sometimes that works out fine; often, it doesn't.
|Wil Baumann||6'6, 190||Jr.||74||38.9||5||37||16||71.6%|
|Niklas Sade||6'3, 212||Jr.||70||63.9||41||58.6%|
|Wil Baumann||6'6, 190||Jr.||3||61||0||0.0%|
|Niklas Sade||6'3, 212||Jr.||44-46||8-11||72.7%||5-12||41.7%|
|Logan Winkles||KR||6'1, 260||Jr.||3||9.7||0|
|Rashard Smith||PR||5'9, 177||Sr.||34||9.3||1|
|Special Teams F/+||64|
|Field Goal Pct||111|
|Kick Returns Avg||31|
|Punt Returns Avg||54|
9. Lovers Rock
A digression: We went to Shreveport in 2003 for the Independence Bowl between Missouri and Arkansas. Mizzou lost, and while most of us had gotten over it by the time we got back to the car (it was a bowl, it didn't really matter, and after a five-year absence from the post-season, getting to a bowl at all was a victory), one of my good friends was devastated. It was his first bowl experience, and he had all of these nightmare scenarios of lost recruits and whatnot spinning through his head. We drove back to the hotel in his car, and he played Sade's Lovers Rock the entire time. We were stuck in traffic long enough that I'm pretty sure we heard the whole thing twice. It was therapeutic for him; he was back into party mode by the time we went out that night.
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|5-Oct||at Wake Forest||81|
|26-Oct||at Florida State||19|
|16-Nov||at Boston College||69|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||49|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||56|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-9 / -11.9|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||11 (5, 6)|
10. Bowl eligibility from home games alone
There are a lot of pretty good teams in the ACC. NC State misses a lot of them. With winnable road trips to Wake Forest, Duke, and Boston College, along with less-than-intimidating visits from Maryland and North Carolina, a pretty good NC State team could rack up a pretty gaudy win total this year. But even with another average team, the home slate, which also includes visits from Richmond, Central Michigan, East Carolina, and Louisiana Tech, could make sure the Wolfpack at least get back to a bowl.
I don't really trust this team very much. I liked the Doeren hire, and we'll see what he may be able to come up with down the line, but the running game was a shambles last year, and I'm not sure how much stock to put into a defense that returns experience at potentially the wrong places and is inexperienced where it used to be strong. Tom O'Brien didn't leave the cupboard bare, but he didn't leave it well-stocked in the right places either.
But the schedule should assure that NC State is once again floating around seven or so wins, with some more average ratings overall. That's not an amazing starting point, but it could be worse.