Ryan Tice/The Wolfpacker
Much has been made about the fact that NC State senior H-back Jaylen Samuels’ unique and versatile role on offense was potentially a factor in the ACC establishing an “all-purpose back” position on its All-ACC team, the preseason version of which should be released this week.
Figuring out what to label Samuels has been a challenge for the sportswriters, which partly explained why Samuels was first-team All-ACC as a tight end as a sophomore by the league’s writers but yet not voted preseason All-ACC the next year. Samuels did receive third-team All-ACC honors at tight end by the coaches last season but was left off the sportswriters’ three teams.
Previously, NC State had listed Samuels as a fullback/tight end. Now he's designated an H-back.
“I don’t really see myself as a fullback,” Samuels admitted. “I like to block, but I feel like a fullback really pertains to just lead-blocking for the running back. I feel like that’s not all I can do.
"I can really do a lot of things.”
That’s an understatement.
Through three seasons, Samuels has caught 126 passes for 1,258 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed 104 times for 700 yards and 16 more scores. He deserves All-ACC consideration even if he is hard to pin down as a position.
Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren would add that NC State is not alone in using its tight end in unconventional ways, thus in his opinion establishing an all-purpose spot on the offense is due.
“The Clemson tight end that they used last year [Jordan Leggett], he was all over the place,” Doeren noted. “You can look at Virginia Tech, [Bucky] Hodges ... There’s some unique players in the league that aren’t true tight ends. They don’t put their hands down, they don’t block defensive ends on a power play. I thought it was a smart thing.”
Doeren called Samuels a coach’s dream, partially because he goes about his business on and off the field both dutifully and quietly. Tell Samuels something to work on, and Samuels will respond, “Yes sir.”
The Pack had an inkling something was special about Samuels when he went for five touchdowns in the 4-AA state title game his senior season for Mallard Creek High in Charlotte, ironically played at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“Freak show,” Doeren recalled. “We were just all high-fiving. …. We knew we had something special.”
Samuels was used in a similar fashion at Mallard Creek as he is utilized at NC State. Doeren said that the Pack knew it was getting an H-Back type tight end, at a minimum.
“We just knew he was a great football player,” he added.
Mallard Creek head coach Mike Palmieri provided Doeren his first hint about Samuels’ value. After Doeren was hired in December of 2012, one of his first stops was to Mallard Creek. Doeren knew Palmieri from when Doeren was an assistant at Wisconsin recruiting in the state of Florida, where Palmieri coached at Everglades High in Miramar prior to showing up in Charlotte.
While in Palmieri’s office, the high school coach told Doeren that he had the best player in Charlotte, but he may not necessarily look the part. They watched his film, and Doeren’s reaction was: “What is he?”
Palmieri replied, “He can be anything you want except a linemen. He’d be your best linebacker, your best receiver, he could be a wildcat quarterback. He could play running back.”
So Doeren and the Pack took a chance and it was not long into preseason camp for the 2014 season that NC State confirmed what they suspected was the case while watching him score touchdown after touchdown in a state title game: they had to find a way to get him on the field.
“It’s more about getting our best 11 on the field, and he was one of them,” Doeren added.
Four years later, the ACC might be adopting a similar philosophy: getting the best players on its All-ACC team.
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