Vince Lombardi was fond of telling friends that football was the perfect team game except for one conspicuous problem—The quarterback was too important.
As the first week of preseason games just concluded we had a chance to see three former NC State signal callers take the field. I would like to break down each of these guys and give insight to their seasons ahead.
Philip Rivers (6-5, 228) Entering 11th season:
Last year was a welcoming sight not only for San Diego Chargers fans but also Philip River’s supporters. Prior to last season Philip struggled mightily with turnovers and subpar team performances. Personally, I attribute most of his struggles during those seasons to a leaky offensive line and a lack of weapons on the perimeter. Take into consideration the constant rumors swirling around Norv Turner at the time and all together you had an environment less than conducive for success.
Enter in Mike McCoy and a new scheme to breathe fresh air into the Chargers and what did you see? Many saw a rejuvenated Philip Rivers and a potent offensive unit. The Chargers ranked 5th in total offense by gaining 393.3 yards a game and ranked 4th in passing yards per game at 270.5. Philip Rivers was instrumental in helping the Chargers reach these numbers. However a favorite statistic of mine speaks volumes of just how good of a quarterback Philip Rivers is. This can be found in 3rd down completion percentage. The Chargers lead the league in 3rd down percentage, converting at a 49% clip. Games are won and lost on 3rd downs!
Philip has always been a big time performer when the game is on the line. He always seems to come up the biggest when his team needs him the most. In his career he has led 33 comebacks in the 4th quarter! That ranks 38th all time according to Pro Football Reference.
As for the upcoming campaign I expect to see even more improvement from the Chargers and Philip. Yes he has a new Offensive Coordinator, following Ken Whisenhunt’s departure to the Titans. With Whisenhunt gone, the Chargers promoted Frank Reich to Offensive. Reich served under Coach Whisenhunt while he was with the Cardinals and as an assistant with the Chargers last season. I expect to see a similar offensive scheme that focuses on the run game and picking and choosing when to take shots down the field.
The passing game was a huge weapon but Philip was quick to praise the ground attack and deflect the compliments to his teammates for his personal accolades last season. A saying that the Chargers frequent around their practice facility is Nunc Coepi, a Latin phrase that means; “Now I begin.” In a recent interview Philip spoke on this mantra, he talks about how he has had the mind set to begin again no matter the outcome. Philip stated, “You can always begin again, you throw a touchdown, well, now we begin. You throw an interception, you can begin again, and constantly you can start over.”
I believe it is because of this mindset, “Now I begin,” Philip will have zero hangovers from his success last season. As a whole the Chargers should be even better than they were a season ago. I expect a healthy Malcolm Floyd and the continued emergence of Keenan Allen to be a deadly one-two punch on the perimeter for Philip. With great complimentary pieces of Gates and Royal working the underneath and middle, I expect the passing attack to be even more efficient.
Just how important is Philip Rivers to San Diego’s success? Nick Hardwick, longtime center, sums it up perfectly, “He’s the top man on the totem pole in this building for sure.” He goes on to say, “but just interacting with teammates, he’s just a guy. He’s one of your buddies. There’s no pretense about him whatsoever.”
NC State LB Payton Wilson Wins the Bednarik Award!
NC State’s Payton Wilson won the Butkus Award earlier this week, naming him the best Linebacker in college football. Tonight he won the Bednarik Award, which has been given out annually to the best defensive player in college football since 1995.
Wilson beat out Alabama Linebacker Dallas Turner and UCLA’s Defensive End Laiatu Latu.
Prior to this week, no NC State Linebacker had ever won the Butkus Award. Prior to tonight, no NC State defensive player had ever won the Bednarik Award.
Below is a list of the former Bednarik Award winners.
In one week, Wilson has done what no other Linebacker of defensive player at NC State has ever done.
Go ahead and retire the #11 already!
Wake Forest Transfer WR Welsey Grimes Commits to NC State!
NC State just picked up their first transfer of the 2024 class, and it’s a big one. Former Wake Forest Wide Receiver Wesley Grimes (6’2″/187) just committed to run with the Wolfpack.
As a Sophomore this season, Grimes caught 20 passes for 339 yards and 4 touchdowns in 12 games. As a True Freshman last year, he played in his 6 games, collecting 4 receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown.
In all reality, Grimes is coming home. He was a 4-Star prospect out of Millbrook High School here in Raleigh. ON3, 247Sports and Rivals all ranked Grimes as a Top-250 prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, with Rivals ranking him as the #36 overall player nationally, the #4 Wide Receiver, and the #2 player in the state of North Carolina.
From a recruiting rankings standpoint, Grimes instantly becomes the highest ranked player on NC State’s roster. Since he played as a True Freshman, Grimes has 3 seasons to play 2 years of eligibility.
Back in 2021, Grimes chose the Demon Deacons over NC State, Tennessee, Duke and Louisville. On December 8th, 2023, Grimes decided to come back home and run with the Pack.
Kansas State will be Without Their Offensive Coordinator & Starting Quarterback Against NC State
Kansas State will be without their Offensive Coordinator and starting Quarterback when they face NC State in the Pop-Tarts Bowl on December 28th.
New Texas A&M head coach Mike Elko, who just left the same position at Duke, paid big bucks to hire Wildcats Offensive Coordinator Collin Klein as his OC, who had been serving in the position at Kansas State for the past 2 seasons. For the past 7 seasons, Klein has served as the Wildcats Quarterbacks Coach.
This season, Kansas State ranks 23rd in Total Offense (446.1) and 14th in Rushing Offense (199.7).
As Quarterbacks Coach, he helped develop four-year starter Will Howard, who announced he would be entering the Transfer Portal on November 27th. This season, Howard earned 2nd Team All-Big 12 honors. In 12 games, he threw for 2,643 yards and 24 touchdowns (10 interceptions). Howard also rushed for 351 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Howard will be replaced by Freshman Avery Johnson. There was speculation that Johnson might follow Klein to Texas A&M, but he will be starting for the Wildcats in Orlando against the Wolfpack.
NC State’s Kevin Concepcion Earns Freshman All-American Status from The Athletic
NC State Wide Receiver Kevin Concepcion has been named a Freshman All-American by The Athletic.
Here’s what they had to say about KC:
WR Kevin Concepcion, NC State: “KC” easily won ACC Rookie of the Year this season after catching 64 passes for 767 yards, rushing for 297 yards on 7.8 yards per carry and scoring 11 total touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 187-pound slot receiver from Charlotte was a three-star signee who proved he should start right away as a true freshman. Over his last seven games, Concepcion has averaged 117 total yards per game. (The Athletic)