Dave Doeren stepped into a major rebuilding effort with the NC State Wolfpack in 2013 and struggled in his first season in the ACC. As he looks to 2014 and taking a step forward, his efforts will be boosted by the reinstatement of running back Shadrach Thornton, who had been serving an indefinite suspension since last December. With Thornton available this fall, NC State can at least rely on a solid running game returning for 2014.
Thornton led the Wolfpack in rushing as a sophomore last season despite being suspended for the season opener for an off-field incident last summer. In 11 games, Thornton managed to rush for 768 yards on 165 carries with four touchdowns. He ran into more trouble off the field, however, this offseason when authorities cited the running back for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia stemming from a search of his apartment during a sexual battery investigation.
Since then, however, Thornton had the charges dismissed because he was not present during the search and passed drug tests administered after the search. He was also not connected to the sexual battery case that brought authorities to his apartment in the first place, leaving Thornton’s only crime in this instance as picking the wrong people to be around. Doeren said that Thornton has “met every expectation on and off the field” this offseason when he cleared him to return to “full status” with the team.
Now that Thornton is cleared to make his return to the team, NC State should have a strong stable or running backs to lead their offense this season. Behind Thornton, the Wolfpack will use sophomore Matt Dayes after a strong 2013 freshman campaign. Dayes (who started last season’s opener) rushed for 252 yards and four touchdowns on 63 carries last season. Togehter, they should form one of the better backfield duos in the conference this season.
Following back-to-back offseasons in the doghouse, is Shadrach Thornton finally ready to step up as a leader of this team? If he does, will he be enough to take the Wolfpack into the thick of the ACC title race in 2014?