This was going to be a rundown of the prospects for local standouts Nyheim Hines and Johnny Frasier in the N.C. State football offense this year, until State did what I suspected it might do all along over the weekend. Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren announced that the Princeton High product (Frasier) was likely headed for a redshirt season.
My reasoning for those beliefs long before football practice even started was Frasier was too similar to two other backs — returning starter Shadrach Thornton (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) and Reggie Gallaspy (5-11, 212) — in the Wolfpack backfield in size (5-10, 220) and what he offers right now. Thornton, after he sits out a two-game team suspension, and Gallaspy, who enrolled at State in January and spent the spring in spring practice, getting ahead of Frasier in the process of learning the offense, are both going to be big contributors to the State offense this fall.
Frasier will be at some point in the future as well, probably next fall. He has a great future as a lead college running back. When those who hadn’t seen Frasier play in person asked me what he was when he darted up the national recruiting boards, my response was, “He’s a prototypical Alabama-sized, I-formation tailback with an NFL body and great feet.”
Bama coach Nick Saban, of course, proved me right when he flew to P-town to personally visit with Frasier last winter.
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The potential year off will help Frasier. He’ll spend it running on the scout team (redshirt players can practice with their team), refining his pass blocking, footwork and taking advantage of a college training table and conditioning program.
Meanwhile, Garner grad Nyheim Hines couldn’t have drawn up a situation better than the one he walked into with the Wolfpack. He’s a perfect fit at a position — slot receiver — State suddenly found itself in need of when Bo Hines decided he was done with football and heading to an Ivy League school.
Hines, Garner’s all-time leading scorer and rusher, has the perfect skill set to play slot receiver and spend some time in the backfield as a third down or pass-receiving running back. He was one of if not the best pass catcher in Garner football history, even though he rarely lined up at receiver.
And his kick return ability makes him an immediate impact player as well. He is well-suited to be a college punt returner, and not just because of his speed. He’s a smart reader of his blockers on kick returns.
There are plenty of great kick returners in the high school ranks who get by merely on their blazing speed and ablilty to outrun most anybody. Hines was not one of those returners, although he could have been.
Instead he took advantage of what I believe is consistently the best kick return blocking program around (Garner) and his breakaway speed. Of course, you rarely got a chance to see all of that work together because teams refused to kick to him after a while.
Doeren has left no doubt about the plans the Wolfpack has for Hines.
“Nyheim is a guy that we’re expecting to play because of his versatility,” Doeren said earlier in preseason camp. “Is he going to be a huge contributor? I don’t know, but because he can return punts, return kicks, be a receiver, be a back, run fly sweeps, he was a Wildcat quarterback. …. He has so many skill sets. I’ll be shocked if he’s out out there.
“As a starter or backup, I don’t know yet. You feel pretty confident that unless he’s injured, he can help us.”
Two other minor things that are worth mentioning when discussing what the State coaches think of Hines. If you’re on the field with a hugely important to your season quarterback (Jacoby Brissett), you’re not going to talk about putting a freshman in the backfield with him if you’re not convinced he can pick up blitzes. Hines’ vision of the field would put him in good position to be one of those guys.
Secondly, he has a singular single-digit number. What does that mean, you ask?
Well, college teams can give players the same number on the roster as long as they don’t play on the same unit (offense or defense). Hines not only has a single-digit number (7), but he’s the only freshman player on the roster with a single-digit number.
You don’t give those to a freshman who you don’t expect to play.
How bright are the prospects this fall for Hines? So bright that I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t in the running for ACC offensive rookie of the year come November.
Now, Frasier could be in the same boat come next fall if things break right. And don’t be surprised if the offensive numbers for Frasier and Hines end up looking very similar from a yards from scrimmage perspective when the next five years are up.
Both have the talent and potential to be very important part of what appears to be a bright future for N.C. State football.