The Wolfpack’s regular season might be over, but improvement always is around the corner — and in 2022, college football offers quick fixes via the transfer portal.

Coming off a thrilling 30-27, double-overtime win against North Carolina on Nov. 25, NC State is preparing for the Duke’s Mayo Bowl on Dec. 30 in Charlotte against Maryland. Bowl season is a helpful method of getting younger guys valuable practice and game reps and allows coaching staffs to recruit in advance of the Dec. 21 early signing day. Plus, the transfer portal starts to fill up, giving every program holes to fill and opportunities to fill them.

Here are the 5 positions at which the Wolfpack has the greatest need.

1. Linebacker

Going into the season, it was clear the Wolfpack’s “Big 3” at linebacker were set to be among the most dynamic groups at the position in the country. And so they have, as Drake Thomas, Isaiah Moore and Payton Wilson racked up 90, 71 and 72 total tackles, respectively. The trio delivered time and again.

But a future without those 3 could be on the horizon. Moore is out of eligibility after this season, and Thomas and Wilson participated in Senior Day against Boston College. Both have another year of eligibility remaining, but the NFL or transfer portal could come calling. If all 3 (or even 2 of them) depart, a major void would be left in the Wolfpack defense. Coach Dave Doeren should look outside the program to fill any holes.

2. Outside receiver

The biggest catch of Devin Carter’s career went for a 22-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone against then-No. 9 Clemson last season, but as a whole, his college career has been outstanding. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Carter always could be counted on for a huge play down the field, evidenced by these incredible snags against Georgia Tech (2020) and Boston College (2021).

Since redshirting his 1st year with the program (and hauling in just a single catch for 11 yards), Carter has pulled down 117 receptions for 1,895 more yards, including a career-high 6 touchdowns last year. Injuries, however, have derailed Carter’s 2022, as the Clayton, N.C., native has missed 3 games, including 2 of the final 3 of the regular season. Carter returned for the North Carolina matchup, though, corralling 6 catches for 130 yards and a score.

He still has another year of eligibility remaining but participated in Senior Day festivities against Boston College.

Carter’s absences hurt the Wolfpack’s deep passing game, and if he departs, it would be wise for the coaching staff to look into the portal for a big-bodied, deep threat at receiver.

3. Quarterback

Based on their play in relief of Devin Leary, MJ Morris and Ben Finley are highly effective quarterbacks and both are options as the future of the position. But it never hurts to bring in a veteran who has starting experience to push incumbent talent, and it would be wise for Doeren to look for that type of quarterback in the portal. Leary has entered the transfer portal, so he likely won’t be returning for 2023.

Currently, Jayden Daniels of LSU and Caleb Williams of Southern California have made seamless transitions from their previous stops (Arizona State and Oklahoma, respectively), and they led their programs to the SEC and Pac-12 title games, respectively, and to the cusp of a playoff berth. Quarterback is a difficult position to evaluate,, plus injuries always are a play away — as NC State learned with Leary. Therefore, stockpiling a reasonable, yet plentiful, number of talented players at the position only benefits the Wolfpack.

4. Offensive line

Protecting the quarterback has not been NC State’s forte, as the Wolfpack allows an average of more than 2 sacks per game (ranking among the bottom half nationally). And that is with 4 mobile quarterbacks (Leary, Morris, Chambers and Finley) taking snaps this season. Plus, the Wolfpack ranks outside the top 100 nationally in rushing offense (barely better than 120 yards per game), putting that quartet of quarterbacks in obvious passing situations far too often.

Currently, the Wolfpack starts 2 graduate students along the offensive line (left guard Chandler Zavala and right tackle Timothy McKay). left tackle Antony Belton (redshirt sophomore), center Dylan McMahon (redshirt sophomore) and right guard Derrick Eason (redshirt junior) complete the unit. Improving the play up front will require internal growth, but experienced linemen will be out there in the portal.

5. Safety

Starting nickel Tyler Baker-Williams, starting strong safety Cyrus Fagan and starting free safety Tanner Ingle all are out of eligibility after this year. Cornerbacks Aydan White and Shyheim Battle, both among the top 10 in the ACC in interceptions, still have multiple years of eligibility remaining, so the future is certain there.

But for the NC State pass defense to continue its impressive play (the Wolfpack gave up the 3rd-fewest passing touchdowns in the ACC during the regular season), external depth likely will be needed. Depending on who returns to their respective programs, NC State could face Drake Maye (North Carolina), Riley Leonard (Duke) and Tyler Van Dyke (Miami). That will require proficiency in the back end.