CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – The N.C. State football team entered the 2022 season with lofty expectations, as well as hopes of winning the program’s first Atlantic Coast Conference championship since 1979.
Following an injury-plagued couple of months that saw four different quarterbacks start for the Wolfpack, the team ultimately crawled its way to an underwhelming eight-win season. One year later, these expectations haven’t changed for those inside the program.
Heading into his 11th season at the helm, N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren isn’t shying away from his aspirations of winning a conference title.
“I think the ceiling is being the best in the league. That’s our goal,” Doeren said Thursday at ACC Kickoff in Charlotte. “We can’t control the stats and all the things outside of the ACC. We’ve got to try to win the ACC.”
The Wolfpack has enjoyed plenty of success in recent years, finishing in second place in the ACC Atlantic Division in 2017 and 2021. However, it’s now about getting over the hump and putting themselves in the championship hunt.
Statistically, N.C. State has been among the best in the ACC on the defensive side of the ball. The Wolfpack ranked No. 20 in total defense and No. 11 in scoring defense this past season. Despite losing key pieces, people within the program feel like the secondary is even deeper than it was last year.
Although, the main attention turns to the new-look offense under offensive coordinator Robert Anae and sixth-year quarterback Brennan Armstrong.
“Robert Anae is a really creative guy,” Doeren said. “So I thought after doing all the homework and having the conversations and talking to people who know him, he’s the right fit for us.”
“He is one of the most creative offensive coordinators I’ve ever seen,” N.C. State linebacker Payton Wilson said. “Going against that all spring ball – it was just tough.”
After four-year starting quarterback Devin Leary left for Kentucky, Armstrong decided to play his final college season in Raleigh.
Coincidently, the Virginia transfer is reuniting with his former offensive coordinator. Under Anae’s guidance in 2021, Armstrong broke single-season records as the signal-caller for the Cavaliers, racking up 4,449 yards and 31 touchdowns.
“He’s got a good idea of how I play and kind of my thoughts, I got a good idea of how he thinks,” Armstrong said. “Everyone talks about the running quarterback, he lets me run the ball, he doesn’t care. He designs things for those things too, and I feel like I’m at my best when I’m able to just play free.”
The Wolfpack opens the 2023 season on the road against Connecticut on Aug. 31.
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.