There was a No. 1 and No. 7 on the field for N.C. State on the first day of practice on Friday, it just wasn’t Jaylen Samuels or Nyheim Hines.
And No. 9 is off limits, for the time being, after defensive end Bradley Chubb turned in a season for the record books before becoming the No. 5 overall pick in the NFL draft.
There were many familiar faces, starting with quarterback Ryan Finley, but many more were new for the Wolfpack.
“Yeah, different faces but I think there’s still great energy and same work ethic,” senior center Garrett Bradbury said.
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That’s the challenge for the Wolfpack and coach Dave Doeren. How do you keep the momentum from a 9-4 season going after losing so many good players — 13 starters, including a school-record seven NFL draft picks?
Well, you start with your veterans, like Finley and Bradbury, and you hope they can lead the newcomers. And then you hope the returning players, from supporting roles, can uphold the standard after the program’s second top-25 finish since 2002.
“We all want to prove what we can do,” senior defensive end Darian Roseboro said.
And, while it’s only one day, Roseboro liked what he saw on Friday morning.
“Nobody was complaining, everybody was ready to work,” Roseboro said. “Everybody was eager to get on the field and play football.”
The rain moved the Wolfpack into the indoor practice facility but it didn’t dampen the usual first-day energy. The big personalities of Chubb and Samuels were absent. There were no stolen towels (a Chubb trademark) or Samuels’ incessant trash talk but there was no shortage of new talent.
Freshmen, like running back Ricky Person, defensive tackle Alim McNeill, and kicker Chris Dunn, will get their chance to make their own mark.
“It’s fun when the young guys get out here and get learning,” said Finley, who is heading into his third year as the starter at quarterback.
Finley has plenty of passing options with the return of his top three receivers. Junior Kelvin Harmon, an 1,000-yard receiver last season, looks like he spent every spare minute in a workout room.
Senior receiver Steph Louis and junior receiver Jakobi Meyers didn’t take many days off, either.
“Those guys are primed and ready to roll,” Finley said.
The first day wasn’t without a few issues. Junior safety Stephen Griffin, who is expected to start at nickel, missed practice with a minor foot injury.
“Nothing really bad,” Doeren said. “We’ll get him back. I’ll bet by next week some time but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Shug Frazier, one of the key players on a completely rebuilt defensive front, worked with the backups and was wearing a yellow “caution” jersey. Doeren said that Frazier has a nagging toe injury.
“Those big guys have a lot of pushing on other bodies and we don’t want to rush him back too early,” Doeren said. “It takes time. We’ll get him back out there but he’s going to slowly progress back into full go.”
Doeren also announced that the NCAA ruled that tight end Cary Angeline, a transfer from Southern California, would have to sit out the first three games. N.C. State had hoped that Angeline would only have to sit out two games.
Doeren didn’t seem too concerned about the injuries or NCAA housekeeping. He was more disappointed the first practice wasn’t outside.
“Other than that, it was great to be back on the field with the guys,” Doeren said.
No matter how many new names and numbers there are.