N.C. State’s football players report to camp on Friday and practice begins on Saturday.
The Wolfpack will get to practice 25 times before the season-opener with South Carolina on Sept. 2 in Charlotte.
N.C. State (7-6, 3-5 ACC in 2016) is hoping to build off of a strong finish from 2016 and put together its best team yet under coach Dave Doeren. In order for that to happen, and advance from the 7- and 8-win level under Doeren, these five players will have to step up their games:
1) Ryan Finley
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The graduate transfer quarterback, still only a junior in eligibility, turned in a perfectly acceptable 2016 season with 3,059 passing yards (in essentially 12 games) with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
But Finley’s best games were against the weaker teams on N.C. State’s schedule. He has to perform better against the likes of Clemson, Louisville and Florida State.
One major positive for Finley: Last year was his first complete (injury-free) season as a starting quarterback since his senior year in high school in 2012. Familiarity and experience with N.C. State’s seven other returning starters on offense, logically points to an improved 2017 for the steady quarterback.
2) Kentavius Street
The “Squat Heard ‘Round the World” gave the senior defensive end some serious offseason publicity. Any time you can handle 700 pounds, the way Street did in his now viral weightlifting video, that’s going to happen.
Street, a heralded recruit out of Greenville four years ago, will be a star at the NFL combine next February. With his strength, and a 40-inch vertical jump, that’s a guarantee. But what will he do on the field in his final college season? He had 30 tackles and 5.5 sacks last season. Perfectly acceptable numbers for a defensive linemen, but only one of those sacks came in ACC play. Like Finley, Street needs to up his game against the better teams on State’s schedule.
3) Nyheim Hines
N.C. State has eight starters back on both sides of the ball, but there’s a serious hole in production at running back. Matt Dayes, seventh-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, ran for 1,166 yards and had 200 more rushing attempts than any other running back on the Wolfpack roster.
Hines, a junior, has spent most of his first two seasons at slot receiver, but was a star running back in high school at Garner. Fellow junior Reggie Gallaspy will be counted in short-yardage situations, but it will be up to Hines to help offset some of the bigger plays Dayes was able to routinely make.
4) Shawn Boone
All three of the new starters on defense are in the secondary. That means the senior strong safety will have to be productive on the field (he had 67 tackles last season) and as a leader.
Unfortunately for Boone, his 2016 season is most notable for a dropped interception late in a 24-20 home loss to Florida State. Suffice to say, he’s eager to make a new, more favorable memory.
5) Carson Wise
When Wise, a graduate transfer from Carson-Newman, committed to play for N.C. State in March, Doeren said he would be the new kicker.
N.C. State’s struggles in the kicking game the past two years have cost Doeren a win or two. Wise, who is from Blacksburg, Va., began his college career at Virginia Tech. He transferred after one season to Carson-Newman.
Wise made 8 of 13 field-goal attempts last season for the Eagles and was 32 of 33 on PATs. His numbers were better in 2015 when made 13 of 18 field-goal attempts and 65 of 68 PATs.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
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