The top 10 NC State football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
RB Matt Dayes, Sr.
Dayes was enjoying the best season in years by a Pack running back, when an injury shut him down after eight games. By that time, he’d already rushed for 865 yards and a dozen scores on 134 carries, while catching 24 balls. Dayes also became the school’s first player since Joe McIntosh in 1981 to run for over 100 yards in four straight games. He’s a darting 5-9, 203-pounder who runs with good pad level and can make defenders miss in open space.
DE Bradley Chubb, Jr.
Chubb’s shift from linebacker to defensive end couldn’t have gone much smoother in 2015. And now that he’s bulked up to 6-4 and 273 pounds, NFL scouts are going to start paying close attention. Chubb is a legit three-down lineman, which was born out in last year’s output of 69 tackles, a dozen stops for loss, 5.5 sacks, eight pressures and three forced fumbles. This is the year he goes from up-and-comer to household name.
TE/FB Jaylen Samuels, Jr.
Go ahead and name it and Samuels has probably done it for the Pack attack. Easily the most versatile player in Raleigh, he was named First Team All-ACC after scoring 16 touchdowns, nine rushing and seven receiving. The 5-11, 223-pound hybrid not only led the team with 65 receptions for 597 yards, but he also stepped up when injuries struck to rush for 368 yards on only 56 carries. Oh, and he can block too.
DT B.J. Hill, Jr.
Hill didn’t get many looks for the All-ACC Team and that’s too bad. He delivered a terrific, borderline all-star sophomore season, showcasing his ability to stuff the run and crank up backfield pressure from the inside. By the standard for a 6-4, 300-pounder, Hill is quick off the ball, registering 51 stops, 11 tackles behind the line, 3.5 sacks and three batted balls.
OG Tony Adams, Jr.
Now that Joe Thuney and Quinton Schooley have graduated, Adams is poised to become the line leader up front in Raleigh. He quietly enjoyed a solid sophomore year at guard, but is now expected to supplant Schooley at center. Adams is a stout 6-2, 315-pound drive blocker who is at his best when NC State is running the ball right down the throats of opposing fronts.
LB Airius Moore, Jr.
Moore took a quantum leap in his development as a sophomore. With similar gains in 2016, a spot on the All-ACC Team could await No. 58. The Pack’s leader with 77 tackles, including eight behind the line, flashed versatility by starting games at weakside and middle. And the 6-0, 237-pound Moore’s toughness and sure tackling provided a much-needed boost to the State run defense.
DT Kentavius Street, Jr.
After getting his feet wet as a rookie, Street began to approach his blue-chip status in 2015. He started 10 games on the inside, getting occasional reps at end. The 6-2, 290-pound Street displays tremendous upside at holding blocks and clogging running lanes. But he’s also nimble enough to generate pressure. Last year’s numbers, 31 stops and three tackles for loss, don’t adequately portray his potential in the trenches.
LB Jerod Fernandez, Jr.
While Fernandez’s output slipped as a sophomore, he remains an important member of the linebacker corps. In two seasons, he’s already started 18 games in the middle, notching 47 stops, three tackles for loss and two interceptions in 2015. While undersized at 6-0 and 220 pounds for MIKE, a trimmer Fernandez possesses the quickness and agility to lend a hand in pass defense.
DT Justin Jones, Jr.
On a bunch of other teams, Jones would be a full-timer. On the Wolfpack, he’s a pivotal player in a deep tackle rotation. He started just three games in 2015, yet shined as a run-stuffer, using his leverage and strength in a 6-2, 300-pound frame to create logjams in running lanes. Jones’ limited reps produced 29 stops, 6.5 tackles for loss and a couple of sacks.
FS Josh Jones, Jr.
The versatile Jones is back for his third season as a starter, looking to improve his consistency in pass coverage. He’s still vulnerable when the ball is in the air. However, Jones is a 6-2, 215-pound thumper who supports the linebackers in run defense. In 2015, he ranked third on the Wolfpack with 63 tackles, including a couple for minus yards.