N.C. State knew one standout player who helped its offense average 32.2 points per game last season wouldn’t be back for 2018.
The real possibility also existed, though, that quarterback Ryan Finley and running back Nyheim Hines could join senior Jaylen Samuels, the team’s leading receiver, in the 2018 NFL Draft.
As it turned out, N.C. State retained one of those two players, which leaves the Wolfpack plenty of weapons to field a formidable offense again this fall.
While Hines, N.C. State’s leading rusher with 1,112 yards, gave up his senior season to declare for the NFL Draft, Finley decided to come back to school for his final season.
When the Wolfpack held its first spring practice on Sunday, his presence played a big role in the good vibes around the offense.
“His goal is to break as many records as he can and win as many games as he can,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said.
Finley completed 65.1 percent of his passes last season, throwing for 3,518 yards with 17 touchdown passes against six interceptions. Only Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (3,660) threw for more yards among ACC quarterbacks.
Though Samuels and Hines are gone, Finley has three talented, experienced receivers back in Stephen Louis, Jakobi Meyers and Kelvin Harmon.
While Samuels caught a team-best 76 passes last season, Harmon caught 71 and led the Wolfpack in receiving yards (1,017). Meyers was just behind him with 63 catches for 727 yards and five touchdowns.
Louis had 37 catches for 583 yards.
“We’re super excited about our depth at wide receiver,” Finley said. “We have so many playmakers at that position.”
The passing game is expected to be among the best in the ACC again this season. N.C. State was fourth in the league at 275.4 yards per game last season.
“They are really good players,” Doeren said of his receivers. “They are experienced players. They are physical. They take it very serious. (Wide receivers) coach (George) McDonald is one of the best teachers in the game. So they production they can have with a veteran quarterback, it’s just filling in the pieces in the backfield and the o-line for the protection part of it. But that’s the strength of our offense and it needs to be.”
Yes, the Wolfpack must replace Hines as well as two offensive line starters in tackle Will Richardson and guard Tony Adams. Richardson left a year early for the NFL while Adams was a senior last season.
Sophomore Joshua Fedd-Jackson begins spring as the new starting right guard and redshirt sophomore Justin Witt is next to him at right tackle.
The Wolfpack returns starters at three other offensive line positions: left tackle Tyler Jones, left guard Terronne Prescod and center Garrett Bradbury.
At running back, senior Reggie Gallaspy goes from a reserve behind Hines to the starter.
Last season, Gallaspy ran 113 times for 506 yards (a healthy 4.36 yards per carry) with seven touchdowns.
“Going into his last year, where he’s the most experienced back, he’s had a good offseason,” Doeren said. “This is an important spring for him.”