N.C. State offensive coordinator Matt Canada has a unique term to describe Jaylen Samuels’ role for the Wolfpack this season.
“He’s like an amoeba for us,” Canada said, comparing the former Mallard Creek High star to the shape-altering organism. “ He can play in the backfield, he can play at receiver, he can play at tight end. He can block, he can catch, he can run, so that’s what we use him as.”
Samuels, a 5-foot-11, 234-pound sophomore, is a key component in N.C. State’s offense because of his versatility, which will be on display in Wednesday’s Belk Bowl against Mississippi State at Bank of America Stadium.
Samuels said it doesn’t matter what he’s called, as long as his number is called when a big play is needed.
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“I can be any type of person they need – I can get the ball from the backfield or the slot, or even at the tight end position,” Samuels said. “For me to be able to do that at different positions, it kinda makes it hard for the defense, not knowing where I’m going to line up .”
No matter the position – whether he’s lined up in the backfield at tailback, fullback or H-back, on the offensive line at tight end, or outside as a slot receiver – Samuels has delivered for the Wolfpack.
He leads N.C. State in touchdowns with 14, third-best in the ACC behind Florida State’s Dalvin Cook (19) and North Carolina’s Elijah Hood (17). His team-best 64 pass receptions are fifth-best in the league, and his seven receiving touchdowns are tied for fourth.
“He’s a great player – we’re lucky to have him on the team,” Wolfpack quarterback Jacoby Brissett said. “He provides an element to our team that not a lot of other teams have.
“It gives you some comfort that once he gets the ball, you’ve put it in good hands. Anytime he gets the ball, it’s an opportunity for a big play to happen.”
It was that versatility and athleticism that caught N.C. State’s attention when Samuels was recruited while at Mallard Creek, especially after he set a county record with 55 touchdowns (39 rushing, 16 receiving) in leading the Mavericks to the 2013 4AA state championship.
“He could move and run and catch, just do everything – that’s what caught our eye first,” Canada said. “We’ve always had that kind of position in our offense, but we’ve never really had a guy who’s been quite as good at everything as he is. But he can do it all.”
Samuels began showing what he was capable of as a freshman at N.C. State – in limited action, he ran for 143 yards and one touchdown on just 15 carries, and caught six passes for 96 yards and a score.
But with graduation and other circumstances depleting the Wolfpack’s skill players this season, Samuels has been getting his hands on the ball more often – with positive results.
“He was productive a year ago for us, he just didn’t get the ball as much,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “With what happened in our backfield this year … Jaylen’s had more opportunities, and he’s taken advantage of them.”