The old saying goes that if you have two No. 1 quarterbacks, you really have none.
That’s not entirely fair, obviously, as some two-quarterback systems have worked quite nicely.
But at NC State this coming season, the Wolfpack have one thing they didn’t have last year — a clear No. 1 starter in Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett.
It will be quite a departure from last year, when the Wolfpack struggled to get anything going on offense while alternating between transfers Pete Thomas and Brandon Mitchell.
Each had some nice moments, but they combined for 11 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. Thomas completed over 60 percent of his passes and Mitchell just over 57 percent, but even that was deceiving.
Thomas was more accurate but threw a lot of short passes, and often took off and ran rather than waiting for something to develop. Mitchell finished the year 49-of-75 in the final two games, but a lot of that was in garbage time in two blowout losses and in his first three games back from a foot injury in the middle of the season, he was 34-of-73 passing for one touchdown and six interceptions.
Quarterback has become such an important position that you can get by without a great one, but you’d better have a great team around him. And if you have a great quarterback, it can cure a multitude of sins.
It was assumed that NC State head coach Dave Doeren would struggle in Year 1 while waiting for Brissett to sit out a year (per NCAA transfer regulations). Brissett was the heir apparent, and everything would be fine after he became the guy.
But when Florida quarterback Jeff Driskell — the guy who beat out Brissett for the starting job in Gainesville, remember — looked as bad as he did last season, it did lead some to wonder if Brissett could really be the savior at NC State.
Well, those worries look to be a thing of the past now as Brissett — who was the talk of practice last year at NC State, earning scout team player of the year honors — made his debut in style in the Kay Yow Spring Game.
Brissett finished the game completing 24-of-37 passes for 365 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked five times, which is yet another indicator that it won’t be so simple to fix the NC State passing game next year, but it’s clear Brissett will be an upgrade.
He showed some nice touch on the deep ball, and he has a lot of nice young weapons. Weapons that he spent last season working with after practice, not to mention all spring.
And he adds early enrollee freshman Bo Hines, who caught 10 passes from Brissett for 132 yards. He also found senior Bryan Underwood three times for 112 yards (and two touchdowns, one of 36 and one for 72 yards). Both were beautifully thrown by Brissett to the speedy Underwood.
Whether or not Brissett is going to live up to the billing remains to be seen. But there was so much drama surrounding the quarterback spot last year that having stability there (assuming Brissett stays healthy) could make a world of difference.
"Any time you go through what we did (last year) as a football team, I call it walking on hot coals. It’s hard on you and it scars you," Doeren said.
With a young group going through a lot of uncertainty and losing under a new head coach, it wasn’t a very good recipe for success a year ago, particularly mentally.
As Doeren brings in a top-25 recruiting class this season, the rebuilding project in Raleigh is in full effect. Even he is more stable now — he mentioned he has bought a house in Raleigh instead of renting one, for instance — and his players are slowly but surely improving and molding themselves into genuine college football players, mentally and physically.
The offensive line is still a question mark, but the young and talented skill position players now at least know they have the stability of one quarterback — and a very good one, at that — to build on moving forward.