The construction crew in the distance slotting the roof into place on the new indoor practice facility served as a reminder, almost a taunting one, that there won’t be many more days like this for N.C. State football.
Cold and wet and with piles of snow dotting the perimeter of the practice fields, the Wolfpack returned to work Tuesday in the first practice of the spring.
The wintry conditions, which delayed the start of practice, couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm for what was immediately behind the program both literally – the framework of the $17.2 million facility – and figuratively – an 8-5 bounce back in the 2014 season.
“It was fun day,” coach Dave Doeren said. “It was great to be back around the players and see the progress.”
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The Close-King practice facility is expected to be completed by May, Doeren said. Too late to avoid the chill of Tuesday morning’s temperatures in the 30s but in time for the inevitable lightning and thunderstorm issues of training camp in August.
“It will be nice to have it,” Doeren said.
On the field, there’s progress to be made after Doeren’s second team won five more games than his first.
The Wolfpack will return significant parts on both sides of the ball, none more important than senior quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Running backs Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes also will return, and will be joined by a trio of freshman prospects who were ranked among the best high school players in the state.
Freshman running back Reggie Gallaspy, one of the new faces, went through his first practice Tuesday.
“We have a lot of new pieces to the puzzle. and it’s going to be something special with all the weapons we have on offense,” said Brissett, who threw for 2,606 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
The biggest concern on both sides are the losses up front. The offense will need new starters at both tackle positions, and the defense must replace three starters on the line.
“It all starts up front for us,” Doeren said.
Finding replacements will be the focus of spring and likely will carry over into August practice when even more options arrive and other players get healthy.
Senior Alex Barr worked with the first-team offense at right tackle, and redshirt freshman Tyler Jones was at left tackle.
With the loss of defensive tackles Thomas Teal and T.Y. McGill, Doeren has decided to use sophomore Kentavius Street, a defensive end last season, at defensive tackle.
Doeren said Street will still play some end, but the move will help create mismatches for Street, one of the strongest players on the team.
“When we play some of the spread-type teams, it gets him inside where he can have pass-rush opportunities on guards and centers,” Doeren said.
Even with the new faces, practice moved a little more smoothly, Brissett said. The team is taking an approach to this spring as a chance to build on the momentum from last season’s strong finish.
“We were way more ahead than I thought we would be,” Brissett said.