#SPRINGPACK Spring Practice Notes on NC State Football

NC State will open its fifth spring practice under head coach Dave Doeren's leadership on Saturday, Feb. 28. After closing out the 2016 campaign with wins in 3 of its last 4 games including at rival UNC (the Wolfpack's 7th win in the last 10 contests vs. the Tar Heels) and a victory over SEC opponent Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl, the Wolfpack enters 2017 with great momentum and excitement.

EXPERIENCE

The 2017 Wolfpack might be the most experienced team in school history with a total of 22 seniors. For the first time in at least 25 years, the Wolfpack will return 11 senior starters: OG Tony Adams, TE Cole Cook and TE/FB Jaylen Samuels on offense and DE Bradley Chubb, DE Kentavius Street, DT Justin Jones, DT B.J. Hill, LB Airius Moore, LB Jerod Fernandez, CB Mike Stevens, and S Shawn Boone on defense. All eight returning starters on the defensive side of the ball are seniors.

In addition to that group, two seniors who sat out last season but have started multiple games in their careers - WR Jumichael Ramos and CB Johnathan Alston - will be back in action.

Those 13 players have played in a combined 595 games and boast 277 collective starts.

All eight returning starters on defense are seniors: Chubb, Fernandez, Hill, J. Jones, Street and Moore

Here’s a look at the number of senior starters returning in Dave Doeren’s previous seasons:

  • 2017 - 11 senior starters
  • 2016 - 2 senior starters
  • 2015 - 6 senior starters
  • 2014 - 5 senior starters
  • 2013 - 3 senior starters

UP AND COMERS

Despite the number of senior starters returning for 2017, there is also a strong class of juniors. The other returning starters on offense are all juniors: QB Ryan Finley, WR Nyheim Hines, WR Stephen Louis, OG Garrett Bradbury, OT Will Richardson and OT Tyler Jones.

In 2016, 21 juniors earned varsity letters, while 19 sophomores and 10 freshman also lettered.

Returning junior starters: Louis, Bradbury, Hines, Finley, Richardson & T. Jones

PRESEASON HYPE

Fox Sports has the Wolfpack ranked No. 24 in its early preseason poll. In ESPN’s preseason FPI (Football Power Index) ranking, NC State came in at No. 22.

Ryan Finley's return boosts the Pack's FPI

The FPI comprises four major components: the last four seasons of performance on offense, defense and special teams, with the most recent season counting most; information on offensive and defensive returning starters, with special consideration given to a team returning its starting quarterback; a four-year average recruiting ranking of four systems (ESPN, Scouts, Rivals and Phil Steele); and head coaching tenure.

WHERE IS JAYLEN SAMUELS?

Media covering the Wolfpack made charts last season to see where JaySam lined up. The stats crew was always on the lookout for the team’s top receiver and scorer. And opponents definitely made sure they knew where the Wolfpack’s do-it-all player was before the ball was snapped.

No. 1 catches ...

Throughout his career, he’s been listed as a TE/FB. He won All-ACC honors at tight end in 2015, pulling down more receptions (65) than any tight end in the country. He’s certainly strong enough (even at 5’11, 223) to handle the blocking assignments of a TE, yet his skill-set encompasses so much more than a run-of-the-mill player at that position.

... and No. 1 blocks (--------------------->)

Perhaps H-back is the best description. Samuels is a great blocker (he was 73% accurate on his blocking assignments last season) and he’s led the team in receptions each of the past two years, catching 120 passes in that time frame.

In addition, he’s always an option to run the ball. He’s rushed 89 times in the last two seasons, gaining 557 yards. More importantly, he’s averaged 6.25 yds. per carry, and a TD every 5.9 carries since the beginning of the 2015 season.

... and No. 1 runs!
Bottom line: a player with Samuels’ skill-set is rare on any level of football. He’s a tight end and more. He's a fullback and more. He’s an h-back and more. He’s a rare combination of a player who can run, block and catch ... and do all three well.

