After a huge senior year where Matt Dayes rushed for over 1,800 yards and 30 touchdowns to lead Cypress Bay (FL) to the Class 8A state finals, he added offers from programs like Miami, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Arkansas. However, he chose to stick with the Wolfpack for a variety of reasons.
"It was just a gut feeling I had about NC State," said Dayes. "I fell in love with it from the very beginning and it was just in my heart that that was where I wanted to go."
He played sparingly as a true freshman, rushing for 252 yards with four touchdowns, but according to his head coach, probably didn't have the instant success he had envisioned.
"I think he was a guy that came here last year and thought he was better than he was and thought it would be easy," said Doeren. "He didn't play the way he's capable of a year ago."
Dayes knew he had to make some changes, specifically, he had to transform his body. He played much of last season at 215-220 pounds and in the offseason he lost about 15 pounds and added muscle. It made him quicker, stronger, and increased his stamina.
"I've definitely changed my body," said Dayes. "I lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of muscle. I feel like I can run a lot more. I used to get tired after the first play, and I barely get tired anymore. I've changed the way I eat. It's helped me."
"I'm proud of him with what he did in the offseason," added Doeren. "He manned up about it in the offseason. He got on a regimented diet, worked really hard and lost the weight. He's running extremely well because of that. He's always had the skills, but he didn't take care of his body the way he should have last year."
Through six games, Dayes has been one of the Pack's most productive skill position players.
He's averaging a stout 6.4 yards per carry and already has more rushing yards (287) than he had all of last year (252). He also has three rushing touchdowns.
Where he's made an even bigger impact has been in the receiving game. Blessed with terrific hands, Dayes has already caught 19 passes, the second-most by a running back in the ACC, and has four receiving touchdowns, tied for the most in the league. He catches pass out of the backfield, but NC State also lines him up at slot receiver.
"It's something I take pride in," Dayes said of his receiving ability. "I try to work on my hands as much as I can, but I've always been able to catch the ball.
"They just have to honor me being at receiver some more. I think it's a good thing for our offense, me being able to catch the ball, because we can get two backs on the field at the same time. It makes us even more dangerous."
Kick returner, receiver, and running back. Did Dayes see those roles for him when he signed with the Wolfpack?
"Well, I always wanted to be a returner," he said. "They told me I'd be able to catch the ball out the backfield, but I didn't think I would be able to do it this much. It's worked out. It's definitely been a positive for me... I love it."
"He's a great receiver," said Doeren. "He's got good speed. Obviously, with some of the long runs that he's had. He has really good change of direction and good vision.
"We put him a lot of places. He can be a receiver, jet guy in motion, wildcat quarterback, tailback. He's good at all of them. Having the rotation that we do keeps him fresh which helps over the course of the season."
"He's been great," added junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett. "He's everything you can ask for in a back, and I feel like the other two backs help him and compliment him to where he can showcase his talent a little bit differently. He's been great this whole year."
Dayes has been pleased with his own play, but now he's eager to help get the Wolfpack back on track after back-to-back losses to Florida State and Clemson.
"Nothing we did was working for us at Clemson," he said. "We were just killing ourselves out there. We had too many penalties, and we lost the ball a lot.
"This week we've practiced on fixing those problems. We've practiced a lot better, and we're going to be fine."
What does Dayes expect to see from Boston College?
"They are kind of like USF on defense," said Dayes. "They have a good scheme, but I think we're going to be prepared for them.
"It's a huge game. we need the win to get another boost of confidence. having that will help us tremendously for the rest of the season."