State Now

NC State’s Hines finding his niche at receiver

N.C. State’s Nyheim Hines (7) escapes from Florida State’s Ermon Lane (7) at Carter-Finley Stadium on Nov. 5.
N.C. State’s Nyheim Hines (7) escapes from Florida State’s Ermon Lane (7) at Carter-Finley Stadium on Nov. 5.

Film review with N.C. State’s coaches has nothing on family dinner for sophomore receiver Nyheim Hines.

Hines has been terrific the past two games for the Wolfpack (4-5, 1-4), which tries to end a four-game losing streak at Syracuse (4-5, 2-3) on Saturday (12:30 p.m., WRAL).

His spectacular catch on the last drive against Florida State last week, one of a career-high 11 in the game, might be remembered as the moment when Hines officially transitioned from prep star running back to bonafide college receiver.

But the good plays? That’s not what Hines, his father, Darren, and twin sister, Nyah, spend the most time covering at dinner.

That dropped touchdown pass at Clemson back on Oct. 15? A bobbled kickoff at East Carolina on Sept. 10? Those will be dissected and addressed.

Lest you think father and sister, who runs track for the Wolfpack, are ganging up on poor Nyheim, there is a sibling give-and-take, dad says, that has worked out well for both.

“She’s hard on him sometimes because she’s competitive like him,” Darren Hines said. “He’ll do the same thing with her. They push each other. It’s good, though, it has always helped them, especially academically.”

Love and tough love come from the same source and Hines appreciates both.

“I’d rather they point out my failures than my success,” Hines said. “Tell me what I’m doing wrong so I can do better.”

There isn’t much Hines (5-9, 190 pounds) can do better than he did against the Seminoles. He had 11 catches for 124 yards. His 6-yard catch, on 2nd-and-4 from Florida State’s 42-yard line was an eye-opener. He ran an out route to the far sideline and N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley had the timing down perfectly but the throw was a smidge high for Hines.

Hines extended both hands, caught the ball, cradled it with his left arm as he went out of bounds and got his right foot in. That’s the kind of play you can only make with practice.

“He has stayed after practice and put in a lot of extra work catching passes,” Darren Hines said. “That work is starting to show.”

Hines has come into his own the past two weeks with 17 catches for 186 yards. That’s more catches (14) and yards (176) than he had in the first seven games combined. For the season, he’s second on the team in catches (31) and receiving yards (362).

“In this offense, the ball always finds the open man,” Hines said.

There’s a little bit more to it than that. Part of the uptick in production can be chalked up to being healthier.

Hines sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the ECU loss and then didn’t play against Old Dominion the following week. He was on the field for a season-low eight snaps against Wake Forest on Oct. 1.

Both Boston College (six catches, 62 yards) and FSU played a lot of man-to-man defense, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said, so that has worked to Hines’ advantage.

“He’s good in man-to-man,” Doeren said. “It’s hard to cover him with a safety.”

And Hines’ comfort level at receiver, after spending his decorated high school career at Garner at running back, has helped, too, Doeren said.

“I mean, he has played running back his whole life,” Doeren said. “He’s going to get better and better the longer that he’s in that position. To his credit, he’s worked really hard at it.”

Hines set the Garner career rushing record, breaking a mark by former N.C. State running back Anthony Barbour, with 6,242 yards for the Trojans. He was rated by recruiting services as one of the best players in the state and was pursued by Clemson, Ohio State and Virginia Tech. His decision to stay home in 2015 was a big recruiting win for Doeren.

That also added some pressure on Hines to make a quick adjustment. Athlon and 247 Sports named him freshman All-American for his kickoff return exploits but Hines finished his freshman season with 48 rushes for 243 yards and 20 catches for 256 yards. Not bad numbers but not great, either.

That’s part of the transition from high school star to college player, Doeren said, and it’s not unique to Hines.

“You don’t get the ball every play any more, unless you’re the quarterback or the center,” Doeren said. “You’ve got to take the touches you get and make the most of it.”

Hines has done that the past two games. He’s even moved on from the Clemson drop. It was early in the fourth quarter and N.C. State ended up scoring on the drive anyway, but Hines was open in the middle of Clemson’s secondary on 3rd-and-6 from the Tigers’ 29-yard line.

In one of those, run-before-you-catch moments, Hines took off without the ball.

“He took that hard,” his dad said. “I think he was excited because he knew that was a touchdown.”

Hines has since made up for the drop. He’s looking forward to making more plays over the next three games, this one in particular. Saturday is his birthday – and Nyah’s, too.

That means she’ll take it easy on him at dinner, right?

“Nah,” Hines said.

And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

N.C. State at Syracuse

When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: WRAL, WRAL 101.5