Underwood: "We Have To Make Plays"

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Bryan Underwood had a breakout sophomore season for NC State.

Wide receiver Bryan Underwood had a breakout sophomore season for NC State.

He began the year by recording a touchdown in each of the Wolfpack's first eight games, the longest streak in school history and just one shy of the ACC record held by Herman Moore of Virginia.

Underwood finished with 44 catches for 620 yards and 10 touchdowns, the eighth-most in the league.

"I had a good year," said Underwood. "But, I'm trying to be better. It's a new year."

A lot is new for Underwood and NC State.

The Wolfpack had a coaching change in the offseason and the Pack's pro-style offense has been replaced with a spread attack that is still a work-in-progress for the players and coaches.

"I think coming off the season he had, it's normal to expect to be good, but you've got to work," Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren said of Underwood. "It doesn't matter what you did last year.

"He's starting to show up more and more. I think he's a guy who likes Saturdays more than he does Tuesdays, too. But, we'll get him there."

"It's a new offense," Underwood said. "The coaches are still analyzing us, and we're still analyzing what they want us to do and how they want us to play. We're adjusting and learning from our mistakes... taking it day-by-day.

"I'm just adapting to whatever they tell me to do because it's new compared to what I've done in previous seasons. I'm just taking in the new things and using them the right way."

The spread could be an even better fit for Underwood. At 5-foot-9 and 177 pounds, he made a bunch of plays on vertical routes last season, and this year he will be asked to do the same, but the new offense will also look to get him even more touches in space where he can use his quickness to break long runs.

"Bryan does a lot of things after he gets the ball in his hands that excites you because of his speed," said Doeren. "He's a small guy that needs to play bigger in the passing game."

"I had a couple of underneath routes that led to touchdowns last year, but our offense was based on eating up yards," he said. "[Laughing] I have a feeling this year I'm going to do more underneath stuff and show what I can do in space. I have to get used to it because it's been a couple of years... just getting back to what I did in high school.

"To be honest, you don't know what you're going to get with the spread offense though. It can change. You may have a game where teams can't defend the jet sweep... or deep passes, or short passes. I believe they are building the offense around all those areas so if we have to adjust we can. At receiver, we have to be ready to impact in all those ways."

Underwood expanded on the differences, for receivers, in the two offenses.

"I would say it's more of the same elements just used differently," he said. "More flexible rules. You may have a go-route where you had to strictly release outside last year, but this year we can do what we want... something like that.

The rules are more flexible but there are still specific things you have to do."

The other big change is the pace that the offense is playing at. NC State is now using a no-huddle approach based around getting plays in fast and snapping the ball as quickly as possible.

Because of this, the offense is working to get into better shape where they can handle additional snaps.

"That's really big," said Underwood. "We're trying to hike the ball ever 12-to-15 seconds so we have to be in great condition. It's taking a toll on us so I know it will on the defense.

"What we want to do is get in a groove, playing fast... get the defense tired so we can score more touchdowns."

"From the first day of practice we've been going non-stop," he added. "Last year it seemed we would hike the ball in two minutes even in practice, and that's the main thing with us now... playing uptempo."

The change is why spring practice has been so critical for Underwood and the rest of the offense. They are working both on and off the field to get to where they need to be so they can compete for an ACC crown in 2013.

"We want to take what we learn from classroom and bring it out here," he said. "Coach Jackson always says we never have questions and then come out here and mess up.

"We have to make plays in the heat of battle and cut out those mental errors."


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