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NC State’s seniors will be going through their last Kay Yow Spring Game this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Fifth-year head coach Dave Doeren said the spring game will allow the first-string offensive players to go against the first-string defenders this year. The scrimmage, however, will be more “practice oriented” with game situations, special teams work and not a lot of tackling.
“It won’t be a game from head-to-toe,” Doeren said. “When you have a lot of players back, you know what they can do.”
NC State will feature 15 seniors, five of whom are fifth-year players. Many of them were thrown into the fire as freshmen and have been hardened by the battles over the last three years. They also have made spring football practice go a little easier this year due to their vast experience.
“It’s a lot different, and not to take away from other teams, but when you have 22 seniors and a bunch of them are starters, and have a lot of valuable game experience, it’s just different,” Doeren said. “You can’t plug that in. There are a lot invested in those guys.”
The Wolfpack’s class of 2014 was ranked No. 30 nationally by Rivals.com and was the first full group of recruits Doeren had signed. Twenty-two of the 31 signees remain with NC State, 10 of whom are seniors.
“You are always asked what do you think of your recruiting class, and you really can’t answer it until they get on the field for a while,” Doeren said. “I would say that is a very good class. You look at the seniors have grown up and developed, and not just physically, but the maturity they have in the way they practice.”
Their drive and determination will go a long ways toward NC State improving upon last year’s 7-6 record. Doeren pointed out the body changes of seniors such as tight end Cole Cook, defensive tackle B.J. Hill and defensive end Bradley Chubb since they arrived on campus.
“Every rep matters is what I’ve been saying the most to these guys,” Doeren said. “The No. 1 thing in our program is no underachievement allowed. You have to think about how you can impact a game with one rep.
“We have talked about the national championship and the Super Bowl and the basketball games this past weekend [UNC versus Kentucky]. Every single play is so important.”
NCSU is particularly experienced up the middle of its defense. Defensive tackles Hill and Justin Jones, middle linebacker Airius Moore and strong safety Shawn Boone are all seniors.
“If you are soft in the middle on either side of the line of scrimmage, it’s tough,” Doeren said. “It’s really hard to play quarterback if your center is getting knocked into you all day long. I love being strong inside-out on both sides of the football.”
No are on the field is more experienced than the defensive line. Hill, Jones and defensive ends Chubb and Kentavius Street are all seniors for new position coach Kevin Patrick.
“The good thing is those guys are intrinsically motivated,” Doeren said. “They are motivated to push themselves, and they are hard on themselves. Coach Patrick sets the culture in that room and Coach [Ryan] Nielsen did a great job before him of creating it. Those guys understand what it takes to do it.”
On offense, another senior member from the 2014 class will be in the spotlight. Doeren said offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz is coming up with new ways to get senior H-back Jaylen Samuels the ball, including some carries at tailback.
“He played with an ankle [injury] for a lot of the year,” Doeren said. “A fresh J-Sam is a lot different, and man is he playing fast right now. The bottom line is the kid needs to touch the ball. We have to find ways to guarantee him touches.”
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