College football never ends, and during the next few weeks teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the NC State Wolfpack and what they'll be working on this spring.
Spring practice begins: March 19
Spring game: April 20
2012 record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 ACC
Returning starters: 11 (five offense, six defense)
The Least You Should Know about North Carolina State This Spring
-- The Dave Doeren era is off and running. In case you need a quick refresher: Tom O'Brien was fired after six seasons because NC State wants to field a team that annually ranks in the Top 25. While the Wolfpack did reach four bowl games in TOB's six years, there was only one final AP ranking: finishing No. 25 in 2010. So athletic director Debbie Yow reached out to Dave Doeren, fresh off back-to-back MAC Championships at Northern Illinois. While the Huskies prepared for the program's first BCS bowl, Doeren began the massive overhaul at NC State. While some programs must work through the transition period between coaches, Doeren -- ranking near the bottom of the ACC with only 11 returning starters -- is starting a new program.
The most noticeable change will likely be on the offensive side of the ball. Doeren is bringing some of the same spread principles that were effective at Northern Illinois and made quarterback Jordan Lynch a star. This spring Doeren and offensive coordinator Matt Canada have to figure out both how much of that offense fits the current personnel and who will start under center. Junior Pete Thomas sat out 2012 after transferring from Colorado State, where he started 21 straight games before suffering an injury late in the 2011 season. Thomas set a school single-season completion percentage record as a freshman (64.7 percent) but left the Rams with 18 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions in two seasons. The only other scholarship quarterback available for 2013 is sophomore Manny Stocker. Stocker appeared exclusively in cleanup duty last season, attempting just two passes in five games.
-- Quarterback is not the only question mark on offense. Another goal for this spring at NC State will be filling out the offensive line and developing depth at running back. The Wolfpack lost center Cam Wentz and three other starters along the offensive line. The four players combined for 125 career starts, although many of those starts were at different positions. Rob Crisp, Duran Christophe and Tyson Chandler have experience and could be in the mix to lead the unit in 2013 but like many positions for the Wolfpack, the staff could decide to start from scratch in the spring. At running back, Doeren has said he hopes to use multiple running backs in the offensive scheme. Shadrach Thornton and Tony Creecy are back, but their playing time could be in jeopardy if they don't impress the staff this spring. Doeren signed three running backs in the Class of 2013 and expects at least one or two to contribute immediately. Luckily there is experience on the outside for NC State. Quintin Payton, Bryan Underwood, and Rashard Smith all return at wide receiver after solid 2012 campaigns.
-- Who will replace Earl Wolff and Brandon Bishop in the secondary? Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable's most pressing need for the spring is identifying the defensive backs who will replace an experienced trio of All-ACC caliber players. David Amerson's playmaking ability will be missed, but Earl Wolff and Brandon Bishop leave big shoes to fill in the secondary. Wolff and Bishop started side-by-side in 43 games over the past four years, leaving the Wolfpack with very little experience heading into 2013. Huxtable, along with cornerbacks coach Richard McNutt and safeties coach Clayton White, will likely choose some combination of Dontae Johnson, Juston Burris, Tim Buckley, and Hakim Jones to fill out the secondary. But who goes where and how they fit in the new scheme will be one item to watch this spring.
-- The leadership change goes beyond the sideline. In addition to a brand new coaching staff, the Wolfpack have just three returning starters in the senior class. Players like Glennon, Wolff, and Terrell Manning were the face of the program for the last couple of years, and now the first-year Wolfpack coach needs new faces to step into those leadership roles.
"We want to see daily improvement then we should see the leadership of this team unfold as we go through the installation process," Doeren said prior the beginning of spring drills. "Developing chemistry will be very important, because although many of these guys have played together, they may have been in different roles."
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