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The next phase of N.C. State’s football program has begun in earnest. This Saturday the Wolfpack will take to Carter-Finley Stadium for the first time in 2018 for the spring game.
Dave Doeren enters his sixth season in charge at N.C. State. With an exodus of players from last year’s 9-4 squad, including most of the defensive starters, there would appear to be some type of reboot in order.
That is not how Doeren looks at things.
“Just because players left doesn’t mean there aren’t players ready to take their place,” Doeren said. “Those guys know, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, they have opportunities they have been waiting for. It’s fun to see those guys seize that moment.”
There is plenty of talent returning on offense despite the losses of Nyheim Hines and Jaylen Samuels along with linemen Will Richardson and Tony Adams.
Ryan Finley passed for 3,514 yards last season, the fourth-most in a campaign in school history.
He will have plenty of targets to throw to. Last season Kelvin Harmon became only the fourth player in N.C. State history to finish with at least 1,000 yards receiving.
Stephen Louis and Jakobi Meyers also will return for a wide receiver group that had 10 of its top 14 players return from the 2017 squad.
Look for N.C. State’s offense to move the ball well this season.
“They have incredible experience at the position,” Doweren said of the wide receiver group. “They are big. We have two guys in Kelvin and Steph who are over 215 pounds.”
“They are hard to cover,” Doeren added. “They use their bodies well. They go up and get the ball in traffic. They track it well and Ryan does a good job with them in terms of timing.”
The first chance for the group in a competitive setting that is open to the public will come Saturday in the annual spring game.
It is just a step in the journey toward the season opener in the fall but it is also a chance to run out onto a field that has become a special place.
“I hope that we make plays and folks will see the weapons we have,” Meyers said of the upcoming spring game. “Everyone thinks with a lot of the defense leaving last year we might fall off but I hope we come and show them that we all will pick up the slack.
“Every time I step foot in Carter-Finley, even if we have got conditioning, it just makes you feel great. I can’t wait to play.”
Meyers has no interest in stepping back. In the process of continuing the Wolfpack’s ascent, he thinks there might some fans and pundits that are surprised at what they see.
“I think if we just come out and keep pushing, keep getting better and everybody push each other,” Meyers said. “They think we have got a lot of young guys right now and it is not going to be up to par but I think we are going to shock the world.”
Perhaps simply matching last season’s mark would shock the world to most, but Doeren feels the standard has been set.
In the process towards being a ranked team, Doeren preached daily consistency. The march to improve upon the gains and establish a program that competes for titles will not stray from those principles.
“These guys understand where we are at,” Doeren said. “We are a Top 25 team and we want to stay there and improve our status. The only way to do that is by handling your business”