Watch a timelapse from the Wolfpack's opening day of practice
Matt Dayes was in yellow, Will Richardson in green and Jaylen Samuels in a new number, but three key pieces to N.C. State’s offense were there on Monday morning for the start of football practice and that was all that mattered.
After a spring as notable for the missing parts as the ones that were there, the Wolfpack needed a little normalcy to start training camp and got some.
Some of the new faces will help, too, which gave Monday’s first official practice the usual, “Maybe it’s our year” energy and optimism.
“It was nice having all those pieces back,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “There were a lot of pieces that we didn’t have in the spring that we were able to watch today.”
Doeren also noted guard Tony Adams and running back Reggie Gallaspy, limited in the spring, were also healthy and ready to go.
Dayes, even in a yellow “caution” jersey, was a welcomed sight. The senior running back ran for 865 yards and 12 touchdowns in seven and half games last year before a toe injury sidelined him.
Dayes participated in spring practice but not in the spring game. While his teammates on offense were in red, Dayes wore a yellow jersey without a number. Doeren said Dayes will participate in contact situations in practice this month, but the jersey is a reminder to the defense of Dayes’ importance.
“We want people to stay away from his feet as much as we can,” Doeren said.
Samuels switched numbers, from No. 28 to 1, a tradition Doeren started in his first season as a reward for offseason work. Samuels, who was third in the ACC with 16 touchdowns last season, sat out the spring game with a knee injury but was in full-go red. The junior tight end was happy to get back on the field and get to work in preparation for the Sept. 1 opener with William & Mary.
“It has been a long time and everybody has been working hard this summer just to get to this point,” said Samuels, who led the team in catches (65) and receiving yards (597).
Richardson, a third-year sophomore, was not in school in the spring after a DUI-related suspension. He missed spring practice but was back in school in the summer session and is back on the team.
He wore a green jersey on Monday, the same color as the quarterbacks, but looked to be back in the form that helped him start nine games last season at right tackle.
Quarterback Ryan Finley and center Joe Scelfo, a pair of graduate transfers, are two newcomers who could have a big impact in new coordinator Eli Drinkwitz’s up-tempo offense this season.
Finley, who started the first three games of the season at Boise State in 2015 before being sidelined with an ankle injury, is competing with third-year sophomore Jalan McClendon for the starting job.
The environment has changed for the graduate transfers, Finley said, but not the basic principles of the game.
“It’s not like we haven’t done this before,” Finley said. “It’s a just a new team, new program, new guys. We kind of know how things work.”
Finley, who has a lean frame at 6-4 and 200 pounds, has some built-in knowledge of Drinkwitz’s offense after spending two years at Boise State with him.
Scelfo will be counted on to pick up the scheme quickly. A three-year starter at South Alabama, Scelfo worked with the starting offense on Monday.
So did McClendon, who was the presumed starter in the spring albeit without Doeren’s official designation. Both quarterbacks looked good in the portion of practice open to the media. Redshirt freshman Jakobi Meyers was slowed by an ankle injury.
“We just have to get him healthy so he can join the competition again,” Doeren said.
While all eyes were on the quarterbacks, a new set of receivers need to be broken in and the details of Drinkwitz’s offense need to be mastered. There were a few dropped passes, which has been a lingering issue for the program the past five years.
“We had a couple of drops here and there but you know it’s the first day and we can only get better,” Samuels said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio