Vote: Weigh In On Week 6 In The ACC

By James Henderson

We're seven weeks into the 2017 season, and NC State enters the bye week with attainable goals within reach. At 6-1 overall and 4-0 in ACC play, the Wolfpack is in the driver's seat in the Atlantic Division thanks to Syracuse knocking off Clemson last Friday night in the Carrier Dome.

NC State could be as close as two wins from winning the division. Two wins.

However, the division race is far from over, and NC State still has plenty of work to do.

The good news for the Wolfpack is the bye week comes at a time when Dave Doeren and his staff can work to position the team in the best possible place for a critical stretch run that includes matchups on the road against Notre Dame, Wake Forest, and Boston College, not to mention that huge Nov. 4th home game against the Tigers.

Not only can players rest and re-focus, but the coaching staff can self scout, adjust tendencies, evaluate personnel – really work hard to correct areas that need to be corrected.

Let's take a look at some areas the Wolfpack coaching staff should focus on during the bye week.

Kicking game woes continue

Redshirt junior kicker Carson Wise has struggled all season, and although he's yet to miss a kick as big as Kyle Bambard's miss in 2017 against Clemson, Wolfpack fans are concerned a kick like that is just around the corner.

Wise is 6-of-11 on the season and has missed a field goal in five of the seven contests. Several of the kicks weren't even close.

Doeren gave Wise a vote of confidence shortly after the Pittsburgh win, but you have to think the coaching staff will take a look at the rest of the kickers on the roster this week. Kyle Bambard, who has been handling kickoffs, remains an option – but will he get another opportunity?

Also, State's staff could choose to adjust how they approach kicking situations. Given Wise's struggles, will Doeren look to lean on the offense even more? Instead of kicking, maybe keep the ball in Ryan Finley's hands and be more aggressive on fourth down?

That's a potential adjustment you could see coming out of the bye week.

Evalutate red zone tendencies

NC State's offense has been stellar for the most part this season as the Wolfpack has hit explosive plays but also shown the ability to churn out long drives.

A problem area for this unit has been in the redzone. The team ranks No. 107 nationally in red zone conversions (75 percent). Some of that is attributed to the aforementioned kicking woes, because misses are factored into that number, but obviously you want touchdown opportunities.

For such a talented offense, they've had to settle for field goal attempts far too often. Offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz and his staff can use this week to evaluate all of those opportunities and find out what is going wrong.

Is NC State being too “cute” in the redzone? Running slow-developing trick plays instead of simply getting downhill behind what is becoming a dominant offensive line? Should big, physical wideouts Steph Louis and Kelvin Harmon receive more redzone opportunities? Is touchdown maven Jaylen Samuels receiving enough touches? Are there obvious tendencies that defenses are keying on inside the red zone?

NC State has a strong offensive staff loaded with former offensive coordinators. xpect the red zone deficiencies to be a major area of focus during staff meetings.

Passing defense must improve

NC State has one of the top defenses in the conference, and the approach is simple. The Wolfpack wants to eliminate your running game and be stingy in the red zone, either forcing field goals or getting stops.

Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable's unit ranks No. 1 in the ACC and No. 7 nationally in rushing defense (91.29 ypg) and is No. 42 nationally in red zone conversions (78.2 percent). The Wolfpack has been even better in terms of allowing touchdowns in the redzone, as teams have scored touchdowns just 43.4 percent of the time, which ranks No. 18 in the country.

However, the defense has really struggled defending the pass. NC State's allowing 287 passing yards per game, which ranks No. 120 in the country and dead last in the ACC. Granted, the Wolfpack has faced multiple explosive offenses and dynamic passers, such as Lamar Jackson, Eric Dungey, Chase Litton, and Jake Bentley, but it is still a concern.

Some adjustments could be putting more defenders into coverage, tinkering with personnel options in the secondary and adjusting blitz packages to put even more pressure on the quarterback.

Expect Huxtable and his staff to spend this week trying to find ways to defend better through the air because capable passers remain on the schedule.

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