#39 NC State Football 2021 Preview

NC State Wolfpack
Overall Rank: #39
#5 ACC
 North Carolina State Logo
North Carolina State needed a good season in 2020 following a very disappointing 4-8 record in 2019. And for the most part they got it. The Wolfpack finished the year 8-4 and are now building towards an even better 2021 campaign.
2020 Record: 8-4, 7-3
2020 Bowl: Taxslayer Gator Bowl vs. Kentucky (L 21-23)
Coach: Dave Doeren (55-46 at NC State, 78-50 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Beck
Defensive Coordinator: Tony Gibson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zonovan Knight, RB, 788 yards
Passing: Devin Leary, QB, 890 yards
Receiving: Emeka Emezie, WR, 738 yards
Tackles: Payton Wilson, LB, 108
Sacks: Daniel Joseph, DL, 6.5
Interceptions: Payton Wilson, LB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Ricky Person, WR Thayer Thomas, WR Devin Carter, OT Ikem Ekwonu, LB Isaiah Moore, S Jakeen Harris, LB Tyler Baker-Williams, LB Drake Thomas, CB Shyheim Battle, K Christopher Dunn
Key Losses: QB Bailey Hockman, TE Cary Angeline, OL Joe Sculthrope, DT Alim McNeill
Devin Leary began last season as NC State’s starting quarterback before an injury ended his season early. Bailey Hockman stepped in and played relatively well, but he is now off to Middle Tennessee and this will be Leary’s team again. With a healthy Leary and the top three receiving targets back, the passing game should see massive improvement. Emeka Emezie is a big target and led the team with 47 receptions for 738 yards. Thayer Thomas added 42 receptions, including six that went for touchdowns. The ground game has a lot of potential too, but managed to run for just 122.5 yards per game. Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person combined to rush for 1,431 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Inconsistency marred NC State’s defense in 2020. The overall numbers are average, but there were times when the unit was bad. When linebacker Payton Wilson is healthy though, the defense was usually very good. Wilson opted to return to NC State after leading the Atlantic Coast Conference with 108 tackles. Eight other starters are back too and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson also has quite a few experienced transfers coming in to add some depth. The increase in experience and depth should lead to a more consistent 2021 campaign on the defensive end of the field.
The Bottom Line:
If Leary can stay healthy, NC State should be in great shape. There is more depth and talent available than the last few years and that could lead to big things for Coach Doeren and company in 2021. The ACC schedule begins with a home date against Clemson on September 25th and of course the schedule can only get easier after that. A five game ACC stretch that includes four road games will likely determine whether this is a great season for NC State or another seven or eight win campaign.
Projected Bowl:  Pinstripe Bowl
2020 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 122.5 (107th in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 262.8 (36, 6)
Total Offense: 385.3 (74, 11)
Scoring Offense: 30.2 (48, 7)
Rushing Defense: 173.9 (75, 6)
Pass Defense: 241.1 (76, 5)
Total Defense: 415.0 (71, 6)
Scoring Defense: 29.2 (62, 6)
Turnover Margin: -0.50 (97, 11)
Sacks: 2.67 (35, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 2.67 (93, 7)