There’s a part of Matt Dayes that figured he would have been at the NFL Combine with his former N.C. State teammates instead of at spring practice on Tuesday.
But a turf toe injury sidelined Dayes, the Wolfpack’s leading rusher, for the final four games of the 2015 season. Dayes decided to rehab the injury at N.C. State and return for his senior season.
“Honestly, I really don’t know what I would have done,” Dayes said about his plans had he stayed healthy. “I had a lot of people in my ear. I’m here now and I’m excited to be here and I’m looking forward to the season.”
With 865 yards in seven and a half games, Dayes was on track to become N.C. State’s first 1,000-yard rusher since T.A. McLendon in 2002 before hurting a toe in the second quarter of a 56-41 loss to Clemson on Oct. 31.
Dayes had surgery and missed the final four regular-season games and the bowl game. Even in the abbreviated season, he led the team in rushing and rushing touchdowns (12).
He had four straight 100-yard games to open the season and had a career-high 205 yards in a 35-17 win at Wake Forest on Oct. 24.
Dayes also caught 24 passes for 172 yards before his injury. It was the 1,000-yard rushing mark that Dayes wanted the most.
“I really wanted it for the seniors and the guys up front,” Dayes said. “That’s what I was mostly disappointed about.”
Dayes said he feels “100 percent” but wore a green noncontact jersey during practice on Tuesday and will for the rest of spring. He isn’t exactly thrilled about the special treatment.
“I understand that part of it, but I want to get out there and compete,” Dayes said.
Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said there’s no reason to risk any further damage with Dayes.
“If we were playing in a game, we could play with Matt right now,” Doeren said. “We just feel like putting him in a contact situation isn’t something we need to do. We know what Matt is.”
RICHARDSON OUT: Tackle Will Richardson will miss spring practice while serving a university suspension related to receiving a driving while impaired charge.
Richardson, who started nine games last year at right tackle, was suspended one game during the season for the charge, which occurred in November on Hillsborough Street near campus. Under university rules, students who get a DWI on or near campus are subject to semester suspension.
Richardson is eligible to return to school in the first summer session and is expected to be back with the team when practice starts in August.
NUMBER CHANGES: Several players changed jersey numbers since N.C. State’s Belk Bowl loss to Mississippi State on Dec. 30. Notably, junior defensive end Bradley Chubb, who had 5.5 sacks, will wear Mario Williams’ honored No. 9 jersey, which is part of the school’s “Legends” patch program. Instead of retiring Williams’ jersey number, Doeren asked Chubb to wear it as a way to honor Williams.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jakobi Meyers wears No. 16 in a similar honor to former quarterback Russell Wilson.
Among the other number changes: WR Maurice Trowell No. 8, WR Stephen Louis No. 12, CB Mike Stevens No. 2, S Germaine Pratt No. 3, S Josh Jones No. 11 and DT Eurndraus Bryan No. 91.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio