As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will continue its 2016 ACC schedule when it plays NC State on Nov. 12.
WHO WILL REPLACE BRISSETT?: The Wolfpack is coming off back-to-back bowl seasons, and has the talent to make it to a third. But that won’t be as easy without quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center. The third round pick of the Patriots threw for 2,662 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015, and there’s a three-way race to replace him. Sophomore Jalan McClendon appeared in three games last season, and has the most experience in head coach Dave Doeren’s system. Redshirt freshman Jakobi Meyers is also in the mix because of his dual-threat abilities. Finally, there’s Boise State graduate transfer Ryan Finley, who’s reuniting with offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz. “When we go into the fall camp, see where we’re at,” Doeren said at ACC Kickoff. “There may be a lot of separation when we come into camp, there may not.”
WHO TO WATCH FOR: Whoever starts at quarterback, his job will be easier given the depth the Wolfpack has accumulated in the backfield. The unit, headlined by Matt Dayes, amassed more than 1,600 yards last season, though by the end of the season, the injury-ravaged unit was down to its fifth-string back. Dayes was in line for a 1,000+ yard season, NC State’s first in over a decade, before he suffered a foot injury and finished with 865 yards. The Wolfpack can also count on tight end/back Jaylen Samuels, who finished with 16 total touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable returns an experienced and talented defensive line, led by defensive end Bradley Chubb (69 tackles, 5.5 sacks).
PREDICTION: NC State faces a tougher schedule, a new quarterback and a reworked offensive line (only two starters returning). “Our goals are to be the best football team we can be,” Doeren said. “At the end of the year we’ll know what that means.” It should mean another bowl game for the Wolfpack. NC STATE 28, SYRACUSE 24.