For Pack, Brissett's time finally at hand
Posted July 21
Greensboro, N.C. — If there’s one prevailing assumption about NC State’s 2014 football team, it’s that the Wolfpack will be much better on offense with transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett at the wheel.
As the 2013 team had to deal with an injury-dictated rotation involving Pete Thomas, Brandon Mitchell, Bryant Sherriffs and Garrett Leatham, it was painful for State fans to tolerate the losses knowing that Brissett was never more than a few steps off the playing field.
“We have a good quarterback, and that’s not to take anything from Brandon Mitchell or Pete Thomas,” senior running back Tony Creecy said Sunday during the ACC Kickoff interviews at Greensboro’s Grandover Resort.
“But Jacoby is really good.”
Creecy put obvious emphasis on the “really good” line. He was smiling when he said it, too.
“This offense is going to be a lot better, a whole lot better,” Creecy said.
Simply going by the 2013 record -- 0-8 in the ACC and 3-9 overall -- it could be argued that the offense almost has to be improved.
But records sometimes can be misleading. For a team with a terrible record, State actually moved the ball fairly well much of the time.
Unlike the 0-8 record, which put the Pack last in the Atlantic Division and last overall in the ACC technically, the offense was seventh among the 14 teams. The passing production, despite so many injuries, was seventh as well.
Believe it or not, Dave Doeren’s first State team averaged more points per game than four other league teams, and at 22.8, wasn’t very far away from ranking sixth in the conference in that category.
Actually there was only one game -- a late-season 38-21 loss at Boston College -- when the offense was extensively handcuffed. Even then, Thomas completed 22 of 33 passes for 207 yards and was one of three Pack players to throw a touchdown pass against the BC defense.
In reality, the Wolfpack had a good deal more defensive breakdowns than offense. In that game at Boston, running back Andre Williams spent almost as much time in the Wolfpack secondary as State’s safeties.
But offense rules and it certainly grabs the bulk of fan attention, and the perception was that State’s offense was completely lousy regardless of which quarterback was healthy.
In that respect, Brissett will make more of an inspirational impact than anyone in the program and particularly so if he can stay healthy.
And if his work against the defensive 2nd and 3rd teams in the Kay Yow spring game is an indication of what lies ahead, Creecy and his teammates are justified in their high praise for the 6-4, 236-pound junior from Palm Beach, Fla.
Brissett threw for 365 yards in the mid-April game and provided the sort of leadership the offense wants.
“He’s leader and we’ll have a lot of leaders,” Creecy said.
That, too, should be important. Brissett will work behind five veteran offensive linemen. Make that six, depending on the recovery of former tackle standout Rob Crisp, who missed all of last season but once was projected a first-round NFL prospect.
With Creecy and Shadrach Thornton (768 yards rushing), there’s decent running back depth -- provided Thornton can stay out of the doghouse.
On paper, it all looks better and it should turn out that way. After all, Brissett started a couple of games as a true freshman at Florida and had his moments in two or three games as a sophomore.
“We won’t even look like the same team,” Creecy said.
It shouldn’t take a ton of improvement on either side of the ball for State turn it around. The non-league schedule -- Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, South Florida and Presbyterian -- is probably the easiest in the ACC.
Then, there’s the fact that several other ACC teams are starting almost from scratch at quarterback. Among State’s eight foes in the league, only Florida State with Jameis Winston, UNC (Marquise Williams) and Syracuse (Terrel Hunt) will have their primary 2013 starter and Williams didn’t get a lot of playing time until November.
Clemson, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Louisville and BC will have newcomers.
The biggest problem may turn out that Doeren and his team may not know for sure if Brissett is a legitimate difference-maker until the league schedule starts with Florida State on Sept. 27 in Raleigh. Those four non-league defenses may not be good enough to prove or disprove anything.