Johnny Frasier has only been through five practices, just one in full pads, but the N.C. State freshman running back is already well versed in the difference between high school and college football.
“It’s a whole lot faster here,” Frasier said Sunday at N.C. State’s media day.
What, exactly, is faster?
“Everything,” freshman receiver Nyheim Hines said.
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Not many high school defenses could keep up with either Frasier at Princeton High or Hines at Garner. They were both big recruiting gets for N.C. State coach Dave Doeren and his staff.
Frasier, who ran for 2,266 yards and 33 touchdowns last year in high school, switched after verbally committing to Florida State. Hines, who ran for 2,362 and 38 TDs, was pursued by Ohio State, Florida and Georgia.
Both decided to stay in-state, to the delight of Doeren and Wolfpack fans. Hundreds of N.C. State fans lined up for their autographs Sunday at Meet the Pack Day. But as the hype from the recruiting cycle melts away, Frasier and Hines are focused on more practical matters, such as learning the playbook and finding roles.
With senior Shadrach Thornton and junior Matt Dayes back from last season, N.C. State has multiple options at running back. Sophomore Dakwa Nichols and freshman Reggie Gallaspy are also competing for playing time.
“Competition is a great thing,” offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. “If you have to look over your shoulder and know somebody can take your job, we’re all going to be better.”
N.C. State’s running game was the team’s strength last season. The Wolfpack averaged more than 200 yards per game (204.5) for the first time since 1992, and its 5.2 yards per carry was the best average since the school starting tracking the stat in 1954.
The quality and depth at running back prompted the decision to move Hines, primarily a running back at Garner, to slot receiver. Hines has embraced the position change.
“I just have a lot to learn,” Hines said. “It’s just being a lot more technical with your routes and learning how to read the coverages.”
At 5 feet, 9 inches and 190 pounds, the move to the slot will save Hines some punishment and allow him to use his speed and quickness. Doeren didn’t rule out using Hines at running back, but for now he’ll carve out a role at receiver.
With two of the top receivers leaving the program in the offseason, there’s room for Hines to play right away and make a difference.
“He’s going to play in the slot a lot,” Doeren said. “And then if it develops where he’s shifted back into the backfield some we’ll have to see but we’re not there yet.”
Hines already has Frasier’s confidence.
“He can do anything,” Frasier said.
Frasier’s role is still a work in progress. A big, powerful back (5-10, 230 pounds), Frasier adds a different element than Thornton and Dayes.
“We are all different,” Frasier said. “Everybody has their things that they do well.”
Thornton, who led the team with 907 yards and 164 carries last season, and Dayes, who led the team with 13 touchdowns (eight rushing), have taken the freshmen under their wing.
“They’re like big brothers already,” Frasier said. “They’re teaching me the offense and it’s starting to click.”
Doeren said it’s possible either Frasier or Gallaspy, a four-star recruit according to Rivals.com from Southern Guilford High in Greensboro, could redshirt this season.
“It’s a process and sometimes you have injuries and it speeds up the process,” Doeren said. “Sometimes you’re better than the guys that are there when you get recruited in. Sometimes you have to develop.”
Doeren said they wouldn’t make any decisions about which players to redshirt until after a few scrimmages. He did note that Gallaspy, who enrolled in January, has a better grip on the offense than Frasier.
Frasier said his preference would be to play this season but understood the decision will be made by the coaching staff.
“Just like any freshman, I want to play, and I want to do well,” Frasier said. “Whatever happens, happens. I’m just going to be prepared.”
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio