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           ***** NCAA Football Preview - NC State Wolfpack *****
 By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Despite going 7-6 overall and earning a bowl bid for
 the third straight season, 2012 was the last year for Tom O'Brien in Raleigh,
 as the Wolfpack finished just 4-4 in ACC play, good for just third-place in
 the Atlantic Division.
 It was an up and down season for NC State, which opened the 2012 campaign with
 a resounding loss to Tennessee (35-21). Things turned around though, with
 three straight wins over Connecticut (10-7), South Alabama (31-7) and the
 Citadel (52-14). However, with the non-conference schedule now behind them,
 the Wolfpack dropped their ACC-opener in a shootout with Miami-Florida (44-37)
 to close out September.
 October started with a bang, as O'Brien led his team to an upset of then
 undefeated Florida State (17-16), followed by another close win at Maryland
 (20-18). The team fell in back-to-back games to North Carolina (43-35) and
 Virginia (33-6) and sat at 2-3 in-conference with three games to play. NC
 State did show some grit down the stretch with wins over Wake Forest (37-6)
 and Boston College (27-10) sandwiched around a shootout loss at Clemson
 O'Brien was out, as Dave Doeren capitalized on his successful two-year run at
 Northern Illinois and was hired on Dec. 1. Interim coach Dana Bible led the
 Wolfpack into the Music City Bowl, where the team fell to Vanderbilt on New
 Year's Eve, 38-24.
 OFFENSE: NC State usually had a puncher's chance in most games thanks to the
 solid play of Mike Glennon under center. However, Glennon parlayed his 4,031
 passing yards and 31 touchdown throws into a third-round NFL Draft selection
 this past April. The team must also contend with five other starters from last
 season no longer in the mix.
 First and foremost on the list of things to accomplish for new offensive
 coordinator Matt Canada is to find a solid offensive line and a competent guy
 to pull the trigger behind it.
 Sitting out last season after transferring from Colorado State, junior Pete
 Thomas (6-6, 236) came out of the spring with the starting quarterback job.
 Thomas was a two-year starter for CSU and showed flashes of brilliant play.
 The cupboard isn't completely bare in terms of skilled players around Thomas.
 He will benefit from having a couple of veteran receivers back in the fold in
 senior Quinton Payton and junior Bryan Underwood. A big target at 6-4, 211
 pounds, Payton posted 51 catches last year, for 798 yards and two touchdowns.
 Underwood isn't as big (5-9, 177), but of his 44 catches a year ago, 10 went
 for scores.
 The team also returns its top two rushers from a year ago, in sophomore
 Shadrach Thornton (694 yards, three TDs) and junior Tony Creecy (476 yards,
 five TDs).
 DEFENSE: The Wolfpack must also replace six starters on the defensive side of
 the ball this season, with the hardest hit area being the secondary. Safety
 Earl Wolff was a First-Team All-ACC selection a year ago and joins former All-
 American cornerback David Amerson in the NFL this season. Gone also is safety
 Brandan Bishop. Both Wolff and Bishop went over 100 tackles last year and that
 production will not be easy to replace.
 The strength of the defense this year should be up front, where players like
 ends Darryl Cato-Bishop (36 tackles, 6.5 sacks) and Art Norman (33 tackles,
 5.5 sacks) should provide constant pressure off the edges.
 The linebacking unit for NC State is a bit of an unknown heading into the
 season, but players like senior D.J. Green (ineligible last season) and
 sophomore M.J. Salahuddin will get an opportunity to shine.
 SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game for NC State is a little more stabilized with
 both juniors Niklas Sade and Will Baumann back. Sade was 13-of-23 in field-
 goal attempts, with a long of 50 yards, while converting 44-of-46 PATs.
 Baumann averaged just under 40 yards per punt last season with 16 landing
 inside the 20-yard line.
 OUTLOOK: Doeren is in the big leagues now and must make the transition in a
 hurry to keep the NC State faithful at bay.
 Doeren is looking forward to getting to work.
 "It's exciting. This is the fourth BCS conference I've been a part of and to
 be a head coach here at a place of such rich tradition amd great fans, it's
 The Wolfpack do get all four of their non-conference games at home this year,
 with Louisiana Tech, Richmond, Central Michigan and East Carolina all coming
 to Raleigh.
 The team gets its first four games of the season in the friendly confines of
 Carter-Finley Stadium, although during that span, Doeren will get a harsh
 lesson in ACC football by conference favorite Clemson. Other league games
 at home for NC State include Syracuse, North Carolina and Maryland. NC State
 only travels four times this season, all in conference, against Wake Forest,
 Florida State, Duke and Boston College.
 Working the kind of magic he did at NIU isn't expected right from the get-go
 in Raleigh. The Wolfpack will struggle at times, especially until they have a
 proven commodity under center and a defense that can counter-punch the kind of
 offensive proficiency that the ACC elite are capable of.
 08/19 09:20:33 ET

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