GOING BOWLING

The Wolfpack senior class is looking to become only the seventh team in school history to qualify for four straight bowl games.

2014 Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl

2015 Belk Bowl

2016 Independence Bowl

AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL

The Band of Brothers (aka the Wolfpack offensive line) will return four starters from the unit that allowed just 17 sacks in 2016. That was the third-lowest total in the ACC, 19th in the FBS and the best mark for NC State since 2003. It also tied as the sixth-lowest sacks-allowed tally in school history.

The only hole left from last season is at center, where Joe Scelfo played last season. This spring, O-line coach Dwayne Ledford will look at a pair of guards to fill that spot: Tony Adams and Garrett Bradbury. Both will see action at guard and center during the spring (although Bradbury might miss early practices with a foot injury).

WELCOME BACK!

In addition to returning 18 starters from last season, the 2017 Wolfpack will add three players who were starters in 2015.

Wide receiver JuMichael Ramos underwent two knee surgeries last year, and although he won’t be cleared for spring drills, hopes to be back for fall camp. “J-Mike” started seven games at receiver in 2015 and was State’s second-leading receiver with 34 grabs. In 2013 he tied the program’s freshman record for touchdown receptions with three.

JuMichael Ramos

Another RS senior, Johnathan Alston played alongside Ramos at WR for three seasons, starting six games in 2014 and four in 2015. The former HS safety moved to cornerback last spring and worked with the defensive scout team as he sat out last season. With the graduation of four-year starter Jack Tocho, Alston could quickly move into the rotation at CB.

Johnathan Alston

RS - Junior Germaine Pratt spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at safety (starting one game in 2014), but moved to linebacker for 2016 spring drills before undergoing shoulder surgery in April. Pratt came to NC State weighing 195 lbs. and now checks in at 232.

Germaine Pratt

THREE-YEAR STARTERS

The Wolfpack returns its front six starters on defense from a year ago. Four of the seven are already three-year starters for the Pack (Kentavius Street, B.J. Hill, Jerod Fernandez and Airius Moore). One is a two-year starter (Bradley Chubb), while Justin Jones started every game in 2016.

In terms of games played, those six have combined to play in 226 career contests. They’ve tallied 840 tackles, 117.5 tackles for loss and 38.5 sacks.

RBs TO MISS SPRING

Although the Wolfpack lost just three starters on offense, one of them leaves a particularly big statistical gap. RB Matt Dayes accounted for 49% (249 of 504) of the team’s carries last season and rushed for 1,166 yards.

Veteran Reggie Gallaspy will be limited during the first week of practice after undergoing offseason surgery. Johnny Frasier will miss all of spring ball after a November shoulder surgery and all-purpose player Nyheim Hines will be competing with the Wolfpack track squad at the ACC Indoor Championships this weekend and hopes to qualify for the NCAA meet.

Reggie Gallaspy, Johnny Frasier, Dakwa Nichols

Senior Dakwa Nichols will be joined by walkons Brady Bodine, Jacob Davis and Will Eason, as well as early enrollee Damontay Rhem.

NEW FACES

The Wolfpack’s defensive staff, underwent some changes during the offseason, as two assistants who Dave Doeren hired when he took the NC State job were able to advance in their coaching careers.

Former Wolfpack linebacker Clayton White, who had coached the safeties for the past four years, was named the defensive coordinator at Western Kentucky in December. Doeren replaced him with Aaron Henry, a young coach who had been at Rutgers and Arkansas previously.

Henry was an All-Big Ten performer for Wisconsin, where he helped lead the Badgers to three consecutive Big Ten titles, including victories in each of the first two Big Ten Championship Games.

Safeties coach Aaron Henry

Defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen, who had worked for Doeren for the past six seasons (four at NC State and two at Northern Illinois) was named the d-line coach for the New Orleans Saints. Doeren brought in coaching vet Kevin Patrick, who has mentored several current NFL linemen. Patrick was an All-American and team MVP at Miami.

D-Line coach Kevin Patrick

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