If Jaylen Samuels needs a reference for the NFL draft, he could probably get one from Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.
The Seminoles coach is the latest Wolfpack opponent to be impressed with the do-everything receiver/running back.
“The epitome of Samuels to me, and to me it’s the ultimate compliment, the guy is a football player,” Fisher said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “He can do anything.”
N.C. State (2-1) opens its conference schedule on Saturday (noon, ABC) at No. 12 Florida State (0-1).
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Samuels has a team-best 26 receptions (for 220 yards) and has scored five total touchdowns this season. With his strong start, the 5-11, 228-pound senior is moving up the Wolfpack record book for career receptions and career touchdowns.
He has done so while playing multiple positions (receiver, tight end, running back) and handling multiple tasks. His ability to run, catch and block has impressed Fisher.
“To do the things that Samuels does, there’s not only great physical skills there,” Fisher said. “There’s great mental skills, great intelligence to be able play the different positions, understand how to play them and play them so effectively.”
Samuels has done most of his damage as a slot receiver but he got more involved in the running game against Furman. He was used in goal-line sets as a running back and took one snap – a 1-yard touchdown run – at quarterback. He ran for three touchdowns in the 49-16 win over the Paladins.
This season, he has been on the field more (66.7 percent of the plays, compared to 54.6 last year) and his production is up. With 8.6 catches per game, he’s on pace for 111 catches on the season, which would be the school’s single-season record (currently 88 by receiver Torry Holt in 1998). He already set the single-game record for catches with 15 in the opener against South Carolina.
He has 152 catches in his career, which is 48 short of the school record by receiver Jerricho Cotchery (who caught 200 passes from 2000-03).
Samuels has more work to do for the career touchdowns record but with three against Furman he now has 36. Running back Ted Brown scored 51 touchdowns during his career (1975-78).
Samuels has caught at least one pass in 30 straight games. He is also is working on a streak of a different sort. He has had at least one highlight catch in each of the first three games this season.
▪ Against South Carolina, he had a leaping 11-yard catch where he was upended by Gamecocks safety Chris Lammons near the goal line but was able to hold onto the ball.
▪ Against Marshall, he had a 39-yard catch near the N.C. State sideline where he tipped the ball three times before coming down with it while on his back.
▪ Against Furman, he caught a 17-yard pass that was deflected by linebacker Elijah McCoy. Samuels was able to reach up and across his body to make the catch.
Samuels has a new highlight catch in mind for this week’s trip to Tallahassee, Fla.
“I’m going to try to have a one-hander next week, in the end zone,” Samuels said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio