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The offensive line at N.C. State has survived an injury and a suspension. The hope is that the unit will jell and have added depth because of the experience.
Will Richardson was suspended for two games and he made his return Saturday against Furman. Terronne Prescod also started for the Wolfpack against the Paladins after missing some time due to injury.
Joe Sculthorpe and Justin Witt, who filled in for the duo, slid back down the depth chart into more of a utility role.
The experience of playing earlier than expected helped Sculthorpe and Witt.
“I think you can just see it in the eyes of those five guys, I think they’re more comfortable,” N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren said of his regular offensive line starters. “The same thing with Witt and Joe, when they got in the game at the end they were playing fast. It wasn’t their first time out there.
“Sometimes when you put your backups in you see some really bad things happen, and we ran the ball well. We didn’t have a lot of mistakes.”
SEMINOLES SOLID UP FRONT
Conversely, Florida State is also solid up front. The Seminoles have tons of experience on the offensive line and the showdown in the trenches should be one to watch when N.C. State travels to Tallahassee on Saturday.
“Looking at their offense, they returned all five of their offensive linemen and they’re a very good group,” Doeren said. “They play hard. They do a lot of different things, protection-wise, they’re helping them on the edges with backs and tight ends.
“Sixty-two career starts on the (FSU) offensive line so it’s going to be a great matchup in the trenches for sure with our defensive line against their offensive line.”
The Seminoles have only played one game this season following the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. The season-ending injury of Deondre Francois means means true freshman James Blackman will start behind center.
It is hard to tell whether the lack of film on the Seminoles and Blackman will benefit or hurt N.C. State. The difficulty in preparation is there for the Wolfpack, but regardless of who Florida State sends out on the field it will not be easy.
“Obviously, they’ve had a unique year with the weather down there, the cancellation of the game, the rescheduling of a game, and obviously losing their quarterback,” Doeren said. “So there’s, for us, some unknowns maybe you wouldn’t have this time of the year with how that changes. But at the same time, Jimbo’s (Fisher) been calling plays his entire time down there and does a great job of that.
“You can watch (Blackman’s) highlight film (via HUDL) and find out really quick he’s got a strong arm and he can throw it. In Jimbo’s offense, they’re going to have down the field routes where he’s going to be able get it to them and he has big receivers that can make plays. So that part will never change. He’s going to have a guy that can throw the football and that kid can.”
NO WORDS NEEDED
The Florida State game is massive for N.C. State in many ways.
There is the obvious, control in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s ultra-tough Atlantic Division. N.C. State is also looking to avoid being .500 after four games, with a win in Tallahassee neutralizing the tough loss to South Carolina.
For the Wolfpack, the game has a deeper meaning. To be competitive in the ACC means dealing with the three-headed monster of FSU, Clemson and Louisville while staving off up and comers like Wake Forest and Boston College, both of whom reached postseason in 2016 with the Eagles beating N.C. State on the road in the process.
The ramifications are plentiful but also self-explanatory.
“I don’t really have to say anything to them,” Doeren said. “All offseason It was about doing everything you need to do where you can play fast, play free, and make plays.
“They’re are going to be excited to play this game. I don’t have to say anything to you about that. I think it’s just in your preparation. It’s in your faith in your ability and your trust in your training. That’s where we’re at.”
“I’m excited for those guys to get out there and have that opportunity, but this isn’t one of those games where I’m going to have to do a whole lot, as far as motivating,” Doeren added. “We just need to prepare them the right way, practice them smart, and put them in a position to make plays, let them go make them.”
DEXTER BACK IN ACTION?
Dexter Wright did not play in either of N.C. State previous two contests, wins against Marshall and Furman, due to injury.
In his place, Tim Kidd-Glass has been receiving the bulk of the reps at free safety and the coaching staff has been thrilled with what they have seen.
Kidd-Glass has earned trust with his recent form and Monday’s depth chart for the Florida State game lists both him and Wright as starters. However, the ambiguity has more to due with Wright’s injury recovery.
Wright, a Hunt High graduate and the 2014 Wilson Times Athlete of the Year, has been practicing with the team and is set to get on the field Saturday if he can withstand the rigors this week.
Like the offensive line, the early season issues with the secondary may pay off for N.C. State in the long run.
“If we can get Mike (Stevens) and Dex in there this week where they feel great, that really helps our depth and our rotation,” Doeren said. “Who knows what the weather will be like down there? If it’s a hot one at noon, it will help to have a little more depth back there that we can rotate.
“That’s the key is getting that depth back in the secondary. When we started we felt like we had almost 12 guys back there that we could play with and quickly it went down to six. We’re getting two of them back, so we feel a lot better. We’ve been able to play a lot of guys. I think all the reps that these other guys have had to take has helped them immensely.”