Spring Games Have Created Unlikely Wolfpack Heroes
Remember Milton Hall? How about Will Eason, Gavin Locklear, Johnny Frasier or Manny Stocker?
If you don't it's understandable. Even though they never became household names during their NC State football careers, each earned at least a moment of glory with their performances in the Wolfpack's annual spring scrimmage.
Since this year's game, which was scheduled for Saturday, has been cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis that wiped out the final 10 practices of the spring, SI All Wolfpack takes a look back into the past at the first seven spring games of the Dave Doeren era -- with heroes whose names you may or may not remember:
The breakout star of last year's spring game was running back Zonovan "Bam" Knight. The true freshman, who enrolled early to get a head start on his college career, made the most of the opportunity by rushing for a game-high 139 yards, highlighted by an electric 73-yard touchdown burst.
Matthew McKay solidified his claim to the starting quarterback position by completing 14 of 24 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. But foreshadowing the logjam at the position that was to come during the regular season, Devin Leary (12 of 23, 104 yards, TD) and Bailey Hockman (12 of 23, 135, TD) also had productive days.
C.J. Riley had 113 yards in receptions and Christopher Dunn made a 53-yard field goal on a day in which five offensive linemen sat out because of injuries, also an ominous sign of things to come.
On a cold, rainy day at Carter-Finley Stadium, running back Will Eason got his brief moment in the sun. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound product of Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, who eventually transferred to Hampton, rushed for a game-high 99 yards, highlighted by a memorable 68-yard run that included a video game-like spin move at the line of scrimmage.
Ryan Finley threw for 165 yards and a touchdown, including a 74iyard strike to Kelvin Harmon for the day's first touchdown.
One interesting side note from this game is that Grant Gibson, who started all 12 games last season as the Wolfpack's center on offense, was credited with two tackles for loss while playing on the other side of the ball as a defensive tackle.
Defense carried the day in a game that saw only one touchdown scored. And that came on a trick play, a 46-yard pass from walkon wide receiver Gavin Locklear to Kelvin Harmon. Locklear also had four catches.
Among the actual quarterbacks, Ryan Finley completed 11 of 18 passes for 92 yards while his backup Jalan McClendon went 5 of 11 for 27 yards while also leading the team in rushing with 27 yards.
Defensively, linebacker Germaine Pratt finished with six tackles, two for losses, and a pass breakup.
Frasier was a the top-rated running back prospect in North Carolina and the No. 2-ranked player at his position nationally. Unfortunately, the best performance of his short, forgettable career with the Wolfpack came on a cold April day of his redshirt freshman year, when he ran for 66 yards and two touchdowns in the 2016 spring game.
Nyheim Hines, another highly touted runner who lived up to his expectations, ran for 72 yards in a game that saw State's first-team offense roll up 444 yards and 45 points. Interestingly, the two quarterbacks that did most of the work in that game were career backup Jalan McClendon (13 of 16, 120 yards, TD) and Jakobi Meyers (12 of 20, 117, TD), who would have success and an NFL career as a wide receiver.
Another future pro, defensive end Bradley Chubb, contributed a tackle in the end zone for a safety.
It would take three more years for Reggie Gallaspy II to realize the potential he first showed in the spring of his freshman season when the future 1,000-yard rusher gained 131 yards on the ground to lead the Wolfpack.
Matt Dayes, another 1,000-yard rusher whom Gallaspy would play behind, also had a productive game with 57 rushing yards and 41 yards receiving out of the backfield.
Jacoby Brisset completed 13 of 32 passes fof 164 yards and a touchdown and McClendon went 16 of 34 for 144 yards to lead the passing attack.
Russell Wilson was honored before the game, but it was Jacoby Brissett, who had yet to play his first real game for State, that stole the show by throwing for 365 yards and two touchdowns.
Brissett completed 24 of 37 passes, hooking up with Bo Hines 10 times for 132 of the yards. Bryan Underwood also had three catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Tony Creecy led the ground game by scoring two touchdowns.
Milton Hall was a walkon running back from Burlington who didn't get to play much in regular season. But he was a perennial star in spring games. In 2012, he scored a touchdown and was so effective in he second half that he ended up playing for both teams.
In 2013, he shined again. He ended up gaining 57 yards and another touchdown on the ground while catching a pass for 16 yards. He was eventually awarded a scholarship by Doeren.
Other highlights of Doeren's first spring game at State included the passing of Pete Thomas (15 of 26, 168 yards) and Manny Stocker (11 of 20, 96 yards, TD). Rashard Smith finished with eight catches for 84 yards while Tony Creecy led the ground game with 75 rushing yards.