NC State junior tailback Matthew Dayes has always been able to run the football. He was one of the top backs in Florida when he signed with the Wolfpack in 2013, but his ability to catch wasn't known at that point.
"Even since high school I was able to catch the ball, but I wasn't used to catch it this much," said Dayes. "Our head coach wanted to run the ball more, but I've always had great hands and it's something I take pride in."
In 2014, Dayes led the Wolfpack with both 1,278 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns while winning team Offensive MVP honors. He was one of just three players nationally with more than 300 yards rushing, receiving and in returns.
He is the only player nationally to reach those marks and also boast five or more touchdowns rushing and receiving.
His versatility is certainly an asset, and his receiving is a strength. Senior quarterback Jacoby Brissett is aware of it as well, and they have developed a nice chemistry.
"I think teams underestimate how well I can catch the ball, and they try to put a linebacker or safety on me," said Dayes. "That's a big mismatch and a win for us.
"Jacoby and I have chemistry. I think it was during the Wake Forest game there was a linebacker over me. Jacoby looked at me, and I looked at him... I knew we were on the same page then."
His receiving and pass protection skills will improve Dayes' chances of making it professionally, but that's not his focus right now.
"It helps me tremendously and gives me a better chance of getting to the next level, but I'm not really thinking about that," he said. "It's great for us because it allows two or maybe three running backs to get on the field and make plays."
What did Dayes try to improve on prior to his junior season?
"Really, it was more about helping the young backs," he said. "I wanted to be there for the freshmen guys because I knew when I came in I had Creecy and Shad and they helped me tremendously. I owe them a lot for it, and I wanted to do the same thing."
NC State opens the season on Saturday against Troy, and with Shadrach Thornton suspended Dayes is expected to play a major role. Heading into the season he has high expectations for himself and the Wolfpack.
"We have a lot to prove," he said. "Everyone thinks we had a great year, but I think there were a lot more games out there that we should have won. This year we're going to get it because we've been working extremely hard and our mindset is totally different.
"I do think we're underestimated, but we have a lot to prove. That's going to happen. We're going to turn a lot of heads this year."