After serving a two-game suspension, running back Shadrach Thornton will be back on the field for N.C. State on Saturday at Old Dominion.
Thornton, the team’s leading rusher the past three years, has been suspended three different times by N.C. State coach Dave Doeren, but the coach is comfortable with the number of chances he has given the senior.
“Every single player that I’ve ever dealt with it, it always comes down to: Do I think there’s reason to continue to work with this guy? Is he remorsed? Is he going to get better? Is this hurting our football team?” Doeren said Monday.
“At some point, you reach, ‘No, I can’t help him anymore. I’m done.’ With him, I didn’t feel that way.
“He’s the best him that he’s been since I’ve been here. I’m excited that he gets to play. He’s been through a lot, that he’s brought on himself, and he’s learned from it. If I felt like, I couldn’t help him anymore, he wouldn’t be here.”
Thornton led the Wolfpack with 907 rushing yards last season, and he had 10 total touchdowns.
His latest suspension was for a violating a university policy. Doeren hasn’t given any details about the suspension other than to say it happened six months ago.
Thornton, who was suspended for one game in Aug. 2013 for misdemeanor assault on a female (which received deferred prosecution in a Wake County court) and again in Dec. 2013 for a misdemeanor marijuana possession (which was subsequently dismissed in a Wake County court), doesn’t have any outstanding legal charges other than a minor traffic violation for “exceeding safe speed” on a moped.
Doeren has said that Thornton has handled the latest setback in stride and that he will be a major part of the game plan against the Monarchs (2-0).
Thornton came on at the end of the 2014 season with 367 yards in the last three games — all Wolfpack wins. He was picked by the media for the preseason all-ACC team.
“We all know the gifts that Shadrach’s been blessed with to play football,” senior tight end Benson Browne said.
N.C. State (2-0) has run the ball just fine without Thornton during the first two games of this season. The Wolfpack averaged 225 rushing yards per game, and 4.25 yards per carry, in home wins against Troy (49-21) and Eastern Kentucky (35-0).
Junior Matt Dayes leads the team with 242 yards on 48 carries and has posted back-to-back 100-yard games and scored five touchdowns.
“Matt Dayes has been playing phenomenal the past two games but Shadrach is going to be Shadrach, and he’s going to play hard and be physical and do what he does best,” Browne said.
Thornton led a balanced running game last season with 164 carries, 60 more than Dayes. Both averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
Towards the end of the 2014 season, when N.C. State was at its best, Doeren lined up Dayes and Thornton in the backfield together. That will be in the plans for Saturday’s trip to Old Dominion, Doeren said.
“It gets us back to where we want to be, being able to play those two together,” Doeren said. “And then rotate them where they are fresh.”
After missing two games, Thornton is fresh. Now Doeren is counting on his senior to stay out of trouble and stay on course to help the team.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio