Another Chance for Wolfpack's Dayes (July 22, 10:30 a.m.)
NC State senior running back Matthew Dayes was just 105 yards shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season when a knee injury against Clemson ended his season last Halloween.
Dayes confirmed Friday that it was a crushing blow – not in terms of personal goals but in terms of what it cost the Wolfpack as a whole.
“The main thing, I was more hurt for the senior offensive linemen,” Dayes said. “They wanted a thousand-yard running back. I wanted to get that for them. Not being able to get that, that hurt me mostly out of anything.”
But the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native is healed up and set for his final go-around as a collegian.
“My strength staff and my training staff, they did an awesome job of getting me to where I'm at right now,” Dayes said. “I'm forever thankful to them for that. I'm 100 percent right now and I'm ready to go.”
That is more than good news for NC State. In addition to piling up the rushing yards, Dayes led the FBS and the ACC with 12 rushing times before his injury. He still earned the team’s Ted Brown Award, which goes annually to the Wolfpack’s Most Valuable Offensive Back, and he was an honorable mention All-ACC selection.
Head coach Dave Doeren said Dayes’ injury and a series of other mishaps that wrecked NC State’s backfield in 2015 illustrate that a team can never be “too deep” at those positions.
“The health of our running back group is going to be very important,” Doeren said. “We went into last season, I think last year at this time that was the question I got, ‘What are you going to do with all your backs?’ “
That was before Shadrach Thornton was dismissed from the team and Dayes’ injury wound up being just one of three suffered by Wolfpack running backs.
“We were down to our fifth-string tailback in the bowl game,” Doeren recalled. “We were lucky to have Nyheim (Hines) and Jaylen Samuels playing other positions that we could move into the back field.
“Our health in that position is key number one. All these guys are going to be 100 percent and full go for fall camp. Hopefully all the treatment and all the training and all the recovery has got them ready to play the game. That's the one thing you don't do in rehab, you don't run anybody over, you don't get tackled or take on a blitzing linebacker. All the running backs have to kind of play some football now and get themselves ready for the game.”
But even if NC State keeps its backfield healthy and lightens Dayes’ workload, expect him to remain among the ACC’s elite as long as he is healthy.
“Matthew Dayes is first and foremost as talented a running back as I've been around when it comes to all the things that a back can do, from running inside, running outside, having vision, having finishing speed, to catching the ball, running routes, playing in space.” Doeren said. “He can do a lot of things.”
2015 In Review
NC State posted a winning record and earned a bowl bid for the second straight year under head coach Dave Doeren as the Wolfpack posted a 7-6 overall record, 3-5 and in fourth place in the ACC’s Atlantic Division...In order to do so, though, the Wolfpack had to overcome significant injuries...QB Jacoby Brissett completed 60% of his passes for 2,662 yards and 20 TDs and versatile RB Matthew Dayes was having an all-star caliber year before suffering a season-ending injury in the eighth game of the year... Jaylen Samuels developed into a playmaker for the Wolfpack at TE, H-Back and RB, making 65 catches and accounting for 16 TDs rushing and receiving... Freshman Nyheim Hines displayed his explosive ability as a receiver, runner and in the return game...T Joe Thuney led the offensive line and earned first-team All-America honors...Samuels was a third-team All-America pick...Thuney and Samuels were also first-team All-ACC selections, while DE Mike Rose earned second-team All-ACC honors...Dayes, Hines and Brissett were all Honorable Mention All-ACC picks.
The Wolfpack only loses eight starters, five on offense and three on defense...State’s biggest loss will be Brissett, an accurate passer and capable runner, who finished fifth on the school’s career total offense list despite just playing two seasons...Offensively, the Pack will also be without Thuney, G Alex Barr and C Quinton Schooley as well as TE David Grinnage...Defensively the losses are not quite as severe, but replacements will have to be found for DE Mike Rose, who was fifth in the ACC in sacks, and two dependable members of the secondary in CB Juston Burris and S Hakim Jones.
The Wolfpack’s schedule will be tougher, with Notre Dame’s first visit to Carter-Finley Stadium set for Oct. 8. Florida State, Miami, Wake Forest and Boston College are also on the home slate, while State will also have to make road trips to longtime rivals North Carolina and East Carolina, as well as trips to Clemson, Louisville and Syracuse.
With 16 returning starters — six on offense and eight on defense — the Wolfpack should continue their improvement if a replacement for Brissett can be found and the offensive line rebuilt...Jalan Mclendon and Jakobi Meyers will take their spring competition to this fall, both seeking the starting position...They will be working with a new offensive coordinator in highly-regarded Eli Drinkwitz, whose spread offenses and fast tempo helped make Boise State a nine-win team last year...Mclendon and Meyers will also have some weapons to work with including Dayes, who rushed for 865 yards and 12 TDs before being hurt...There is quality depth at RB with promising redshirt freshman Johnny Frazier, joined by Reggie Gallaspy II and Dakwa Nichols...Dayes, Gallaspy and Nichols all missed spring drills recovering from injuries...Samuels and Hines return to the receiving corps where they are joined by Bra’Lon Cherry, Maurice Trowell and Stephen Louis....T Will Richardson and C Tony Adams are solid building blocks for the line...Defensively, the Pack should be better if it can stay healthy...State features a pair of talented linebackers in Airius Moore and Jerod Fernandez...The line is also solid with returning starters B.J. Hill and Kentavius Street returning at DT and Bradley Chubb at DE...Street could move to DE in the fall with Justin Jones at DT and Darian Roseboro and Monty Nelson also in the mix at either position...The secondary should again be solid with former starter Jack Tocho at one CB position and returning starter Mike Stevens at the other...Dravious Wright is also in the mix at the nickelback or cornerback positions with Josh Jones and Shawn Boone at the safeties.
Numbers & Notes
6.5 - Before he was injured in the season’s eighth game, NC State RB Matthew Dayes was averaging 6.5 yards a carry. In little more than seven games, Dayes had rushed for 865 yards and 12 TDs, while also catching 24 passes.
13.3 - NC State WR Bra’Lon Cherry finished third in the ACC in punt return average. Cherry averaged 13.3 yards on 27 returns, including a 52-yard TD scamper against Wake Forest.
15th - New NC State offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz comes to the Wolfpack after guiding Boise State’s offense to 15th nationally in total offense (501.5), 16th in team passing offense (310.2), 9th in first downs offense (344) and 15th in scoring offense (39.1).
65 - NC State’s Jaylen Samuels might be the most versatile player in the ACC. Operating out of the TE, H-Back and FB positions, he had 65 pass receptions, 7 for TDs, and rushed for 368 yards, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, with nine TDs.
920 - NC State freshman Nyheim Hines led the ACC in total kickoff return yardage last fall, totaling 920 yards on 35 returns, a 26.3 yard average and a 100-yard return for a TD against Clemson.