The Wolfpacker

May 2017 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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42 ■ THE WOLFPACKER nately for head coach Dave Doeren, offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz and running backs coach Des Kitchings, beginning to find the answers to replacing Dayes did not material- ize as planned in the spring. Fifth-year senior Dakwa Nichols and ju- nior Reggie Gallaspy, the two most experi- enced returning running backs, both missed most of spring with injuries. Neither par- ticipated in the Kay Yow Spring Game. Ad- ditionally, redshirt sophomore running back Johnny Frasier decided to seek a transfer in March. That left junior Nyheim Hines, who has spent most of his career at NC State play- ing receiver, to fill in as the lone scholarship player at running back. Hines has experience in the backfield. He was a Rivals.com four- star running back at Garner (N.C.) High, rushing for a school-record 6,242 career yards. "It's natural," Hines admitted. "I think in- stincts take over. Pass protection is probably the only hard part about it. Running the ball and reading keys is pretty easy. I've been playing running back my entire life." Gallaspy and Nichols should be healthy for preseason camp, but odds are that Hines will continue to see extensive reps for the time being at running back. "[Hines] is playing in the backfield now," Doeren said. "He is still out in the slot in some different formations. We are looking for different ways to get him the football." Drinkwitz noted that one area Hines has shown flashes of being able to replace Dayes is one that goes unnoticed often times. "Nyheim has done a really good job of being a tailback and picking up protections," Drinkwitz explained. "Matt was so good at protections." Secondary Position Battles Heat Up While running back appears to be the top competition on offense, defensively it is the secondary that must replace three starters from last year's unit. Between the start of spring practices and the Kay Yow Spring Game, there was plenty of jockeying for po- sition. NC State relied almost exclusively last sea- son on the senior tandem of Dravious Wright and Niles Clark to handle the nickel position. Junior Freddie Phillips opened spring prac- tices the leading contender to be first string, but sophomore Trae Meadows got the nod with the starters during the final scrimmage. Meadows played only special teams last year until the Independence Bowl win over Vanderbilt, when he played six snaps and intercepted a pass in his first career defensive play. Phillips spent last season as a reserve corner and played exclusively on special teams. He was fourth on the team with four special teams tackles (Meadows had two). "That was a position I was really concerned about, but they've shown a lot of promise," defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable said. Senior Mike Stevens — who has 22 career starts — returns at one corner, but Jack Tocho — who had 35 starts — is gone. Sophomore Nick McCloud remains the odds-on favorite to replace Tocho, but converted receiver and fifth-year senior Johnathan Alston is in the mix, too. Promising redshirt freshman corner James Valdez missed the spring game with an injury. Senior strong safety Shawn Boone — who made 67 tackles, broke up two passes, recov- ered two fumbles and forced one in his first full season as a starter — is back to quarter- back the secondary. Redshirt junior Dexter Wright, most fa- mous for returning the blocked punt against Notre Dame for a touchdown in a 10-3 Wolf- pack win last season during Hurricane Mat- thew, was the favorite to replace Josh Jones at free safety. Jones left NCSU early to turn pro. However, in the spring game, redshirt sophomore Jarius Morehead was running with the first string. Morehead started that Notre Dame contest because Boone had to sit out the first half due to a second-half target- Redshirt junior Germaine Pratt redshirted last season after making the move from safety to linebacker. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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