Tom O'Brien announced on Saturday that redshirt sophomore Bryan Underwood is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Underwood is one of just four receivers on State's roster with game experience and expectations were high for him this year after showcasing explosiveness last fall and in the spring.
Redshirt senior Tobais Palmer is confident that Underwood will be back sooner rather than later.
"That was unfortunate, but we're not saying Bryan is going to be out [for a long time]," said Palmer. "He's going to play. He's going to come back and everything is going to work out. We leave all that up to the coach to handle and with him being out he's going to come back and be better than he was."
Palmer is clearly the Wolfpack's most accomplished receiver and could be poised for a big year. Last fall he totaled 37 receptions for 496 yards and five touchdowns, and isn't the "type" of receiver Wolfpack fans have grown accustomed to over the last few years.
State has had quick, explosive wideouts like T.J. Graham and Owen Spencer, but the majority of the receivers under Tom O'Brien have been big, phsyical possession wideouts such as Jarvis Williams, Darrell Davis, Steven Howard, and Jay Smith.
At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, Palmer grew up playing tailback and is a weapon with the ball in his hands. Two of the Pack's other three returning wideouts who have played, Underwood and Rashard Smith, are built like Palmer and just as explosive.
"Going against our secondary, I feel like we have more of an advantage this year because we have more speed than height," said Palmer. "In previous years here at NC State we may have had more size than speed, but the game now says speed kills.
"We're trying to take advantage of the speed and explosiveness we have, and we're trying to run and use that to our advantage."
A major plus for Palmer and the rest of the receivers is the return of starting quarterback Mike Glennon. The 6-foot-7 signal-caller passed for 3,054 yards, 31 touchdown passes and a dozen interceptions in his first year as a starter, and Palmer says he can be even better this season.
"I've seen Mike grow from being the second or third-string quarterback to the guy that he should have been," said Palmer. "He's more comfortable with the playbook, more comfortable with the guys that he is hanging around and things are going right.
"Going through the offseason we feel like we're more comfortable and he's more comfortable. We trust each other and that's how it should be."
For now, Palmer believes his team is improving. While there is some questions at wideout and linebacker, the Pack returns plenty of experience at tailback, quarterback, along the offensive line and on defense.
"The biggest progress is in execution," said Palmer. "We're doing it day after day and getting better at it.
"I feel like we're the best team in the ACC, but saying it and proving it can be two different things. We have to go out and show it and it starts with Tennessee."