NC State's offense took a hit prior to fall camp when head coach Dave Doeren announced that senior wide receiver JuMichael Ramos would miss the 2016 season with a knee injury. Ramos was the Pack's top returning wide receiver.
"If you look at how we're going to recover that, Stephen Louis redshirted a year ago because he had a shoulder," said Doeren. "Steph now kind of swaps spots with him. Steph had a great spring. They played the same position. So you're kind of taking one guy who is now a redshirt sophomore, one of our probably better leaders in that room, to replace Jumichael."
"When a guy like Jumichael goes down you never want to see one of your teammates," added Louis. "I wish he could be playing right now because it would be another weapon to help us win and it would help others get open. Everyone has to up their level now, even myself."
Louis enrolled at NC State in the spring of 2014 hoping to earn a role as a true freshman. Joining him was Bo Hines and both players contributed that season. However, Hines transferred out of the program after the season along with another wideout, Marquez Valdes.
"It's crazy how things changed," said Louis. I'd never expected that I'd be one of the only guys still here, Bo would be gone... that's how football is though. You deal with it, you keep working."
Louis kept working, but he has had to deal with setbacks. He needed offseason shoulder surgery after his freshman year, which led to him redshirting in 2015. That enabled him to work on re-shaping his body while spending a lot of time with strength & conditioning coach Dantonio Burnette and the S&C staff.
He has really left an impression on Burnette.
"Steph is one of the hardest working guys on our team," said Burnette. "He puts in so much extra work and is a driven guy. He was out last season because of shoulder surgery, and he is hungry. Like I said, he's very driven. He's now bigger, faster, and stronger.
"The thing about Steph is guys on both sides of the ball highly respect him because of his work ethic. I believe they also feel like he's going to have a big year for us because he brings it everyday. He works hard and gives you everything he has. That is a testament to his character and work ethic. Steph is another one of our leaders in here."
"We've all worked so hard," added Louis. "It makes it easier to go uptempo... we're all in shape right now. Coach Thunder did a great job to making sure we were in shape. We can have a ten-play drive and not be fatigued."
Louis has also been working to learn a new offensive system, and he believes that the offense under Eli Drinkwitz will lead to wideouts being more featured than previously under Matt Canada.
"The biggest difference to me is it's a lot more simple," he said of the offense. "We have base plays, but we have adjustments. Canada's offense was a lot more complex. Now it's easier to just go out there and play without having to think so much. You can go out there and play faster.
"It's a huge opportunity for all the receivers with coach Drink because he spreads the ball out. If you go and look at his numbers from Boise State, a lot of the wide receivers get targets and have opportunities to make big plays. He spreads the ball, which is good for all of us, not just me."
The Pack also returns contributors Bra'lon Cherry, Maurice Trowell, and Nyheim Hines, and true freshman Kelvin Harmon could be a factor as well, but Doeren has seemed really high on Louis at receiver.
What can Pack fans expect to see from him during his sophomore campaign?
"I feel like I'm a physical receiver," he said. "I have good hands and I'll go up and make the catch. I have the speed to get open on deep routes, but I wouldn't say I'm a blazer. I use my technique to get open and I know the offense well.
"When I get the ball in my hands there's one thing on my mind: get a touchdown. I've been like that ever since I started playing in Pop Warner. I won't go down on first contact. I'm a catch-and-go receiver who can play through contact and tackles."