Experienced NC State confident for 2017
Posted July 13
Updated July 15
NC State starts the 2017 season as a veteran unit that ended last year with two celebrated wins.
But the rocky road that NC State took to get to a winning record, a victory against rival North Carolina and a bowl game W versus the SEC’s Vanderbilt, is a bigger part of its confidence and experience this preseason than the age and wins are.
“I would start with (our) cohesiveness,” head coach Dave Doeren said, when asked where the team’s experience shows up most.
“The obstacles and adversity that we faced and how we came out of them made our family better,” he said. “Not that I’d ever want to go through them again, but it made us a better group.
“You can’t recruit experience.”
The type of experience that can’t be picked up on ‘cruitin’ trails comes from that “battle tested” quality of the Pack (to use one of Doeren’s favorite phrases).
Before NC State posted a 3-5 ACC record. Even worse was a six-week, 1-5 stretch in the middle of the season that began with a narrow 24-17 overtime loss to eventual national champion Clemson.
But the fifth-year head coach knows that the practice most of his roster has with in-game trial-and-error is as unparalleled as its tenacity.
Bradley Chubb and Jaylen Samuels represented NC State at ACC Kickoff in Charlotte on behalf of 21 seniors on the team’s roster, including 13 in the class with multiple career starts. The Pack brings back 18 total starters from last season, after losing a mere six in the offseason.
A strong defensive start
Chubb is one of the six veteran defensive front men that make up a returning D-line. The half dozen who are part of eight total returning defensive starters.
"We just want to meet or surpass it,” Chubb said of his unit’s goals in comparison to the 2005 line that 2006 NFL Draft No. 1 pick Mario Williams led.
The linebacker group has less experience than the men up front, but Doeren believes the unit, too, will be much-improved.
"This is the first linebacking corps we've had where we have a one and two (on the depth chart) where we feel like we have all ones,” he said. “We've got four guys that could start and win games for us at linebacker right now."
Senior Arius Moore is not only experienced, but is one of the players Doeren claims has the “highest football IQ” on the team, along with quarterback Ryan Finley.
Samuels steps into featured back role
On offense, Wolfpack fans will likely be thrilled to hear that Samuels expects to be used more than he was in the past. The all-purpose back estimated 40 percent of his use on the field was as a “decoy” for Matt Dayes last fall. With Dayes’ graduation, Samuels expects – or at least hopes -- Nyheim Hines will fill his “distraction” spot, and he will be a bigger feature in the offense.
“You play to your strengths, and two of them (last year) were (Dayes and Samuels),” Doeren said. “You don’t want to be predictable, you want to use plays off of plays.
“Decoy is funny because when (Samuels) lines up, people point at him. That’s the challenge our offensive coaches have.”
The opportunities that come with opposing defenses keying in on Samuels won’t change this season, but the senior said he thinks his expanded role in spring will translate to fall.
NC State begins the season Sept. 2 in Bank of America Stadium, facing South Carolina, then returns home for two weeks before diving into ACC play with a trip to Tallahassee.
Doeren won’t say that he believes NC State’s close games against Atlantic Division heavyweights Clemson and FSU are promises that his now better-experienced team will win out this year.
“Do we have a good football team with great experience on it? Yeah, we do,” he said. “We’ll see where it all goes on a Saturday. I’m not going to sit here and predict because we were close in two games what it means this year.
“We’ve got to do it all again this year.”