'Band of Brothers' setting the tone for prolific Wolfpack offense
Posted October 10
Raleigh, N.C. — NC State's offensive playmakers continue to shine each week for the Wolfpack.
Junior quarterback Ryan Finley is third in the ACC in passing yards per game (295.0) and his 10:0 TD:INT ratio is the league's best mark. Senior H-Back Jaylen Samuels leads the league in total touchdowns (8) for non-quarterbacks. Junior Nyheim Hines leads ACC tailbacks in rushing yards, and he has posted back-to-back 100+ yard rushing games.
Wideouts Kelvin Harmon and Steph Louis have proven to be dynamic pass-catchers on the perimeter. Look for them to be All-ACC options as the season winds down.
However, the real strength of the Wolfpack's offense is its "Band of Brothers."
The "Band of Brothers" is the name given to the offensive line by position coach Dwayne Ledford. Ledford arrived at NC State in 2016 and quickly looked to change the culture within his meeting room.
Will Richardson, Tyler Jones, Garrett Bradbury, and Terronne Prescod are redshirt juniors, and returning All-ACC standout Tony Adams is the lone senior. All five starters were members of the Wolfpack's 2014 recruiting class. The group arrived in Raleigh together and is now thriving together.
“I think all programs that play well on offensive line and defensive line are pretty good programs,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren said. “Right now, I think we see an offensive line that has matured under coach Ledford's leadership.”
The season started slow for the unit.
Right tackle Will Richardson missed the first two games of the year due to an offseason suspension, and left guard Terronne Prescod missed virtually all of fall camp with an injury. This led to redshirt freshmen Justin Witt and Joe Sculthorpe having to play major roles in the opener against South Carolina, a game in which Ryan Finley was sacked four times and the Wolfpack rushed for just 89 yards on 35 carries.
The unit played well in the next week against Marshall but really started to click once Richardson returned from his suspension. NC State rushed for 242 yards and five touchdowns against Furman, and Finley was sacked just one time as he completed 22-of-27 passes for 231 yards and a score.
However, skepticism remained – it was Furman. The first “real” challenge for NC State's experienced offensive line would come in Tallahassee against Florida State.
The Wolfpack downed the Seminoles behind tough play in the trenches. Ryan Finley wasn't sacked in the game, and Nyheim Hines rushed for 94 yards on a career-high 24 carries. Even more impressive, NC State closed out the game with the football – picking up a critical first down on the ground with Florida State knowing the Wolfpack was running.
“The way Ryan was protected, I thought our offensive line did a phenomenal job,” Doeren said after the Florida State win. “He was hit twice in the game and sacked only once... [we then] got him the ball back and we ran the ball on third-and-7 and got the first down.”
NC State followed up that effort by mashing Syracuse on the ground, rushing for 256 yards and three touchdowns against an Orange defensive front that entered the contest ranked No. 23 nationally in rushing defense.
Last week against Louisville, the Wolfpack did whatever they wanted offensively. Hines rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns, and Finley passed for 361 yards on just 31 attempts, an absurd 11.8 yards per attempt. Once again, he wasn't sacked – in fact, he was rarely pressured by the Cardinal defense.
Richardson, now in top form, was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his play against Louisville, as he graded out at 96 percent in the victory.
Doeren believes the "Band of Brothers" is benefiting from what they get to see each week in practice.
“It is an offensive line that has had a great opportunity to go against a great defensive line in camp, and in spring ball, and bowl prep,” Doeren said. “We don't play anybody up front that is better than what they get in practice. We don't. So, when you have to block, whether it's Chubb, or Street, or Roseboro, or James Smith-Williams on the edges. Hill, Justin Jones, Big E...we've got good players up front.
“Our offensive line has been benefited from the competition in practice because you've got to be on or you're getting embarrassed.”
Through three ACC games, NC State has yet to trail in league play, and Ryan Finley hasn't been sacked. Nyheim Hines has two 100-yard rushing games and nearly crossed the century mark against Florida State. The offense continues to click and the offensive line is setting the tone.
“They've created a brotherhood that they have and a culture that they have,” Doeren said. “I hated to see Bradbury and [Prescod] go down in the [Louisville] game, but what I loved to see was how mad it made those guys and how hard they wanted to play for them when they weren't in there. How excited Joe Sculthorpe was when he went in and we ran the sneak behind him because he knew that that was a big play in the game.
“It's just a great environment in that room right now, and they're playing for each other. That's a tribute to Dwayne [Ledford].”
Next up for NC State is a matchup with a struggling Pittsburgh defense that ranks No. 108 nationally in total defense, No. 76 in rushing defense, and No. 118 in pass defense.
All signs point to the "Band of Brothers" having another opportunity to dominate the trenches for the Wolfpack.