Asa Watson would be the first to admit he had reservations about redshirting last season. He wasn't sure what being on the scout team would entail and was even less sure about what his role with the Wolfpack would be moving forward.
A year later, as he goes through spring drills for the third time in preparation to be a key contributor on an offense with lots of weapons, the redshirt junior from Rock Hill, S.C. has a different outlook.
"I thought being on the scout team would be tough mentally, but I really got a lot out of it," Watson said. "It put the fun back into the game and allowed me to focus in the weight room. I'm more ready for football now than I've ever been."
That readiness, according to Watson, is two-fold. Physically, he says he's in the best shape of his life. Watson weighed 230 pounds at the start of spring practice and hopes to reach 240 by the time fall camp begins in August.
"I've been working with Coach [Corey] Edmond a lot, and my lower body has gotten a lot stronger," Watson said. "I've also worked on driving my hips and legs so I can be a better run blocker. I have a long way to go but I feel like I'm getting better."
Mentally, Watson's refreshed, something he says he's thankful for.
"A lot of times you get so bogged down with the routine. You stress out doing the same thing," he said. "It was fun trying to run other offenses and just practicing hard. I stopped worrying as much about performing and just started having fun."
The stress-relieving aspect of last spring may be the biggest part of Watson being ready to perform once the season arrives. Given George Bryan's departure and a somewhat inexperienced group of tight ends, the Wolfpack will need Watson to be a threat in the passing game. Despite having only two career receptions -- one in 2009, one in 2010 -- Watson's unique skill set and athletic ability could be big-time assets for Mike Glennon in his second year as NC State's starter.
"We have a lot of guys moving around but it gives people a chance to step up," Watson said of the offense. "Someone like Rashard coming over from the defense. We all bring something new to the game, something new to the offense. We're ready for the season."
Before the season arrives, however, the offense will have to find some rhythm with those new pieces. Watson said practicing against an experienced secondary has helped players stepping into new roles get adjusted to the speed of the game. Spring practice and the Kay Yow Spring Game will provide a window into what the Wolfpack offense will look like in the fall, Watson said, but not a complete picture.
"The defense is so fast, and we have fun at practice going against those guys," he said. "We have a lot more we can learn and a lot more we can build on, but we're looking forward to the spring game to give fans a little taste of what we can do."
As for Glennon, Watson echoed Tom O'Brien and Dana Bible's thoughts about his maturity and willingness to take on a leadership role.
"I get the same vibe. This year he's just a lot more confident, he knows what he's doing," Watson said. "Last year he was just getting into the position and getting comfortable. This year he's leading by example."
After dealing with his own waiting game during his redshirt season in 2011, Watson said he hopes to replicate Glennon's success once he takes the field in the regular-season opener against Tennessee in Atlanta, Ga.
"I'm trying not to think about it and focus on getting better every day, but it's a big game," he said. "It's crazy to think that my first game in two years will be that big, but I'm really looking forward to it."