#STATEOFGRIND: NC State Spring Football

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North Carolina is known for its southern hospitality, food and accents, but one thing people might not really know about unless they’re from there is the unpredictable weather. Yes, y’all (see what I did there?) they have warm summers, minimal snow fall and views that would take your breath away, but while all that sounds amazing its known to be a state that can experience all four seasons in one week. (Don’t believe me, go down there now and you will see exactly what I am talking about.) If you’re wondering what weather has to do with football, for the Wolfpack it set them back from opening up spring ball earlier this month.

Rain, sleet and ice descended upon North Carolina and with no indoor practice facility at the moment, the coaching staff for NC State decided to postpone their first day of #STATEOFGRIND for two days. But now North Carolina is basking in mid 60’s temperatures putting the northeast to shame by flaunting their shorts, beautiful skies and spring weather, so State can get out and get to work, which is exactly what they have been doing.

Before we get into too much technical detail, NC State is renovating the Close-King Indoor Practice Facility. Work is expected to be finished in May and when complete, it will include a football field, four sprint lanes down the side of the field plus additional training and conditioning space among other amenities. The nice thing about this new indoor practice field will be the roof they have placed on top. The barrel-vault roof, with a height of 65 feet, will allow the Pack to run full practices with kickoffs and punts.

March 3rd marked the first day of spring practice, and according to the coaching staff and players it was a 2-hour, fast-paced, drill to drill type of day. The Wolfpack returned some key players on both sides of the ball, along with a group of freshmen ranked among the best high school players in the state. They will however have to replace some men on the front and back lines, which will take a little time and work but can definitely be done. They return seven starters on offense and eight on defense. The Pack will be focused on filling in those holes and putting their best team out on the field.

During their opening day of spring ball it was all about the offense. The Pack welcome back centers Tony Adams and Quintin Schooley, offensive guards Alex Barr and Joe Thuney and quarterback Jacoby Brissett. This line helped the team win eight games last season and win in the post season against UCF in the ACC’s first appearance in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl. Brissett was named MVP in the game, topping off the night completing 15-26 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown. They add freshman running back and early enrollee Reggie Gallaspy to the mix. the High Point, NC native was rated the 15th best player in the state by 247 Sports and may get a leg up on fellow freshmen Johnny Frasier (4-star, #2 overall recruit in NC) and Nyheim Hines (4-star, #6 overall recruit in NC) who will both be in fall camp. Head coach Dave Doeren knows they have a lot of new pieces to add to their puzzle, it will just take some time to dissect what they have and see where everyone is going to fit in the big picture.

After the Pack regrouped from spring break it was time to focus on their young linebackers under the guidance of defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable. Coming into this spring they have an extremely young group at this position. Returning are sophomores Jerod Fernandez and Airius Moore. They both return with plenty of playing experience from last season, so they come into this knowing what is expected, but once again they are just sophomores. The team is waiting for the return of M.J. Salahuddin who suffered a knee injury last season. With Salahuddin sitting out the spring, it’s a little too early to tell who will be the leader while he is absent. They have great potential in this position and it can only get better as the season goes on. Finally the nickelbacks seem to be working with linebackers. Junior Daravious Wright is returning for the team as well as Josh Sessoms. They’ll team up with freshman Freddy Phillips Jr. The team brings back experience but young experience, and as I said before they can only grow.

I think one thing Pack fans will be uncertain about is the group of receivers. The two top wideouts have left, not to mention they have a new wide receiver coach. Johnathan Alston, Bra’Lon Cherry and Jumichael Ramos return this season and from what I have been reading they are really rising to the occasion. Alston, Cherry and Ramos are going to really feel the pressure from the coaching staff, they will be the go-to guys for this team this season. Cherry is going to be a player to watch out for on this NC State roster. Last season Cherry was able to gain 354 total yards, with three scores, six rushes and two touchdowns. I think Cherry will really have to work, since he will likely be the replacement for Bo Hines and Marquez-Valdes Scantling. The team is going to need to improve in the deep pass game, which will be critical for a successful season. The one thing Brissett will also need is some solid outside tackles. From what I have read so far it seems like freshman Maurice Trowell has been out on the pitch and shows some good potential. Obviously he has a long way to go, but he has a big upside for a freshman.

There appear to be a few holes left to fill for the Pack before their official kick off in September, but overall they seem to have a solid team. They have some freshmen who have been practicing with the team, but I think it will really come down to the summer/fall to see who they really have. They recruited some really promising talent that hasn’t even stepped on campus yet, so the team will have to continue to work hard and be patient. Doeren seems to have a lot to work to do but the guys seem to have the fire, energy and willingness to work hard. NC State will be in the middle of pack in this conference and will really have to fight to finish in a good position. They will need to play full speed, every game, all the time. The Pack will end spring ball with an exhibition game on April 11 at 1 p.m. Their spring game will air on ESPN3.

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