Impact Newcomer?

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Tony Creecy appeared at NC State's media day last Saturday with a walking boot on his right foot, but that didn't stop the redshirt freshman from telling anyone who would listen that he's never felt better.

Tony Creecy appeared at NC State's media day on Saturday with a walking boot on his right foot, but that didn't stop the redshirt freshman from telling anyone who would listen that he's never felt better.

"This is the best I've ever felt," Creecy said. "I took the redshirt year and I've gotten stronger, I've gotten faster, I've gotten more flexible to get in and out of my cuts. Being redshirted was probably one of the best things I've done."

While Creecy wouldn't talk about the injury, instead referring the curious media to Tom O'Brien for an injury update, all indications are that it is a minor problem and won't affect his availability for the season opener.

Perhaps of bigger concern than his foot will be where Creecy fits into the Wolfpack offense this season. A high school wide receiver who has transitioned to tailback, Creecy is one of four guys competing for playing time in the backfield along with Curtis Underwood, James Washington and Brandon Barnes. Waiting on the sidelines is Mustafa Greene, the Pack's leading rusher in 2010 who is expected back from an injury sometime in October.

For his part, Creecy has welcomed all the competition.

"It's actually been awesome," Creecy said. "Any time you get a whole bunch of guys with great athletic ability, it turns into great competition. And great competition gets everyone better."

While he's enjoying the experience, Creecy said he doesn't know who is winning the battle for the starting job right now. In fact the Durham native had nothing but praise for the rest of the backs he's competing against.

"Everybody brings something different to the table – if its speed, if its power, if it's a combination of both.

With his history at receiver, Creecy could factor into the passing game as well. O'Brien has lauded the freshman's pass-catching ability, calling him the best of the running backs in that department. Creecy also believes that his time at receiver has helped his ability to sneak out of the backfield and create separation on passing plays.

"It's been a big help because as a running back you still run routes," Creecy said. "So with me running routes against DB's all my life when I'm running them against linebackers it makes it a little easier for me because I can get in and out of my break quicker and they can't keep up with me. It helped a lot playing receiver [in high school]."

The biggest adjustment for the freshman hasn't been learning how to find holes in the lines or holding onto the ball though – it's been blocking. A large part of being a running back in a Tom O'Brien offense isn't just being able to run the ball, but being able to protect the quarterback and pick up blitzes.

"The pass blocking [has been toughest] because I played running back in Pop Warner and I've always known how to run and read holes," Creecy said. "It's a little different with the defensive ends coming at you and in practice you can't cut [block] so you have to hit them head up. That was a big difference."

While the Pack doesn't practice cut blocking, it's still something the staff expects the backs to be able to execute on Saturdays against opposing rushers. Creecy said the ‘we don't practice it' excuse would not work on the coaching staff in a real game.

"Nah we can't say that – if you miss that cut block you are coming out of the game," Creecy said, laughing. "In the game its easier – cutting is not hard. But in practice we have to hit them heads up and that's tough."

Creecy may also play a role on special teams for the Pack this year as a return man. While wide receiver T.J. Graham figures to get most of the returns, the staff might get Creecy some reps with an eye towards 2012. It's not hard to envision the elusive back becoming Graham's heir apparent after the senior's graduation.

"I've been doing a lot of things [with special teams]. Some punt return, kick return – they aren't sure what they want to do with me yet but I'm just going to keep working and getting better."


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