If you ask anyone on N.C. State’s football team what they think of the high expectations experts have set for the Wolfpack this season, they all say the same thing.
“We just keep our heads down, we work and continue doing what we do,” junior running back Reggie Gallaspy II said.
“We just try to put our heads down, work, focus about ourselves and not really worry about everything going outside,” said Jaylen Samuels, a senior all-purpose back.
It was echoed by others as well.
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Some have turned off social media in recent weeks. Some said they haven’t even heard the hype.
But it was no secret. Two ESPN analysts – Phil Steele and Cole Cubelic – recently said they think the Wolfpack could be an “under-the-radar” team to crash the college football playoff. Cubelic went as far to say that the Wolfpack was in his preseason top-four playoff projection.
But when junior running back Nyheim Hines first learned of it, he said he wasn’t surprised.
“Last year we were a great team,” he said. “Obviously the record didn’t show, but I guess we got a lot of preseason hype because we played everybody close.”
Hines said if the team executes a little better this season, the Wolfpack could finish with at least 10 wins.
The Wolfpack finished 7-6 last season, winning three of its last four games, including wins over North Carolina in the regular-season finale and Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl.
The Pack returns a number of key players, including Hines, Samuels, Ryan Finley, Bradley Chubb and others.
With the return of Chubb in particular, a 6-4, 275-pound senior defensive end and second-team All-ACC player, much of the talk has been on how talented the Wolfpack’s defense will be.
But that hasn’t bothered the offense, which returns eight starters.
“I kind of like to be an underdog, so they’ll find out come season,” said the 5-11, 223-pound Samuels.
Saturday’s practice was the Wolfpack’s first of the season. The players did not wear pads.
Having many of the same players on the field has helped with chemistry. The Wolfpack returns 17 starters in all.
“There’s good focus,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “Obviously these guys went through what they went through last year and finished, and I know they want to continue with the momentum they had.
“We’ll see where it takes us, but I do like where they’re at mentally.”
The players don’t want to get complacent, Samuels said.
“It’s a compliment, but we don’t want that to be the reason we come up short this season,” he said. “We don’t want to let the hype get to our head. Like we’ve done made it.
“But we really haven’t done nothing yet.”
Chubb said the same.
“Complacency is not allowed in that room or even on this team,” he said.
So Chubb said they’ll block out the noise, keep working hard and again, “keep their heads down.”