Wolfpack's Samuels aims to repeat do-everything all-ACC run
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Ask Jaylen Samuels what position he plays for North Carolina State's offense, and he will struggle to give a definitive answer.
That's because the returning all-Atlantic Coast Conference performer has proven he can do just about anything for the Wolfpack. And like the defenses he faces, even he is unsure exactly what he'll be asked to do each week.
''Last year I was doing so much stuff,'' he said in an interview with The Associated Press, ''like every position almost.''
Officially, North Carolina State lists Samuels at tight end and fullback, and last year's first-team Associated Press all-ACC selection came at tight end. But the 5-foot-11, 223-pound rising junior from Charlotte lined up just about everywhere - in the backfield for handoffs or passes to the flat, in the slot for routes or for end-around runs - to create matchup problems on the way to scoring a combined 16 rushing and receiving touchdowns.
He did that while at times splitting his position meetings or film study between the tight ends and the running backs. And he spent practices knowing his role could fluctuate based on injuries or gameflow.
Now he's working on improving his blocking and conditioning to stay on the field even longer this fall.
''Every week I just try to go hard at everything I do, catching, running,'' Samuels said. ''It's making sure I work on my craft every day so I could be ready for Saturday, but I'm not going to know what to expect. I'm just going to have to go out there and try to make a play.''
He finished with 56 rushes for 368 yards and nine touchdowns to go with 65 catches for 597 yards and seven scores - a rate that had him reaching the end zone every 7.6 times he touched the football.
His father, Greg, pointed to his son playing multiple sports from an early age - bouncing between football, basketball, baseball and track while often competing against older kids - to explain Jaylen's versatility.
''You can't describe what it is, but you can just say, `That kid's got a gift,''' Greg Samuels said. ''And we just had to keep fine-tuning it. . What you see now is just a combination of multiple sports that a young man played at a high level, and he's just excelled at it.''
The challenge of finding the right workload for Samuels now falls to new offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz.
Samuels had a huge game against eventual national runner-up Clemson (14 touches, 139 yards, two touchdowns), but he had just three other games with 10 touches. He had four touches - he still scored twice - in 41 plays during the Belk Bowl loss to Mississippi State.
''I don't know what the magic number is, but you know, you'd like to say around 10,'' said Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren, now entering his fourth year. ''Get him the ball 10 times a game because he has a way of making plays, man.''
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