RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State’s offense leaned heavily on a single running back last year. Things will look different for Saturday’s opener against South Carolina in Charlotte.
The Wolfpack lost top rusher Matt Dayes from last year’s team, and now has a depth chart indicating a committee approach with juniors Nyheim Hines and Reggie Gallaspy II, and fifth-year graduate Dakwa Nichols.
Throw in versatile all-purpose threat Jaylen Samuels, and Dave Doeren’s team has no shortage of options.
“I think it’s in our best interest — and I think most football teams will tell you that — to make sure those guys are all getting work,” Doeren said Monday of N.C. State’s three full-time running backs. “And they will.”
The team released its depth chart Monday, listing an “or” between Hines, Gallaspy and Nichols instead of settling on one a starter. Samuels — named last week to The Associated Press preseason all-America team as a second-team all-purpose back — is listed as an H-back but has lined up at running back, receiver and tight end during his career.
The question is how the coaches will distribute the workload, both against the Gamecocks and beyond for a team considered to be a dark horse in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s power-heavy Atlantic Division.
“Every offense — no-huddle spread, even pro-style teams — it’s the hot hand,” Hines said during preseason camp. “If you’re making plays, you’re going to get the ball.”
Dayes had a workhorse role last year, running for 1,166 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had six games with at least 25 offensive touches, including big performances against eventual national champion Clemson (133 offensive yards and a touchdown) and division power Florida State (131 yards).
No other running back managed even 50 carries. Don’t expect a repeat in 2017.
“As the season gets longer and longer, you worry less and less about the number of hits they’ve taken,” Doeren said, “because if you prepare the right way on the front end where you’re rotating those guys, you can get to the back end of the season and soak somebody (with carries) that’s really playing well.
“But if we would give any of those guys 30 carries in the first game, they may love that but that would be difficult for 12 straight weeks for anyone.”
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Gallaspy has the most reps with 115 career carries and provides the most backfield bulk.
Hines and Nichols have similar size (5-9 and about 195 pounds), though Hines boasts speed that earned him All-America track honors on a relay team that won an ACC championship. He had played mostly at receiver last season after carrying the ball 48 times his freshman year.
As for Samuels, the 5-foot-11 senior from Charlotte has scored a combined 29 rushing or receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons while creating matchup problems with his ability to line up just about anywhere.
“When Reggie is in there, I feel like he knows his job,” Samuels said. “When Nyheim is in there, he’ll get his job done. I hope they trust me, that I’ll get my job done when I get in there. So we just work off each other and go from there.”
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap