About an hour into Tuesday’s first practice, Silento’s “Watch Me” came pouring out of the speakers at N.C. State’s practice field.
In between the drills and usual rigmarole of getting back to work, there was room for the Whip, Nae Nae and other dance moves to ring in the start of the college football season.
“It’s fun to be back on the field,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said.
The Wolfpack, coming off an 8-5 season, mixed in a little fun with Tuesday’s business. With 14 starters back, plus a handful other regulars with experience, Doeren’s third training camp is more about dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s than learning new systems or schemes.
“We know what we’re doing,” quarterback Jacoby Brissett said.
That’s the advantage of having Brissett, a fifth-year senior, in place to lead the offense. Brissett threw for 2,606 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. He also ran for 529 yards and another three scores during his first season after transferring from Florida.
Brissett’s role as the leader is clear on the practice field.
“You can tell it’s his team; he’s very under control and he knows the system inside and out,” Doeren said.
N.C. State’s other strengths were obvious, even with the players in shorts and still a couple of days away from putting on full pads. The running backs, led by senior Shadrach Thornton and junior Matt Dayes, looked sharp and physically ready to pick up where they left off.
The Wolfpack ran for 937 yards in the last three games of 2014, wins over Wake Forest, North Carolina and Central Florida.
The secondary, with five starters back, also looked like it hadn’t missed a beat.
Doeren said the best part of practice was watching the veteran players helping out the newcomers.
“You can see them coaching other players and you see them feeding off each other,” Doeren said. “It’s exciting as a coach to see that kind of progress in your team.”
Even with an experienced, but still young, group there will be plenty of competition during training camp, Doeren said.
“There’s still some wide-open jobs out there,” Doeren said. “As a coach, I want to see competition at every position. If I ever feel like a guy is relaxed, the competition is going to get hot and heavy pretty quick.”
There are questions at receiver and up front on both sides of the ball, and the kicking job needs to be sorted between redshirt freshman Jackson Maples and freshman Kyle Bambard.
Receivers Bo Hines and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, with 67 catches last season between them, left the program during the offseason. Freshman Nyheim Hines, who was a star running back at Garner High School, is one potential answer. He worked with the receivers and will play a slot role that will involve him in the running and passing game.
Doeren said redshirt freshman Tyler Jones and senior Alex Barr were in line to replace graduates Rob Crisp and Tyson Chandler at offensive tackle.
“It’s more about who’s going to play behind those guys now,” Doeren said.
As expected, energy and optimism were at full tilt. There is some new-found confidence after the way the season ended, with four wins in the last five games, especially compared to the same time last year when the Wolfpack was coming off of a 3-9 season.
Senior defensive end Mike Rose said the players’ focus during August is to continue the program’s momentum.
“We’ve got some more pieces that we needed and we’re just trying to build off last year,” Rose said.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
Are you experienced?
Half of the projected offensive and defensive starters on N.C. State’s depth chart have at least 11 career starts:
CB Juston Burris
LG Joe Thuney
RT Alex Barr
QB Jacoby Brissett
S Hakim Jones
CB Jack Tocho
RB Shadrach Thornton
CB Dravious Wright
C Quinton Schooley
TE David Grinnage
DE Mike Rose