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Trott: Be ready for anything from Wolfpack

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East Carolina defensive tackle Jalen Price (93) reacts after a penalty during a game against N.C. State on Dec. 1, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, August 22, 2019

First-year East Carolina defensive coordinator Bob Trott and first-year Pirate football head coach Mike Houston were similar with their words Wednesday that they think they know what to expect from N.C. State's offense, but they said preparing for an opponent during Week 1 of the season is different from any other week.

The Wolfpack, especially, has one of the most unique offensive situations in college football entering this season after losing its veteran all-Atlantic Coast Conference quarterback Ryan Finley, leading rusher, two 1,000-yard receivers and Garrett Bradbury as the best center in the country a year ago. Only four starters return on offense for co-coordinators Des Kitchings and George McDonald, who are now in charge after offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz left to become Appalachian State's head coach on Dec. 13.

"They are trying to retool their team and we are trying to retool our team, but the big thing is that you have to be ready for anything," Trott said. "You don't know if they changed a little bit here or there. You have to prepare yourself, mentally, for the unexpected and be able to adjust and to adapt.”

N.C. State hosts ECU, which lost 58-3 to the Wolfpack a season ago, at noon next Saturday.

Most of State's returning offensive starters are juniors up front in linemen Joshua Fedd-Jackson and Justin Witt joined by tight end Cary Angeline.

The Wolfpack could use multiple quarterbacks against ECU in life after Finley, who finished second all-time in NCSU history in passing yards behind Philip Rivers.

Dual-threat, 6-foot-4, sophomore Matthew McKay, who has been compared to former Wolfpack QB Jacoby Brissett, would make sense as the next starter after serving as Finley's main backup and completing 7-of-8 passes during limited action last year.

McKay has battled with left-handed transfer Bailey Hockman and freshman Devin Leary during the preseason. Hockman already has had an intriguing career, spending one year at Florida State -- he threw for 203 yards and a touchdown in an FSU spring game -- but he transferred to sit out last season at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.

"Luckily there is usually only one at a time, so we'll figure it out from there," Trott said of the Wolfpack's QB situation.

State finished with an insurmountable 655-104 advantage in total yards against the Pirates last year, thanks mainly to steady play by Finley (32-of-44, 409 yards, 3 TDs, INT) and then-senior Reggie Gallaspy bulldozing and gashing his way to 220 yards on 24 carries.

McKay's lone pass was a 12-yard completion. He also ran twice for a total of 2 yards.

Notable also is that receiver Emeka Emezie made five receptions for 57 yards. Emezie, now a junior who is 6-3 and 210 from Waxhaw, is stepping into the lead pass-catching role for whoever is throwing the football for the Wolfpack.

The main NCSU running backs to watch are Ricky Person and talented and shifty freshman Zonovan Knight after he totaled 71 career rushing TDs and more than 5,000 yards as Southern Nash High School's all-time leading rusher.

"They have a lot of new coaches on the offensive side of the ball, some new personnel and a new special teams coordinator, so in Game 1, you always have to prepare for everything," Houston said. "You have an identity that (seventh-year head) coach Dave Doeren has established at N.C. State, so I don't know if he is going to veer a whole lot from that. He may come out and Air Raid and throw it 70 times against us next Saturday, I don't know, but for the most part, coaches retain their personality as far as how they run their program. We are expecting it to be a similar scheme.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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