NC State wraps up spring spent fine-tuning the offense
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) North Carolina State's offense now knows what it's doing.
With Boise State transfer Ryan Finley settling in for his second season as the starting quarterback and everyone else more familiar with second-year coordinator Eli Drinkwitz's system, the Wolfpack didn't have to worry about adjusting to wholesale change.
Instead, they dedicated this spring to getting things finely tuned.
Coach Dave Doeren described Saturday's end-of-the-spring public practice as ''kind of a continuation'' and praised Finley as being ''really comfortable out there and able to make some pretty consistent plays.
''It's kind of an extension of what we've been seeing throughout the spring,'' Doeren said.
There's certainly a different feel now than there was at this time a year ago, when the Wolfpack were adjusting to Drinkwitz, who was brought in from Boise State to replace the fired Matt Canada. Finley wasn't around for spring drills in 2016 and didn't even pick N.C. State as his transfer destination until last May.
N.C. State ranked in the middle of the ACC's pack in most offensive categories in 2016, finishing eighth in both total yardage (416.7) and yards per play (5.8) and ninth in scoring at 27 points per game.
The Wolfpack are counting on increases in those numbers in Year 2 under Drinkwitz.
Linebacker Jerod Fernandez says he's noticed ''a lot of chemistry going on'' within the offensive unit he tries to stop every day in practice.
N.C. State returns eight offensive starters from a team that let victories against eventual national champion Clemson and Florida State slip away, beat rival North Carolina and routed Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl to finish 7-6.
Four starters are back on the offensive line, and the Wolfpack return five of their top six rushers and their top three receivers - including their most versatile player, hybrid tight end-fullback Jaylen Samuels, who led the team in receiving with 55 catches and seven touchdowns and was third in rushing.
The most notable hole, of course, is at running back, where starter Matt Dayes is gone after rushing for 1,166 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016. Some of the key players they're counting on - Reggie Gallaspy and Dakwa Nichols - were held out of the final practice of spring Saturday with injuries, leaving much of the first-team work to junior Nyheim Hines and redshirt junior Brady Bodine.
''Matt, it's going to be hard to replace him,'' Hines said. ''As a group, we're going to try to do everything Matt did as one person. I don't know how he did it all last year, but he was an amazing player for us. For me, I'm just going to try to do my job and just do everything I can to help this team win and have a successful year.''
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