The Wolfpacker

January 2014

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 25 of 79

E By Matt Carter ach preseason, The Wolfpacker takes a look at the 25 players we believe are most crucial to the success of NC State, based on players' abilities, previous performances, coaches' comments and the team's needs. Now it's time to reflect back on that list and rearrange the top 25 based on how the season played out. 1. RB Shadrach Thornton The sophomore effectively missed the first three games of the season, carrying once against Richmond and Clemson combined after sitting out the opener versus Louisiana Tech for discipline reasons. Thus, the bulk of Thornton's team-high 768 rushing yards came in the last nine games. Had Thornton rushed at that pace for a full 12 games, he would have been NCSU's first 1,000-yard rusher since T.A. McLendon in 2002 and the 11th in school history. Thornton nevertheless jumpstarted a rushing attack that averaged 162.7 yards per game this year, the program's best average since 1998 when NCSU rushed at a clip of 168.0 yards per contest. Top Performers A Postseason Look At The Football Team's Top 25 Players In 2013 2. WR Rashard Smith Smith, a fifth-year senior, led NC State in receiving with 49 receptions for 530 yards and matched the team best with three touchdown catches despite missing two games with an injury. He also returned a pair of punts for scores and averaged 14.1 yards a runback, third best in the ACC. He also was State's most effective kickoff returner, averaging 23.8 yards, and rushed 17 times for 121 yards to cap off a strong all-around season. 3. LB Robert Caldwell The senior emerged as NCSU's undisputed defensive MVP. He led the Pack and finished fifth in the ACC with 105 tackles, including 14.5 for loss (tied for eighth in the conference) and two sacks. Caldwell also had an interception, broke up a pass and pressured the quarterback five times, helping him garner honorable mention AllACC honors. 4. DB Dontae Johnson The senior began the year at corner and finished at safety, but he started every game in the process. Johnson was second on the squad with 82 tackles and led the Pack with three interceptions, the first picks of his career. He also broke up a pair of passes. 5. DT Thomas Teal The redshirt junior was a model of consistency in the interior of NCSU's defen- Redshirt junior defensive tackle Thomas Teal led all Wolfpack defensive linemen with 40 tackles and 10.5 hits for loss, and he tied for second on the team with three sacks. photo by Ken Martin sive line. He led all linemen with 40 tackles and 10.5 hits for loss, and tied for second on the team with three sacks. Teal also had four quarterback hurries, which tied for the second most on the team. 6. DE Art Norman State's best pass rusher led the Pack with 4.5 sacks this year. The redshirt junior has now collected 17 sacks in his career, which ranks him in a tie with George Anderson and Ray Agnew for the seventh-most ever at NC State. He would need nine sacks next season to surpass Mario Williams, who tallied 25.5 in just three seasons for NC State before leaving early and becoming the first-ever No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick in ACC history. Norman also added 30 total stops, nine tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 2013. 7. S Hakim Jones After showing flashes as a redshirt freshman in 2012, Jones passed the test as a full-time starter this year. He completed the season with 61 tackles, two interceptions and a team-high eight passes broken up. Jones finished 10th at the completion of the regular season in the ACC in the latter category. Jones also had a memorable forced fumble and recovery, ending a long run by Duke quarterback Brandon Connette in a turnover. 26  ■  the wolfpacker 26,28,30.Top 25 FB Players.indd 26 12/5/13 4:55 PM

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