Help Is On The Way

When Dave Doeren was hired as head coach he examined NC State's roster and one of the conclusions he made was that the Wolfpack needed an infusion of talent at the wide receiver position.

When Dave Doeren was hired as head coach he examined NC State's roster and one of the conclusions he made was that the Wolfpack needed an infusion of talent at wide receiver.

Because they would be transitioning from a pro-style offense to a no-huddle, spread attack, Doeren knew he had to add depth and flexibility at the position. The Pack already had to replace quality senior Tobais Palmer, and sophomore Hakeem Flowers left the program following the 2012 season.

NC State was left with just five returning scholarship wideouts: Bryan Underwood, Rashard Smith, Quintin Payton, Charlie Hegedus, and Maurice Morgan. It helped that New Bern (NC) standout Bra'Lon Cherry, an early commitment, was able to enroll in January to give the Wolfpack six for spring practice.

Cherry, came in and impressed the coaches early with his play. He capped the spring with a four-catch, 42-yard performance that included a touchdown in the Kay Yow Spring Game.

Travares Copeland

"Bra'Lon Cherry is more of a slot-type receiver that can make plays in space," said Doeren. "That's something that is obviously important to us."

"He's really got a jump-start on things by coming in early," wideouts coach Frisman Jackson said of Cherry. "He's quick, he's explosive, and he's a returner."

A big move was landing West Virginia transfer Travares Copeland in February. Copeland, a high school quarterback for Port St. Lucie (FL) Treasure Coast), enrolled at West Virginia last fall and quickly adjusted to the move to wideout, as he played as a true freshman, earning two starts against Kansas State and Texas Christian.

Copeland had totaled 10 catches for 55 yards when he decided in the middle of the season to transfer due to a family situation. He had planned to take visits to South Florida and Florida Atlantic along with NC State, but committed to the Wolfpack coaches shortly after his early-February visit.

In June Copeland received the news that his waiver to play in 2013 had been approved by the NCAA, so he will have four seasons left to play three years for the Wolfpack, starting this fall.

"He is really a dynamic athlete and also a very good return man," Doeren said of Copeland. "Some of the things he does in space is pretty special.

"I think Travares Copeland can do just about anything we ask him to do, and he's a guy that can do things in the slot."

"He's similar to myself," said Pack senior wideout Rashard Smith. "He's a West Virginia guy. They had Tavon Austin, and he can remind you of Tavon. Hi's short,quick, and shifty. He catches the ball well, and he runs well.

"Having him on the team is great, and having him able to play right away will help us tremendously."

The Wolfpack completed their haul at the position by inking four freshmen who shared a common trait: terrific size. JuMichael Ramos, Pharaoh McKever, Marques Valdez, and Jon Alston range in height from 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-6 and can all stretch the field as vertical threats.

Marquez Valdes

"We only had one or two guys on the roster with big bodies," said Jackson. "I was a big receiver so, as a coach you kind of tend to lean toward players that are like you were. So, this class we kind of leaned toward more of the big receivers, though we did get some slot guys as well.

"Jon Alston is a local kid, tough player, physical player; he stood out when we watched him on film. He became a player that we just felt like we had to go get and we were ultimately able to get him over North Carolina. He committed to us over UNC and a bunch of other offers so we're excited to get him in here.

"Marquez Valdes, a kid out of Tampa (FL), is a great player. He can run and he can jump... he can do many things that we need a guy to do in this offense so we were excited to get him.

"JuMichael Ramos, was a kid that I personally recruited and got to flip from Georgia Tech. I convinced him to come up here and take a look at NC State and once he did he was convinced this was the spot he wanted to be at. Big guy, 6'4, can run, he's a hell of a basketball player so he can run and jump and go get the football which has us excited.

"Pharoah McKever is a big 6'6 guy. Hopefully he can be a big redzone target for us where we can throw the football up to him and where he can get up over everybody and be that Randy Moss-type guy for us. A local kid as well."

Two of the freshmen caught Smith's eye during summer workouts.

"The freshmen that have caught my eye are JuMichael Ramos and Marques Valdez," said Smith. "Two tall, big receivers. They came in with a chip on their shoulder. They want to play this year, and they will have an opportunity to play. Coach gives everybody an opportunity to get on the field. It's up to them.

JuMichael Ramos

"As far as drills, they catch the football with their hands and they run good routes. Those two have stood out to me."

Now what was a concern heading into the spring could potentially be a big strength for NC State this year. Quintin Payton and Bryan Underwood are coming off breakout 2012 seasons, and Smith was arguably the Pack's top offensive weapon in spring practice. Factor in the six newcomers, Hegedus, and Morgan, and NC State's depth could lead to a sharing of the grabs at the position in 2013.

"We're going to spread the ball around," said Jackson. "Last year at Northern we had seven guys with double-digit catches, so a lot of guys are going to be able to catch balls here in this offense.

"You've just got to be able to make plays once the opportunity comes."

"We have a nice mixture this year," added Smith. "In the past we'd only have one big receiver or two big receivers, but now we have multiple big receivers and smaller, shifty receivers. Having a mixture like that will help a lot.

"With us now going to the spread, we will have multiple shifty guys, and as soon as everyone think we're going across the middle or throwing a drop-off route, we have those big vertical guys that we can go down the field with. It's going to be hard to stop because there are a lot more options."

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