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DeCock: Absent from Greensboro, QB Brissett central to Wolfpack’s hopes

By Luke DeCock - staff columnist
ldecock@newsobserver.com
Luke has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
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NC State Brissett Football
Ethan Hyman - AP
Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett is expected to single-handedly provide N.C. State what Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas couldn’t at the quarterback position.

GREENSBORO Jacoby Brissett wasn’t invited to the ACC Kickoff. N.C. State unsurprisingly sent a pair of seniors – running back Tony Creecy and defensive end Art Norman. So what did Creecy and Norman talk about Sunday? What did Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren talk about Monday?

Mostly Jacoby Brissett.

Doeren has said repeatedly that quarterback play was the Wolfpack’s biggest issue during his 3-9 debut season. Brissett, a versatile Florida transfer, is expected to single-handedly provide what Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas couldn’t at the position.

“Even on scout team, he was a leader,” Norman said. “He’s going to be pretty good. He’s good at both, a runner and a passer. Not only that, what I like the most is he’s a leader. That goes deeper than being a runner or a passer. You need that as a quarterback.”

“Jacoby has the skill set, the intangibles, the personality – all the things if you were recruiting a quarterback, you’d want him. You really would,” said Doeren, who recruited Brissett out of high school as an assistant coach at Wisconsin. “Now we have to get the pieces around him.”

Ah, the pieces around him. Even operating from the assumption that the quarterback position will be vastly improved, it remains an open question just how much anyone should expect the other 21 positions to be better. Significant progress is possible, especially on offense, where several young skill players saw considerable playing time – but it’s far from guaranteed.

The Wolfpack was 13th among the 14 conference schools in scoring defense and 10th in scoring offense last year, while going winless in the ACC and losing eight straight to close the season. It was ugly, to say the least.

“That kind of season scars you, but I also think it really does make you stronger,” Doeren said. “It makes you look at yourself. It makes your players rally around each other because nobody else is talking to them in a nice way.”

Norman said players on defense are more vocal and decisive in their leadership in Year 2 of the Doeren regime, after working their way through the new schemes and techniques last summer and fall. Creecy said players have worked hard to build togetherness during the offseason, hosting cookouts and other functions to encourage bonding.

“That’s something we did, something we put our own money up for,” Creecy said. “We’ve hung out way more. Even when Floyd Mayweather fought, I had guys over to my house. It’s just little things we do to make us closer.”

Will it pan out? After last season, it’s hard to imagine things getting any worse. And with four soft nonconference games – Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, Presbyterian and at South Florida – and 16 returning starters, there’s certainly more than enough room for N.C. State to improve, especially if Brissett can deliver.

After last season, when Mitchell was injured early and Thomas struggled to run an offense designed for Mitchell’s running ability, the bar is set pretty low. Except at N.C. State, which has sent Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon to the NFL in recent years, the bar is always set high at quarterback.

“I’m excited to see him play,” Doeren said. “I don’t want to put too much on him. Obviously, I coach at a school where we have three quarterbacks playing in the NFL. The expectation, and really what we’re used to seeing, is pretty good at that spot.”

It’s hard not to put too much on Brissett, absent from Greensboro but central to the Wolfpack’s season.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947
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