RALEIGH — There have already been some good surprises for NC State football this offseason.
Despite finishing with a disappointing 8-5 record and ending the 2022 season with a lackluster 16-12 loss to Maryland in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, the Wolfpack have grabbed some key elements from the portal of transfer, retained one of his best defensemen and is now looking to add a big-name quarterback.
On Dec. 31, NC State received a New Year’s gift when linebacker Payton Wilson announced he would be returning for a fifth season. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Wilson finished the season with 82 tackles, including 12.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks. His retention will be a boon to a defense that has lost two other starters from its core linebackers in Isaiah Moore and Drake Thomas, who left early to declare themselves for the NFL Draft.
The next day, tight end Trent Pennix announced he would be returning for a sixth season. After fracturing his left shoulder blade in the season opener against East Carolina, Pennix returned to action on October 27 against Virginia Tech but was hampered by his injury throughout the season.
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Quarterback dilemma for NC State
But who will throw passes at Pennix in 2023? With ACC preseason player of the year Devin Leary at Kentucky, NC State finds itself with true rookie MJ Morris and third-year rookie Ben Finley at quarterback. Ben Finley threw the ball 48 times, completing 22 passes for 269 yards and two interceptions, in the Mayo Bowl loss after leading the Wolfpack to a double-overtime win over UNC in the regular-season finale.
Morris missed the final four games of the season with a lower body injury. He practiced before the bowling game and had planned to split his time with Ben Finley in Charlotte. He even participated in warm-ups before coach Dave Doeren pulled the plug on his return.
NC State could also be closing in on another option under center.
Former Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong traveled to Raleigh this week. He reconnected with his former offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, who was hired in December to take over the Wolfpack offense after Tim Beck left to manage Coastal Carolina.
Armstrong threw for 4,449 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2021 under Anae. After Anae left for Syracuse last season, Armstrong’s production dropped significantly, completing just 54% of his passes with seven touchdowns for 12 interceptions.
Transfer Portal Incoming Players
Armstrong also brought Virginia offensive lineman Logan Taylor with him when he visited campus. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound tackle would be a big addition to a Wolfpack offensive line that has lost two ACC stars to center Grant Gibson, guard Chandler Zavala as well as guard Bryson Speas.
Gone is the ACC’s all-time leader with kicker Chris Dunn, this year’s Lou Groza Award winner, but NC State has already found its replacement in Western Kentucky’s transfer portal Brayden Narveson.
Narveson started his career at Iowa State and spent the last three seasons in Western Kentucky where he was 32 for 36 on kicks from 40 yards and 16 for 20 on attempts between 40 and 49 yards .
NC State previously added Clemson wide receiver Decari Collins from the transfer portal, and the Wolfpack also added Cincinnati point rusher Noah Potter, Old Dominion safety Robert Kennedy and offensive tackle Dawson Jaramillo.
Who left NC State in the transfer portal
There have also been a few notable departures through the transfer portal, including wide receiver Devin Carter. Carter committed to Penn State on Jan. 2, ending a productive five-year stint at Raleigh.
He started 41 games and made 49 appearances, amassing 118 receptions for 1,906 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 16.2 yards per catch with the Wolfpack.
Carter finished his 2022 season with 25 catches for 406 yards and two touchdowns. He came out on a high with the Wolfpack, getting six catches for 130 yards and a score in a win over rival UNC. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound target was the most productive in 2021, finishing 31 catches for 556 yards and six touchdowns.
Other key losses include defensive lineman Joshua Harris (Ole Miss), defensive back Joshua Pierre-Louis (undecided), DE Claude Larkins (undecided) and defensive back Jaylen Frazier (undecided).
“It’s a great group of young men that I’ve been able to coach,” Doeren said after the loss to Maryland. ” I will miss them. A lot.”