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NC State fall camp position battles to watch: Offense edition

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Troy v North Carolina State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

August is a week away, and so is the start of fall camp at NC State. There is a lot unsettled on the offensive side of the ball.

Quarterback

Whenever a program has to replace its starting quarterback, it’s usually going to be the headlining story of the offseason. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have a clear successor, but more often you’re going to have two or three guys competing, which is the case for NC State this year.

Jalan McClendon has excellent tools and was a well-regarded prospect out of high school. He has ideal size at 6’5, 212, and nobody’s every questioned his arm strength. He’s been at NC State the longest of the three in this competition, and he’s the only one to actually see the field in an NC State uniform. But whatever advantages that brought may have been wiped away when State changed offensive coordinators.

Jakobi Meyers is a different type of quarterback than McClendon, with a smaller frame and much better wheels. But his solid spring game performance aside, he’s more of an unknown than the other guys in the competition, given that he’s only a redshirt freshman. (And a rather lightly-regarded recruit out high school. Which may not mean anything at all, but still.)

Ryan Finley was an eyebrow-raising addition this spring as a graduate transfer with multiple years of eligibility remaining. He has more on-field experience than either McClendon or Meyers, and he also has the advantage of having played in offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz’s system before. Is he the most talented guy in this group? No. If he’s running the offense noticeably better than the other two, though, that could be the difference.

Offensive line

We probably can ink in grad transfer Joe Scelfo at center and Tony Adams at one of the guard spots. Both have extensive experience as starters at the FBS level. Scelfo has made 25 starts and was a first-team all-conference player with South Alabama in 2015. Adams started every game at right guard last season.

After that, the questions begin. Only seven offensive linemen made starts in 2015, and three of them graduated.

Will Richardson served a semester-long suspension in the spring and did not participate in football activities as a result. That may have set him back some, but assuming he is healthy and in good standing for the fall, it’s hard to imagine him not claiming a starting spot at tackle. He was on the field for nearly 600 snaps in 2015 and started nine games.

Garrett Bradbury, Tyler Jones, Peter Daniel, Bryce Kennedy, and Terronne Prescod also got snaps last year though with the exception of Jones, none got playing time worth mentioning. Jones was the sixth man last year; the other guys only managed spot duty.

There are nine offensive linemen on the roster who are either redshirt-freshmen or true freshmen, which is a whole lot of uncertainty, especially when we get into the second string and overall depth at the position.

Wide receiver

Jumichael Ramos’ knee injury was bad news where State really really didn’t need it. Five players listed at wide receiver managed 10+ receptions in 2015, and only three are back after factoring in Ramos’ injury and Johnathan Alston’s move to defensive back. Only two if you don’t want to count Nyheim Hines.

So, uh, who’s gonna do the stuff here? Bra’Lon Cherry is the old man of the group and should prove a steady contributor, but he’s never been a major factor in the passing game. That probably needs to change.

Hines and Maurice Trowell need to have larger impacts as pass catchers, and they’re both capable of that.

State still lacks size at this position, a predicament not helped by Ramos’ setback. The 2016 recruiting class included some promising prospects with size like Kelvin Harmon and C.J. Riley, but how ready are those kids gonna be right away?

Running back

Matt Dayes is going to be the dude getting most of the carries at running back, no doubtin’ that much. I’m more interested in how the depth chart behind him stacks up, since the Wolfpack once again has a lot of useful players to take handoffs.

Dakwa Nichols, Reggie Gallaspy, and Johnny Frasier have the ability to be above-average running backs, not to mention that Nyheim Hines and Jaylen Samuels are more than capable of making big plays out of this spot.

Nichols and Gallaspy had their moments in spot duty last season, while Frasier earned praise from the coaches for his work on the scout team during the season. Frasier, a former Florida State commit, was a four-star high school recruit who redshirted last season. Gallaspy enrolled early and Frasier didn’t, which helped Gallaspy beat out Frasier for a job last season. Frasier could be ready for significant playing time by now, but again, it’s a tough crowd.

It’ll be interesting to see how this position develops and how the coaches manage the distribution of carries.