If N.C. State was trying to keep its “secret weapon” under wraps, Jaylen Samuels has ruined that plan with four touchdowns in the first two games.
“He’s not much of a secret anymore,” Wolfpack tight end Benson Browne said.
Old Dominion (2-0) definitely will be looking for No. 28, or “JaySam” as his coaches and teammates call him, during Saturday’s game in Norfolk, Va., against the Wolfpack (2-0).
A touchdown machine in high school at Charlotte’s Mallard Creek, Samuels has picked up in his sophomore year at N.C. State where he left off. He has scored on four of his seven rushing attempts for the Wolfpack and is tied for the team lead in receptions (10).
After a relatively quiet freshman year, highlighted by a key fake punt run against Syracuse and a touchdown catch in the bowl win against Central Florida, Samuels has big plans for his sophomore season.
“My goal is to score at least two touchdowns a game,” he said after he had three during the opening win against Troy.
That sounds like a lot, no?
“It does, but whenever the ball comes to me, I just have to make a play,” Samuels said.
So far, the simple, straight-forward approach has worked for Samuels, who scored an incredible 59 touchdowns as a senior at Mallard Creek. So has a healthy dose of trash-talking.
After teammate Matt Dayes scored on a 3-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s 35-0 win against Eastern Kentucky, Samuels made a point to find Colonels linebacker D’Vonta Derricott in the end zone.
Earlier in the week, coach Dave Doeren relayed some remarks that Derricott had made about the Wolfpack offense.
“I was just excited to punch them in the mouth,” Samuels said. “They were talking trash the whole week. I just felt like they were disrespecting us.”
A little friendly jibber-jabber can go a long way with Samuels, which makes him stand out compared to Dayes, one of the quietest players on the team.
“I’ve been a trash talker since high school,” Samuels said. “I just like to be competitive. That’s just a part of my game.”
Every now and then a teammate will have to tell Samuels to settle down, but quarterback Jacoby Brissett takes an “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to Samuels’ jawing.
“He does good while he’s talking, so he might as well keep talking,” Brissett said.
Doeren is OK with some trash talk, as long as Samuels avoids being penalized for it and he “respects the game,” Doeren said.
There’s also the matter of backing up what you say, Doeren said, but Samuels has done that.
He’s not the biggest (5-foot-11, 236 pounds) or fastest, but Samuels is one of the stronger players on the team.
“He’s just hard to tackle,” Doeren said, noting that Samuels can squat more than 500 pounds. “He’s really strong, that’s the thing, people don’t understand how strong he is.”
With Samuels’ height – how many 5-11 tight ends are there in college ball? – he almost never got the chance to play in the ACC.
Ball State was the first school to recruit Samuels, who played primarily on defense as a safety until the middle of his junior season.
“You know how that works,” Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri said. “When you’re recruited, colleges go by more of what you look like than your ability. They saw his size and thought he was a ‘tweener,’ but Jaylen’s talent is phenomenal.”
An expanded role on offense during his senior season, playing more of a tailback position, in addition to some receiver, tight end and H-back – “pretty much everything for us,” Palmieri said – helped put Samuels on N.C. State’s radar.
He did the rest with 1,404 rushing yards, 39 rushing touchdowns, 49 catches for 932 yards and 16 receiving touchdowns.
Mallard Creek went 16-0 and won the 4AA state title with Samuels scoring five touchdowns in the championship game at Carter-Finley Stadium.
N.C. State has used Samuels as a “jack of all trades” with some jet sweep running plays and downfield passing routes.
Even with his high school accomplishments, and his fast start this season, Samuels said he’s still motivated by his doubters who look at his size and don’t expect much.
“I just try to prove people wrong,” he said.
In theory, that might become a little bit more difficult now that N.C. State’s “secret weapon” has been revealed.
Nah, Brissett argued, Samuels’ notoriety is changing but not his talent.
“You still have to stop him,” Brissett said.
And Samuels already has proven that’s easier than it looks.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio