Coming into North Carolina State’s Media Day, there was a lot of talk about the lack of depth at wide receiver.
NC State returns one starting wide receiver this year: Bra’lon Cherry. Cherry was fourth on the team with 27 receptions last year. Cherry’s strength is taking short yardage plays and turning them into big yardage plays, and he knows the coaching staff is looking for him to do more of that this year. When asked if this is a breakout season Cherry laughed and said, “I’m just taking it one game at a time and doing what I can.”
Cherry is ready to step into the role of leader for a largely inexperienced group. “I feel like I got to show the young guys the ropes since I’m more experienced than they are. As time keeps going, I just use what I know to teach them,” Cherry said. Using mistakes and things done well in camp as teaching tools are what the receivers use to grow each day. Also, the young receivers get to compete against an experienced and talented secondary every day in practice, which will only bring out the best in each player.
Versatile freshman Nyheim Hines has the ability to play several positions offensively. Although this was his first week of camp, the freshman has been getting repetitions at wide receiver, kick returner and at running back. “The receivers have been competing, the young receivers early on were thinking a lot. Yesterday we saw Freddy Simmons and Nyheim make some plays. It was good to see them drop their nerves, and it’s helped.” said coach Dave Doeren.
The older guys at wide receiver have been getting a push from the younger players. When building depth, competition has to come from everyone at the position, old and new. “It’s good to see the older guys, Cherry, Ramos, and Alston, to see those younger guys pushing them,” Doeren said.
Redshirt freshman Maurice Trowell will be expected to make contributions this year. When asked about his progression so far Doeren said, “He was a little fatigued. He had to learn how to push through an entire fall college practice. Last year he was hurt the entire training camp. He (Trowell) had his best practices, back to back on practices four and five.”
Trowell is a talented as any receiver at the position but sees there is always room for improvement within his game. “I have a lot to improve. Last year, my redshirt year, I learned a lot. This year I got better with the playbook. I’m just going to stay humble, work every day and do what the coaches ask me to do,” said Trowell.
In order to add depth at a position, players and coaches will often agree to a position change. Elliot Davis and Josh Sessoms have switched to wide receiver from defensive back, and Ben Grazen has made the switch from running back. “They’re doing great. I feel like they’re on the same level as everyone else. They’re making big plays and everybody is doing great, getting better and better each day,” said Cherry when asked about the new guy’s contributions.
Tight end David Grinnage and running back Matt Dayes will be expected make significant contributions in the passing game. Doeren knows he can count on Grinnage and Dayes, but he is looking for two receivers to separate themselves and be everyday guys beside Cherry. With less than 27 days until the start of the season, let’s hope NC State finds their two guys, sooner than later.
- Doeren spoke about the importance of the special teams return unit improving. The kicking units are breaking in new guys so special teams will be an area to watch this season.
- Doeren will decide who gets a redshirt after two weeks of practice.
- Jacoby Brissett has been working on his drops, setting his feet, and accuracy this offseason. Doeren said these are the things the staff challenged him to do. Let’s hope this materializes into a better downfield passer, as Brissett had trouble completing deep passes last year.
- The Wolfpack were a balanced team on offense last year: 2,652 yards passing and 2,659 yards rushing. Doeren said, “We will have a run to win, throw to score mentality on offense.” Look to see more of the same as far as balance goes this year.