Dave Doeren didn’t say too much about Bam Knight during training camp.
Knight was the star of N.C. State’s spring game but the Wolfpack coach didn’t mention the freshman running back often in August.
Turns out, there was a good reason for that.
“I fumbled three days in a row,” Knight said.
That’s a no-no with Doeren, regardless of how well you played in the spring or how highly rated you were as a recruit. So far, Knight has figured out how to hold onto the ball. He stood out in a big day for N.C. State’s ground game in Saturday’s 41-0 win over Western Carolina.
The 6-0, 197-pound freshman ran for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns. As a team, the Wolfpack finished with 309 yards on 53 carries.
In one way, Knight’s performance has been an extension of the spring game, when he shone after he had enrolled early after a standout career at Southern Nash. But it hasn’t been a straight line from spring stardom to September success. Doeren said all of the offseason attention was a distraction for Knight.
“I don’t think he handled it well, to be honest,” Doeren said. “I thought he had a big head this summer and read his press clippings too much. ... It’s a good experience to be humbled.”
Then came the early fumbles in camp and few tough practices against N.C. State’s defense, which turned in its first shutout since 2015 on Saturday.
“I think our defensive kids got after him and put him back in his place,” Doeren said. “Then he had a really good finish to camp.”
Knight said slow start to camp “took me out of my way.”
He got a pep talk from his mom and his high school coach and some tough love from Doeren and running backs coach Des Kitchings. There is a zero-tolerance fumble policy at N.C. State.
“You can’t expect to play in the game, if you can’t hold onto the football,” Knight said.
Knight has taken care of the ball. He had a team-best 42 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win over East Carolina. He ran hard and was decisive against WCU.
“I was telling him, keep running hard,” tight end Dylan Autenrieth said. “That’s what he was doing. We would be blocking and you could hear him thumping people.”
N.C. State’s rebuilt offensive line, with three new starters, has helped Knight make a smooth transition from high school. The Wolfpack overpowered WCU’s front after the first quarter. Knight, Jordan Houston (73 yards) and Ricky Person (51 yards) took turns finding holes.
“I was just trusting the line and trusting where I was supposed to run,” Knight said. “The O-line took care of business. It was nothing I did. It was just the line.”
Now that’s a veteran move. Always thank the big guys.