Summer is the time when football preview magazines hit the newsstands, and this year they bring some encouraging evaluations of the Pack, although all of them came out before redshirt junior linebacker Nate Irving broke his leg and collapsed a lung in a car accident and sophomore cornerback Dominique Ellis decided to transfer.
Athlon ranked NC State the highest nationally at No. 27 and picked the Pack to finish No. 2 in the Atlantic Division of the ACC behind Florida State. Athlon also projected NC State to play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl against West Virginia.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Russell Wilson was the lone first-team All-ACC projection, and Irving, junior wide receiver Owen Spencer, fifth-year senior defensive tackle Alan-Michael Cash, fifth-year senior defensive end Willie Young, redshirt junior kicker Josh Czajkowski and sophomore wide receiver T.J. Graham (kick returner) were named to the second-team all-conference squads. Redshirt sophomore tight end George Bryan and fifth-year senior center Ted Larsen were named to the third team.
NC State ranked No. 1 in the ACC at the quarterback position, No. 5 at wide receiver/tight end, No. 8 on the offensive line and No. 9 at running back. On defense, the Wolfpack was pegged the fourth-best defensive line in the conference, No. 7 at linebacker and No. 9 at defensive back.
Athlon had NC State's incoming 2009 recruiting class ranked No. 10 in the ACC, and none of the players were on the list of top 40 incoming conference recruits.
In fantasy college football, Athlon had Wilson ranked No. 143 overall and No. 28 at quarterback.
Three former Wolfpack stars were named to Athlon's ACC all-decade team— quarterback Philip Rivers (2000-03), wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (2000-03) and linebacker Levar Fisher (1998-2001). The team did have two restrictions — each school must be represented and no more than three players were allowed per school.
Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Terrell Manning was picked as the Wolfpack's "Rising Star" by Athlon.
Lindy's was not as bullish on NC State chances for a big season. The preview magazine ranked NC State No. 49 in the country, eighth overall in the ACC and fourth in the Atlantic Division.
Irving was ranked the No. 12 outside linebacker in the nation, and Wilson was the No. 19 quarterback.
Irving and Graham were projected first-team All-ACC at linebacker and return specialist, respectively. Wilson, Spencer, Czajkowski, Young and Cash were projected second-team All-ACC picks.
Lindy's named Young the No. 4 NFL Draft prospect in the ACC, and four games were selected as "The Big Ones" — hosting South Carolina on Sept. 3, at Wake Forest on Oct. 3, at Florida State on Oct. 31 and hosting North Carolina on Nov. 28.
Sporting News picked NC State to finish second in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State. Wilson was the publication's first-team All-ACC selection at quarterback and got the nod for "Best Under Pressure." Irving was first-team All-ACC at linebacker and was named "Hardest Hitter."
NC State was called the "ascending" program in the ACC, and Graham was picked as the Wolfpack's "The Next Big Thing."