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Position Preview: Jaylen Samuels and Tight End

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Stats courtesy of gopack.com and ESPN

Evan Pike-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaylen Samuels position is going to be strong this season with the return of junior Jaylen Samuels. Samuels scores touchdowns. He led the team last year with 16 of them on 56 carries and 65 receptions. That’s a touchdown every 7.56 touches, which sounds like it’s probably pretty good. Maybe they should just give him the ball 60 times a game. Then they’d average 56 points per game, right?

Samuels is coming off a 1st-team All-ACC season (as a tight end, because the ACC still doesn’t recognize Jaylen Samuels as an official position) and should be a prime candidate for the honor again this year. Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch will be how the new offensive system chooses to use a player as unique as Samuels. I’m still in favor of the 60 touches a game thing.

NC State has some things to sort out at tight end this year with junior Cole Cook being the only major contributor that returns. Cook saw 500 snaps last season at tight end. All the other returning tight ends on the roster combined saw 36, so obviously Cook provides the bulk of the experience. He isn’t much of a receiving threat though, amassing just 6 receptions over the course of last season.

Pharoah McKever enters his redshirt junior season as a tight end after making the move last December. He has caught two passes in his career at NC State. One was an 82 yard touchdown from Jacoby Brissett in last year’s Belk Bowl. The other was an 82 yard defensive touchdown from Syracuse quarterback A.J. Long. McKever is very impressive physically, checking in a 6’6" 260 pounds and having good speed for someone that size. He played a few different positions in high school and has bounced around during his time in Raleigh, but tight end seems like a good fit for someone with his abilities.

State brings in two true freshman this season in 3-star Georgia product Dylan Autenrieth and Thad Moss, who was the crown jewel of the 2016 recruiting class. Moss could help in the passing game immediately with his ability to make difficult catches in coverage. State didn’t have this last year pretty much at all, so if Moss could contribute early as a redzone target/jump ball kind of guy, it would be a nice boost to a passing attack that largely lacked playmakers last season.

Moss is currently listed as a TE/FB on gopack’s official roster, which is the same thing Jaylen Samuels is listed as. I don’t know what that means for Moss as far as how he’ll be used, but he and Samuels aren’t particularly comparable in what they bring offensively.

Autenrieth, who enrolled early at State, is something of a receiving threat himself:

He caught 41 passes for 407 yards and 5 scores as a senior at North Paulding. Autenrieth’s early enrollment and extra time spent with the strength and conditioning program should help him fill out his 6’5" frame and get on the field earlier.

Clark Eyers returns for his redshirt senior season. He didn’t play much last season, with just 31 recorded snaps. He did catch a touchdown in the spring game.

There’s a lot of ifs and maybes at tight end this season with Cole Cook being the only returning contributor (and Jaylen Samuels whenever he lines up there). There is good talent here, but a lot of it is young or new to the position. Will McKever be able to transition into a full-time tight end and reach his potential? Will Moss be able to contribute as a reliable pass-catcher right away?

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