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NCAA Football ACC FootballNC State Wolfpack

Rant Sports College Football Top 100: No. 50 North Carolina State Wolfpack

North Carolina State

Jim Brown – USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2013 season, the North Carolina State Wolfpack feel like they have a lot to prove. Losing starting quarterback Mike Glennon, second-leading receiver Tobias Palmer and their top three tacklers from a season ago, the Wolfpack are looking at what seems to be an entirely different team.

They also lost head coach Tom O’Brien, who was forced out of the head coach position after leading the Wolfpack to 115-82 record from 2007-12. Athletic director Debbie Yow wanted a coach who would bring in top-25 type talent, and O’Brien saw his recruiting classes constantly rated in the lower half of the nation.

Enter Dave Doeren, the former Northern Illinois Huskies‘ head coach who led the Huskies to a 23-4 record in just two short seasons. If anyone has the ability to bring in top talent, it’s him.

Let’s take a look at the key players, offense, defense and schedule for the Wolfpack in the 2013 season.

KEY PLAYERS

While losing Glennon is a huge setback offensively, the Wolfpack have some very capable weapons who could take the load off whoever wins the quarterback battle.

Returning their top two running backs will be huge. Shadrach Thornton had a stellar freshman season in 2012, racking up 694 rushing yards and 274 receiving yards to go along with four total touchdowns. He will surely play a large role on offense in 2013.

One more offensive weapon that could ease the transition of a new quarterback smoothly is the leading receiver from a season ago, senior wideout Quintin Payton. He broke out big time in 2012, catching 51 passes for 798 yards and two touchdowns. In his first two seasons at NC State, Payton caught a combined 11 passes for 145 yards and no scores.

OFFENSE

The offense looks to be a bit different, starting with quarterback. One season ago, the Wolfpack had the 18th-best pass offense in the nation and one of the top attacks in the ACC. Now that Glennon is gone, Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas and sophomore Manny Stocker will be the two primary candidates to take over the position.

Both quarterbacks have tremendous upside and could be the third quarterback in a row who has been stellar for the Wolfpack.

As I said before, the running back situation will be strong with 1,170 yards and eight touchdowns returning to lead the way in the backfield. Both Tony Creecy and Thornton have the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as well, combining for 64 receptions for 456 yards and two scores.

The offense looks to be in relatively good shape.

DEFENSE

The defense in 2012 was a middle-of-the-pack type squad. They had some stellar games, but also some rough ones — like every team in the nation.

Losing a few key players, such as their three leading tacklers, it will be tough to adjust to nearly a fresh squad. Also, losing their top two interception guys will be tough as they were ball-hawks.

One guy to keep an eye on in 2013 is freshman defensive back Juston Burris, who had 36 tackles, three interceptions and a sack.

SCHEDULE

The Wolfpack’s schedule for 2013 looks pretty favorable. Although they face their fair share of tough opponents like any team from a major conference, their non-conference schedule looks extremely winnable.

Here’s are the toughest games on the 2013 schedule for the Wolfpack: vs. Clemson Tigers, at Florida State Seminoles, vs. North Carolina Tar Heels and vs. Maryland Terrapins.

I think the Wolfpack have a great chance to be one of the comeback teams after a 7-6 season a year ago to go along with a Music City Bowl loss. In my opinion, the Wolfpack will go 7-5 once again in the regular season, and they have the talent to win a bowl game and finish with eight wins. NC State will surprise some people in 2013.

Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.