Joe Thuney was focused on ending one drought for N.C. State’s football program.
The senior left tackle wanted to help pave the way for N.C. State’s first 1,000-yard rusher in 13 years.
That goal will go unfilled after an injury cut running back Matt Dayes’ season short but Thuney, a fifth-year senior, has played well enough to end another.
N.C. State’s last first-team All-ACC offensive lineman was Sean Locklear in 2003. There’s no doubt in coach Dave Doeren’s mind that Thuney deserves to be All-ACC.
The fifth-year senior would have preferred the team goal to an individual award.
“It would be an honor but that 1,000-yard rusher, I’ve been thinking about that for five years,” Thuney said.
Dayes was on track to become N.C. State’s first 1,000-yard rusher since T.A. McLendon in 2002. Dayes had 865 yards in seven and a half games before a toe injury against Clemson on Oct. 31 sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Dayes averaged 108.1 yards per game and would have had four games to get 135 yards to reach 1,000. He was close enough that Thuney was excited about Dayes finally ending the drought.
“Football is football,” Thuney said. “Injuries happen and you can’t control that but that really hurt not being able to get that one.”
I haven’t see a tackle play better than him on tape. He’s not just holding his own, he’s dominating some of those guys.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren
Thuney has helped stabilize an N.C. State offensive line that has had four different starting combinations in 10 games. He has started every game at left tackle, after starting nine there last season, and has not allowed a sack in ACC play.
Thuney has taken 411 snaps in ACC play and the Wolfpack has attempted 204 passes against six ACC defenses that rank in the top 25 in the country in total defense.
“I haven’t see a tackle play better than him on tape,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “He’s not just holding his own, he’s dominating some of those guys.”
It has been a “long, fun” journey from undersized freshman to fifth-year year senior, Thuney said.
A three-star recruit out of Centerville, Ohio, in 2011, Thuney, who is listed at 6-5, weighed less than 250 pounds when he got to N.C. State. He redshirted his first season and then got his first real taste of college football in the Wolfpack’s 17-16 upset of No. 3 Florida State in Oct. 2012.
Thuney, who started his career at center, remembers going up against FSU’s all-star cast of defensive linemen and trying not to make mistakes.
“I was just a little guy and I was just trying to hold on in there against guys like Timmy Jernigan,” Thuney said. “Now I feel a lot more confident in my ability.”
Thuney’s blocking ability has stood out in a down year for offensive linemen in the ACC. Florida State, Georgia Tech and Boston College, who have populated the All-ACC teams recently, have had down seasons on the offensive front.
North Carolina senior guard Landon Turner and Duke senior center Matt Skura have had standout seasons and could give the All-ACC offensive line a distinct Triangle flavor.
For N.C. State, Thuney’s inclusion would be rarity. The Wolfpack has had only three first-team linemen in the past 25 years.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio