RALEIGH — Watching football, instead of playing, was an adjustment for Tony Creecy last season.
The N.C. State running back redshirted in 2010 but will play this season. The question now is how much will Creecy play, and how good will State's group of running backs be?
"We're going to be good, all of us," Creecy said.
Senior Curtis Underwood gave the same answer, as did position coach Everette Sands and head coach Tom O'Brien, who preferred "fine" as his adjective of choice.
While much of the offseason focus on the Wolfpack's offense has been on the transition at quarterback -- from Russell Wilson to Mike Glennon -- the running backs have had their share of changes and question marks.
As productive as Wilson was in the passing game, leading the ACC with 3,563 yards, he was also second on the team in rushing (with 435 yards) and led the team with nine rushing touchdowns.
Adding to the list of unknown elements for the Wolfpack's running game is sophomore Mustafa Greene, who led the team in rushing (597 yards) last season. He suffered a foot injury in spring practice and is expected to miss the first four games.
Dean Haynes, who started the first eight games at halfback last year and ran for 320 yards, moved back to defense and is a backup safety.
Even Creecy showed up for Saturday's "Meet the Pack" day with a walking cast on his right foot. Neither Creecy nor O'Brien provided any details about the injury, although Creecy did say he has continued to practice.
That's a lot of questions for a rushing attack that ranked 95th nationally last year. In the ACC, only Duke had a lower rushing average than N.C. State's 123.3 rushing yards per game, and the Wolfpack didn't have a back who produced a single 100-yard game.
Whether O'Brien will go with a featured back until Greene returns is unclear. Creecy and junior Brandon Barnes, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury, have been pushing for reps in practice.
Washington emerged as the starter at the end of the 2010 season as Greene struggled with injuries and freshman fatigue. The final three games of the season were Washington's best, when he ran for 162 of his 215 yards on the season.
Underwood considered leaving the program in the spring for North Alabama and did not participate in practice. After Greene's injury in mid-April, though, he got a call from O'Brien
"Coach called me, and we talked like men," said Underwood, who finished last season with 62 yards on 14 carries. "He asked me if I would come back. He didn't even finish his sentence, and I said yes."
Sands has been impressed with Underwood's attitude in camp. Underwood had the starting job last August but lost it to Haynes.
Creecy, a prep star at Southern Durham, has also impressed Sands.
"Tony does a good job of making people miss in the open field," Sands said.
During last year's camp, either Creecy or Greene was going to get the chance to play, and the other was going to redshirt.
Creecy, who was a receiver at Southern Durham, was a step behind in his development to Greene in pass protection and his general understanding of the position.
While Greene played, Creecy said he took the year to get stronger and faster. He has learned more about pass protection, too, although his real asset might be as a pass catcher.
O'Brien will admit that Creecy has the best hands of the Wolfpack's running backs, but he's not willing to say too much more.
"We're going to find that out as we go on," O'Brien said.
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