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N.C. State Wolfpack looks to rebound from humbling 2013

N.C. State, NC State, football, Wolfpack, ACC, Richmond, Doeren
Ethan Hyman - ehyman@newsobserver.com
N.C. State’s Art Norman (95) celebrates after recovering a fumble against Richmond in 2013. He says he is ready to step up to become a more vocal leader

GREENSBORO The 2013 season was a disappointment for N.C. State, to say the least. At this year’s ACC Kickoff, the Wolfpack’s seniors made it clear they are focused on getting the program back to its full strength and winning ways.

A humbling season

After leading the Wolfpack in sacks the past three seasons, defensive end Art Norman knows what it takes to lead a team on the field. As a redshirt senior this season, he will look to lead off the field, something he said he has been ready for since he first came into the program.

“I always knew I was a leader, even when I was a freshman, sophomore,” Norman said. “I wasn’t as vocal, but I always knew I was a leader, you know, lead by example. But now, I’ve really stepped up my leadership and earned my respect from my teammates.”

Although it was not the kind of season he or any of his teammates wanted, the 2013 season allowed Norman to grow as a leader after dealing with the disappointment felt by his teammates and friends. Going through the process ultimately allowed the Wolfpack to grow closer, something he believes will benefit the team this season.

“Last year, I learned a whole lot from that,” he said. “It kind of makes the true leaders step up. Anybody can lead a 9-3 team. It’s not hard. Everybody’s with you. You’ve got everybody backing you, congratulating you, pushing you on.

“When you have a season like us, you kind of only have your team. No one expects you to win or to go to a bowl game. So you have to lean on each other.”

‘Better than we found it’

In the past four years, N.C. State has finished 9-4, 8-5, 7-5 and 3-9. The trend is not heading in the direction anyone involved in the program wants and is troubling – but not irreversible.

Running back Tony Creecy and Norman are graduate students using their redshirt senior year to hopefully leave the program with a sense of pride.

“I want to leave (N.C. State) – I want to leave anywhere – better than I found it,” Creecy said. “So that’s definitely a goal.”

Norman said that while the goals were consistent throughout the team, as seniors, the will to conclude their careers on a high note is amplified.

“Everybody wants to go out on top,” he said. “So with us being seniors, you want to work that much harder just so you don’t have a season like that. You want to finish at a bowl game or at the ACC championship.”

New kid on the block

Although he might not be a new face to his teammates, quarterback Jacoby Brissett is a player who will have a lot of fans asking where he’s been by the time the season rolls around.

Brissett is a Palm Beach, Fla., native and attended Florida his first two years of college, becoming the first freshman in Gators history to start a game as a true freshman – a 41-11 loss to then-No. 1 Louisiana State.

He has come a long way since then, as a quarterback and physically.

After sitting out last season because of NCAA transfer rules, watching N.C. State switch between two quarterbacks, and ultimately failing to muster any consistency, Brissett is leaving little doubt in the minds of his teammates about the Wolfpack’s 2014 starting quarterback.

“Jacoby gives us leadership,” Creecy said. “He has great pocket presence. He knows if the blitz is coming he can step up in the pocket; he can roll out.”

Creecy compared Brissett’s arm to that of two of the more accomplished signal-callers in N.C. State history.

“(He has) a really powerful arm,” he said. “He made some passes that really reminded me of Russell (Wilson) and Mike Glennon. And that’s a really good comparison.”

After a season that went as poorly as 2013 did, Creecy knows there will be doubters casting shade toward Brissett early on. For those critics he has just one thing to say – wait and see.

“You need to see it first,” he said. “It’s all myth and talk, but I want y’all to see it for yourself. … He’s good. He’s really good.”

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