Dave Doeren will take over the NC State Wolfpack in 2013 and attempt to get them to the top of the ACC. He hit the ground running, attempting to install his new offensive system in the span of 15 spring practices. While it will undoubtedly take time for the whole offense to get on the same page with a brand new offense and increased tempo, one player that the Wolfpack can count on next fall is running back Shadrach Thornton.
Thornton broke out in 2012 as a freshman for NC State, leading the team in rushing with 154 carries for 694 yards and three touchdowns. On top of that, he caught 30 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown to show he was a weapon in the passing game as well. He led the team in rushing despite not getting a single carry in the first three games of the season. He finally found his niche in the offense late in the season, rushing for 100-yards or more in three of the Pack’s final four games.
The young back showed the ability to carry the offensive load when given an opportunity. When the NC State offense fed Thornton, he delivered results. In four games last season, Thornton got more than 20 carries in a game, and in all four he eclipsed the 100-yard mark. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada recognizes the talent that Thornton has and will likely feed him carries as long as he can produce. That should turn into an excellent season of production for the sophomore.
The biggest question mark in the running game isn’t the back carrying the ball, but the offensive line blocking in front of him. NC State returns just one lineman, Rob Crisp, from last season and will be breaking in some inexperienced and untested linemen next fall. If they fail to gel and provide some running lanes, it won’t matter how talented Thornton is with the ball in his hand. Canada will make sure he gets the five best blockers in place before next season’s opener, however, to make sure those holes are open.
For the Wolfpack to succeed in 2013 under a new head coach, their proven producers must step up in a major way. Thornton took hold of the running game during his freshman season, but can he take it over the top as an encore in his sophomore campaign?