After missing almost all of the last two seasons with a knee injury, senior Toney Baker returns to the lineup for N.C. State on Thursday night in the season opener against South Carolina.
Baker is listed as the starter at running back on the Wolfpack's depth chart and is completing a rehabilitation effort that started with him being told there was a 50 percent chance he wouldn't play football again. Here's what Baker had to say about returning to the starting lineup:
Q: Can you talk about what your emotions are going to be like Thursday?
A: I know my emotions are going to be up. I understand that. That’s going to be one of my main focuses, too, to keep my composure and keep my mind mentally ready for the game and not just to get to excited or too hyped. I have to be under control.
Q: Is that something that can happen? Can you get too pumped up and lose concentration?
A: Definitely. When you go into a game, depending on the position, it could be a good thing. But at running back I’ve got a lot of assignments as far as the blitz pickups and I’ve got to have my mind set when I’m making reads so I can explode through guys. And that’s what I’m concentrating on.
Q: When you watched Andre (Brown) and Jamelle (Eugene) rotate last year, obviously they would have liked to play more. But they were rotating. Do you think ultimately it made them better backs?
A: No question. . . .especially when you have two backs of that caliber and have somebody to take the load and take the beating like that, especially when they’re different styles. I think in the long run it’s going to help us a lot. It’s going to keep us fresher throughout the year.
Q: Are you and Jamelle different styles?
A: I’d say to an extent, yes. I can run away from you, and I’m more of a power back as well. But Jamelle, he’s more of a quick back, a slasher back. And he’s going to help us a lot in the passing game.
Q: Have there been times in practice when you’ve worked on sets where in the shotgun, for example, when you guys are both on the field trying to use those two different styles?
A: Not really up to this point. We’re just attacking it like just a normal offense. We just rotate in and out.
Q: I guess this is your first time to play with Russell (Wilson).
A: Yeah. That’s really exciting. A player of his caliber with what he brings to the table is just going to open up everybody’s success. That’s tough for a college defense to account for, when you’ve got a guy that can throw the ball like that and take off and be a huge playmaker.