TAMPA -- When Jacoby Brissett decided to leave the University of Florida, he considered going to USF to play for Bulls head coach Willie Taggart.
Taggart will get to see Brissett on the field Saturday, but in a different way. The 6-foot-4, 231-pound junior will be wearing an N.C. State uniform when the Wolfpack (2-0) visit Raymond James Stadium and the Bulls (1-1).
Brissett sat out last year and was named the Wolfpack's Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year. He transferred out of Florida after Gators head coach Will Muschamp named Jeff Driskel the starter.
As a senior at Palm Beach Dwyer, Brissett threw 32 touchdown passes and was intercepted just once while racking up 2,743 passing yards.
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This season, he has led N.C. State to a 2-0 record while completing 71 percent of his passes (49-of-69) for 544 yards and five touchdowns and one interception. He also has rushed for 73 yards and ranks 30th nationally with 617 total yards. The Wolfpack defeated Georgia Southern, 24-23, and Old Dominion, 46-34.
"Guys have to get to him, but more importantly our DBs have to do a good job
of covering their receivers," Taggart said. "He gets it out quickly, so it's hard to get him from that standpoint. We are going to have to win the one-on-one battles at times. He knows where he is going with the ball and does a good job looking guys off."
Taggart is impressed with Brissett, but very happy with his quarterback, Mike White. The sophomore's availability is expected to be a game-time decision because of a compressed fracture in his left (non-throwing) forearm and wrist he suffered last week against Maryland.
Taggart said a lot will depend on how White can tolerate pain, but expressed optimism. If White can't go, junior Steven Bench will start, and heralded true freshman Quinton Flowers could see some action.
Bench replaced White last week and was victimized by his own receivers dropping at least eight passes, Taggart said. He completed 14 of 26 passes for 162 yards and ran 15 yards for a touchdown.
The Bulls' strength is the Wolfpack's weakness, based on early numbers. N.C. State's run defense has given up an average of 221 rushing yards per game to rank 104th out of 124 FBS schools.
USF freshman Marlon Mack is the fourth-leading rusher in the country with 348 yards. The Bulls are averaging 188.5 yards rushing per game.
"He has everything you are looking for in a back," Taggart said of Mack. "He has the vision. He has the balance. He has the courage on contact. He has the speed, the burst, and he can catch out of the backfield. We have to continue to find ways to get him the ball. He is a good running back, but all good running backs have good blockers as well."
A key to the game is whether USF can move the ball through the air if N.C. State loads the box to stop the run as expected.
"We probably had at least eight balls dropped (last week). It's hard to get momentum when those things happen, especially those dropped balls on third down," Taggart said.
After looking shaky in its first game victory over Western Carolina, the Bulls' defense forced six turnovers against Maryland. But USF couldn't convert many into points and lost 24-17 to the Terrapins.
USF ranks fourth nationally in turnovers gained with eight, third in fumbles recovered (five), sixth in turnover margin at plus-5 and has three interceptions. It is 82nd in scoring defense (27.5 ppg). Mack ranks fourth with 348 rushing yards.