Kitchings: "I'm Excited To See What Happens"

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Pack Pride checks in with running backs coach Des Kitchings for an update on his position group.

NC State returns a wealth of talent in the backfield, and the headliner is senior tailback Matthew Dayes.  The Cypress Bay (FL) star was on pace to have a breakout season when he was injured just 7.5 games into the 2015 season.  At that point, he led the ACC in touchdowns with 12 and was averaging an absurd 6.46 yards per carry.  

Dayes was just 135 yards short of becoming the Wolfpack's first 1,000-yard back since T.A. McClendon accomplished the feat in 2002.

His position coach, Des Kitchings, says that Dayes is all the way back from his foot injury and ready to roll with the season just a couple of weeks away.

"I think Matt has done very well," said Kitchings.  "He made a lot of plays for us over three years, and we're just over two weeks out from the first game. We're increasing his workload, but he's received plenty of work in camp to where I feel like he's starting to get into that groove.

"I'm excited about him this season."

New offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz featured Jeremy McNichols in his one season at Boise State, and McNichols was arguably the most productive tailback in the country.  McNichols rushed for over 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns, and he added 51 catches for 460 yards and six more scores.

Dayes, who is one of the top receiving backs in the league, had 24 catches prior to his injury last year.

According to Kitchings, the new system is a great fit for Dayes.

"It is a great fit," said Kitchings.  "But, I don't really think there's an offense Matt Dayes can't play in because of his run ability, pass catching and he has improved so much as a pass protector.  He's an every-down back. He has great skills."

Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren recently raved about Dayes on his weekly radio show.

"That is the one that, in my opinion, is one of the best running backs in college football right now," Doeren said of Dayes.  "He is special. The way that he can run, the way that he blocks, the way that he catches, the way that he works, the way he treats people - he is a special guy. He is set up to have a great season, so I'm really excited to watch him. "

The big question is who will be the No. 2 running back behind Dayes, and it sounds like redshirt junior Dakwa Nichols is definitely in the mix.  Nichols has averaged five yards per carry his first two seasons in Raleigh.

"Dakwa has had the best camp of anybody," said Kitchings.  "Part of it is him being a redshirt junior... he has four years in the program.  

"He's a tough, competitive kid.  He's done a great job.  He's learning the offense and he has been clean.  He's executing, and he's freaking playing extremely fast.  I'm really excited about his training camp."

Sophomore Reggie Gallaspy stepped up last fall as a true freshman, rushing for 316 yards (4.79 ypc) and four touchdowns.  However, he missed the bowl game with an injury and has battled lingering foot injuries in the spring and during fall camp.  Those injuries have stalled his development.

"That's kind of been a recurring theme with Reggie," said Kitchings.  "He'll get going and then get nicked up and missed some days.  That's the frustrating thing in regards to Reggie because we want to see him take that next step. 

"Toward the latter part of the season he came on strong, but he missed some time... then the spring.  Now he's missed some of training camp.  That's holding him back."

The wildcard in the backfield continues to be former five-star recruit Johnny Frasier, who redshirted last season. With the other three backs dinged up at various times in the spring and fall you would think the opportunity would be there for him to rise up the depth chart but he continues to be a work-in-progress.

"Johnny is still a process," said Kitchings.  "He's learning.  He has to continue to fight.  He has to fight.

"His teammates are pushing him, but he has to push himself.  That's the bottomline.  How bad does Johnny Frasier want it?  He can be as good as he wants to be, or he can be as bad as he wants to be.  It's all up to him."

NC State's offense really suffered last season when Dayes went down, but the injury allowed reserves to gain valuable experience, and State also limited Dayes' reps in the spring and fall camp.  

Could that open the door for the Wolfpack to lighten his workload early in 2016?

"The bottomline is we're trying to win every game we play," said Kitchings.  "The one thing about camp is it's allowed Dakwa Nichols to get a bunch of work.  Reggie Gallaspy and Johnny Frasier have as well.  Then you have Nyheim Hines and Jaylen Samuels who can fill that role as a playmaker in the offense from the backfield.

"There is some depth and some guys have got some work.  I'm excited to see what happens."

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