NC State Looks For Offensive Improvement As Spring Ball Concludes

NC State closes out spring football on Saturday. The Wolfpack are looking for more offensive production in 2017.

NC State will hold its annual spring game on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium, though it will be more of a situational scrimmage than an actual game. There will be more first-team offense vs. first-team defense with less contact as opposed to previous years.

It’s no surprise that quarterbacks are often the focal point of spring football, so Wolfpoack fans will have their eyes on junior Ryan Finley, who won the starting job last season after coming to Raleigh from Boise State.

Coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz is beginning his second season running the offense, and he’ll look to improve a unit that struggled in ACC play, averaging just 15.4 points in the team’s five losses. However, NC State did finish the year strong, scoring 41 points against Vanderbilt in the team’s bowl game, which was the only time last season that the Commodores allowed more than 40 points in a game. Four starters return along an offensive line challenged with keeping Finley upright.

Diminutive running back Nyheim Hines is back, and he was a big part of the offense last season. Despite not scoring an offensive touchdown in 2016, he had at least 62 receiving yards in five games. Injuries have really hit the RB position this spring, as Reggie Gallaspy and Dakwa Nichols have been sidelined. Expect to see Hines get plenty of work on Saturday as one of the team’s most athletic playmakers. Jaylen Samuels is expected to see an increased role in the running game as he moves to the H-back position, but he isn’t expected to be too involved this weekend as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. Wolfpack fans should expect to see Brady Bodine, Will Eason and Damontay Rhem get some carries, though, as the team looks to replace Matt Dayes.

This is a big year for head coach Dave Doeren, who returns 16 starters from a squad that went 7-6 in 2016. Finley, three wide receivers and almost the entire front seven return, so a lot will be expected of the Wolfpack, who were on the cusp of upsetting eventual national champion Clemson last fall.

No matter how the offense looks in the new season, expect the defense to be nasty. Last season, the Wolfpack’s defensive line was quite impressive, led by end Bradley Chubb. The unit had 27 of the team’s 36 sacks, 64.5 tackles for loss and was very strong against the run. The entire defensive line returns, while seniors Jerod Fernandez and Airius Moore are back at linebacker. The D-Linemen will have to adjust to a new coach, however, as Ryan Nielsen left for a position with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints. Replacing Nielsen is Kevin Patrick, who served as D-Line coach most recently at Texas Tech. Things are easier for a unit when a player such as Chubb is in the lineup. He had 10.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss while forcing three fumbles in ’16.

It’s only spring, and there remains plenty of work to do throughout the offseason and fall camp. But Doeren will have a chance to get an early glimpse at Drinkwitz’s offense, which will need to be more productive in league play if the Wolfpack want to emerge as an upper-echelon ACC team this fall.

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