(Editor’s note: State held an open practice for students on Saturday, and Blane was kind enough to write about it for BTP. Below are Blane’s thoughts from the experience. This is some quality insight from behind the closed doors of training camp. Thanks, Blane!)
The NC State football team held their open practice for students on Saturday, and it was definitely an upgrade from last year. It took place in Carter-Finley instead of the practice fields, they gave out free Bojangles instead of donuts, and basically ran the practice as a game day. The team came out and warmed up for about 45 minutes like they would for a game then ran out of the tunnel and scrimmaged at about 75% speed with a running clock (including a halftime). Coach Doeren was engaging with the students beforehand, walking along the first row thanking people for coming and taking pictures.
This is something that Coach Doeren should continue to do each year. It’s a great event that gives the students a chance to have an inside look at their team and see them up close. Student support and engagement is arguably the biggest factor when it comes to great game day atmospheres, and one of the reasons why Raleigh is the place to be on Saturdays in the fall. With that being said, here are some observations I had from the play on the field:
This team is going to go as far as Ryan Finley takes them, even getting a “Ryan Finley for Heisman” from a student during warmups. But if something were to happen to Finley, it looks as if Matt McKay would get the nod over highly touted 4-star freshman Devin Leary. McKay, the offensive scout team player of the year, took every 2nd team rep during practice. He’s really filled out and looks the part. The only negative was that he really didn’t have a ton of zip on his passes. A lot of throws had way too much air under them and the defensive backs were able to make a play on a few. Other than that I thought he looked pretty good. Even though Leary didn’t play during the scrimmage, it was obvious in warm ups that he’s got some incredible arm talent. It’ll be interesting to see if the coaches utilize the new redshirt rule and let him get his feet wet if the Wolfpack find themselves in a lopsided game.
It looked as though everybody was finally back healthy which is a great sign. Nakia Robinson was getting reps with the second team and Ricky Person was replacing Gallaspy every so often with the starters. Both looked very explosive as a change of pace back to Gallaspy. Person had a really nice run where he used that explosiveness to get out to the edge and make his way in to the end zone. Who ends up getting the majority of those backup snaps will be something to watch early on this year.
Damien Darden with the First Team
One of the more interesting things was Dylan Autenrieth being suited up and going through warm ups but not really playing during the scrimmage. Instead Damien Darden was getting first team reps as that blocking tight end, as well as some split out wide. Unfortunately didn’t get to see much Cary Angeline since the team is preparing for JMU without him.
Isaiah Moore flashes
Isaiah Moore took just about every rep at Linebacker alongside Germaine Pratt, indicating he’s probably in line to win the battle with Louis Acceus going into week 1. Moore moves very well and was flying around the field. The Wolfpack lost two starters at the position, but they’re definitely upgrading in the athleticism department.
Kishawn Miller was playing opposite McCloud. He’s listed at 5’9” but I didn’t think he looked that small. Trowell and Teshaun Smith were the second string corners with Chris Ingram mixing in. Stephen Griffin was finally back in uniform on the practice field, which is huge with only a week until the first game. He looked very athletic and will be huge for the defense at the nickel, although Tanner Ingle was still taking most of the first team reps during the scrimmage.
When special teams were warming up there were plenty of bodies taking reps including Jakobi Meyers, Thayer Thomas, Steph Louis, CJ Riley, Brady Bodine, Ingle, Trowell, and Robinson. Once they started scrimmaging though Thayer Thomas was returning punts and Maurice Trowell returned kickoffs. I thought Thayer looked like a natural back there and even broke off a big one for a touchdown which got Doeren excited.
This dude has got a leg on him. He was banging 55 yarders in warm ups with another 5-10 yards to spare. He hit just about everything during the scrimmage from what I can remember, ironically including one from 33 yards out.
Joe Boletepeli and Alim McNeill do not look like freshmen. They were both running with the two’s.
Dexter Wright is one big dude. Should have a big year if he stays healthy.
When the offense went with 4 WRs Emeka Emezie was the 4th guy and got a ton of targets.
James Smith-Williams was not playing on defense, instead Ibrahim Kante was getting his reps.