NC State football enters Clemson 4-1 fresh off an upset (?) of Notre Dame. The Wolfpack (sic) is 39th in S&P, their offense ranked 37th. Outside of Notre Dame NC State’s offense is averaging forty points a game, but they did it against Wake Forest, ECU, ODU and an FCS team. The Wolfpack also managed to put up ten points against Notre Dame in a hurricane. We don’t really have any information on how this team will do against a good defense in normal conditions, but this is probably a good team and last years edition put up forty-one points in Raleigh.
Coordinator Eli Drinkwitz arrived from Boise with a reputation for pass happy, hurry up offenses. He is not currently coaching one, the Wolfpack sit in the 50’s for pace and have ran the ball about fifty times more than they’ve passed. Expect a heavy dose of runs on first and second down, followed by quick passes (often screens) and fade balls in third and short situations. NC State doesn’t really have much explosiveness on offense, but they are efficient and keep down and distance manageable.
Starting QB Ryan Finley, a Boise transfer, is fine. He can’t really run the ball, but he’s completing seventy percent of his passes and more often than not they’re going far enough to gain a first down. NC State only returned two offensive line starters and it shows, their power running game doesn’t really move the needle. The pass protection pretty routinely leaves a lot to be desired.
Senior Matthew Dayes is on pace to be the programs first thousand yard rusher, and Reggie Gallapsy II is a powerful backup running back. Toss in do everything “tight end” Jaylen Williams running the ball and you have the basis of a solid running game. NC State, like most teams, bases their running game around inside zone. The degree to which that play defines their offense is astounding. NC State will also mix in the occasional power scheme, but inside zone is 75% of their running game, with a mix of outside zone and power. They’re not particularly good at any other running scheme.
On earlier downs the Wolfpack like to run out of 11 or 21 personnel and use the tight end to seal off the end a more mobile quarterback might be reading. Drinkwitz is a former Malzahn offensive disciple, and uses many of his mentors favorite tricks. Expect wide receiver motion and unbalanced sets early and often.
Jaylen Williams, #1, will be targeted with direct snaps, speed sweeps, post routes, screens and slants and will be used as a decoy on a lot of plays. He is as close to positionless a football player as exists and he will be deployed everywhere Saturday.
Like Malzahn Drinkwitz is a fan of the play action pass, particularly the roll out pass, as a means of getting defenders stretched out horizontally.
Or using multiple vertical routes and play action to get a big play.
On the whole this passing game is perfectly willing to throw screens and fades all day if allowed. The running game is used to set up big plays vertically or short quick throws to the flat. That should help Clemson, since the weak spot in our pass coverage tends to be over the middle. Should the defensive tackle rotation be able to muck up inside zone, either by creating a pile or penetrating, this is not a team built to pass its way back into games. NC State should be able to keep things efficient on offense. The question is whether their defense will hold up enough so that efficiency keeps them in a position to win.