Head coach Dave Doeren's first season at the helm in Raleigh was a disappointment to say the least, as the Wolfpack were shutout in the conference (0-8) and ended the season 3-9 overall. However, a favorable schedule and twelve returning starters have many fans optimistic about the Wolfpacks' prospects of getting off to a fast start in 2014 and Florida transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett should bring some much needed stability to the team's most important position after the team shuffled between five different signal-callers last season.
In terms of NFL prospects, the team is once again thin on draft-eligible talent for the upcoming year, but features a couple of big men in DT Thomas Teal and oft-injured but talented OT Rob Crisp who look to have what it takes to play at the next level, and could draw interest with strong senior showings. The Wolfpack entered last season similarly thin on NFL talent but did produce a draft pick for the seventeenth straight year in cornerback Dontae Johnson who went in the fourth round to San Francisco.
Top N.C. State prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft:
DT Thomas Teal (6'1 | 308 | 5.08 | #69)
A preseason second-team All-ACC selection by Phil Steele after posting 11 tackles-for-loss and 3 sacks as a junior, Teal has been one of the Wolfpack's most consistent run-stoppers over the last two seasons, demonstrating vision, awareness and strength at the point of attack.
Though he lacks elite burst off the snap, Teal routinely gets his hands inside his opponent and displays a strong punch and rip to disengage consistently. Moving laterally, Teal isn't a quick-twitch athlete but he's flexible enough to stay balanced when changing direction and once he gets up to speed exhibits nice acceleration in a straight line. As a pass-rusher, Teal's best asset is the natural power he generates from his lower half, as he's routinely able to force blockers to backpedal, and utilizes those strong, active hands to disengage and close on the pocket.
He's also versatile enough to kick outside in three-lineman sets where that same power has been utilized to set the edge in a five-technique role, and has displayed a strong anchor when asked to line up over center and manage two gaps.
Teal may not be one of the flashier DT prospects in the 2015 class, but he's strong, smart and versatile and could draw mid-to-late round consideration if he can continue making plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Other N.C. State prospects to watch in 2014:
OT Rob Crisp (6'7 | 300 | 5.27 | #78)
Big, athletic tackle who has demonstrated quickness, strength and agility that NFL scouts look for, but hasn't been able to stay healthy. After manning the right tackle position for all of his sophomore year (2011), Crisp was injured in the 2012 opener causing him to miss five games, then in 2013, he suffered a concussion in week two and missed the remainder of the season as a result. Granted an extra year of eligibility, Crisp has the chance to draw significant draft consideration if he's able to overcome his only glaring weakness in his final season, and stay healthy.
K Niklas Sade (6'3 | 199 | 4.97 | #32)
A 38-game starter at kicker for the Wolfpack, Sade took a huge step forward in 2013 improving his field goal percentage from .565 (13-23) in 2012 to .826 (19-23), and posted the second-highest single-season field goal total in N.C. State history with 19. Has a career long distance of 50 yards, and will need to demonstrate better leg strength in addition to continued accuracy as a senior if he's going to draw a draft selection next year.
P Will Baumann (6'5 | 197 | - | #36)
With 37 career starts for the Wolfpack, Baumann ranks third in school history with 206 career punts and 8,144 career punting yards, and was the ACC's seventh ranked punter for average (42.2) in 2013 including a career best average of 49.2 on 8 kicks against Boston College. Has been named to the preseason watchlist for the 2014 Ray Guy Award (Nation's top punter).