Hard To Tackle

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Despite having been involved on 75 plays in the first nine games of the season, freshman Jaylen Samuels tends to make things happen whenever the ball is in his hands.

Despite having been involved on 75 plays in the first nine games of the season, freshman Jaylen Samuels tends to make things happen whenever the ball is in his hands.

The Charlotte-native averages 13.6 yards per rush and 22.5 yards per catch—both team-bests—heading into N.C. State’s homecoming tilt with Georgia Tech on Saturday. In the Wolfpack’s critical victory over Syracuse this past weekend, Samuels once again had an impact despite limited touches.

His carry for a first down on a fake punt extended a State drive. The trick play helped him lead the team in rushing against the Orange and Samuels, who was ranked the No. 7 fullback in the nation by Scout coming out of high school, was delighted when the call came to carry the ball on fourth down. For Samuels, there was a never-say-die attitude at Syracuse. That resiliency, however, was tested when the Orange scored 14 straight points to take a five-point lead in the third quarter. He and the rest of the team did not waver and when redshirt-freshman Pharoah McKever intercepted a pass and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown, the Pack had a lead it would not relinquish.

"We knew we just wanted to play a four-quarter game," Samuels said of the second half deficit. "That is what we did. Pharoah McKever came up with a big pick that changed the game around. I think that gave us some momentum to win the game."

Heading into that game State’s situation was tenuous at best. The Wolfpack not only was winless in ACC play—after not registering a victory in the ACC in 2013—but also needed at least two wins in its final four games to become bowl-eligible.

"It was really big because we know that we had lost all of our games in October," Samuels said of the come-from-behind win at Syracuse. "We wanted to turn things around in November and finish these last four games, 4-0."

We now that we need that one more game to get bowl-eligible," he added. "We know that we don’t just want to win six [games], we want to win eight."

The Wolfpack will get its first chance to qualify for postseason play when the Yellow Jackets come to Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday. Samuels, while mindful of the challenges the Georgia Tech defense presents, is confident there is more on the horizon for N.C. State than just reaching bowl-eligibility.

"I know [Georgia Tech’s defense] is very physical," Samuels said. "From here on out, we know we have to play good offensive football, be physical, play fast and we will do well.

"We know we have a chance to win the rest of our games so we are just going to keep preparing hard, practicing hard and play a four-quarter game—every game—and we will pull out the victories."

Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren knows that he has a weapon in Samuels, who will only continue to improve.

"He's a very productive player with the ball in his arm," said Doeren. "He's hard-to-tackle, good vision... strong stiff-arm guy. He finishes runs the way you want them finished.

"Now he just needs to learn how to be a better player without the ball. I think that's the next step for him."


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