Nyheim Hines was one of NC State's top recruits in the 2015 class, so it wasn't surprising when he worked his way into the rotation at receiver and handled kickoff return duties as a true freshman. A "touch" player, he finished the season with 20 receptions for 256 yards and a touchdowns, and Hines also rushed for another 243 yards and a score.
Now he's looking to build on his play, and so is the rest of the offense who will now be under the direction of Eli Drinkwitz. A more "wide receiver friendly" system, Hines is excited about what the Wolfpack fans might see starting Thursday night.
"We only have one time to make a first impression with a new offense," he said. "We're really excited just to go out there and show the world the new NC State [offensive] system."
"Everybody throws me the ball equally," said Hines, smiling. "I feel like no matter who's back there, they're taking the open man, so if I'm the open man, it doesn't matter really who the quarterback is, they'll throw it to me. That's why I'm really honored to play for anyone who's going to start this year.
"Every quarterback has a different standard and a different way they play, so all of them are really great, and like I said, I would be honored to play for any of them."
What should benefit Finley and McClendon is the wealth of weapons NC State has at the skill positions. Hines is expected to be more of a focal point this year, and returning standouts Matthew Dayes and Jaylen Samuels were two of the most productive players in the ACC last season.
"Obviously we have great players," said Hines. "Matt, Jay Sam, Reggie's back from injury. We have a lot of receivers, [Bra'lon] Cherry. Really, it's not even just about the playmakers. Everybody on our team's a playmaker. We're really just going to feature whoever is hot. Whoever is hot is getting the ball.
"Coach Drinkwitz has the ability and the flexibility in the offense to get anybody where he wants to. Whoever the weak man is, we'll try to exploit him and we'll stay with our base plays and try to execute our normal plays."
Hines' biggest impact last season came on special teams. The Wolfpack's starting kickoff returner, he led the ACC in kickoff return yards (920) while averaging 26.3 yards per return, the second-best mark in school history. He returned a kickoff for a score against Clemson, and he was named 2015 Freshman All-American by Athlon and 247 Sports.
He feels he can be even better as a sophomore.
"We've been working hard," said Hines. "Those guys on kick-off return, they've been blocking hard. What is it, our fourth year in the system? Everybody's become a veteran to it, and everybody's getting better with blocking, and I'm getting better with knowing where to run, so them guys have really been working their butts off for me."
The season opener is here and Hines is ready to run out of the tunnel in Carter-Finley Stadium.
"It's surreal. Been working hard. I feel like I blinked and it was June and it was track season. [I'm] really excited to get here and it's money time now. It's really time to grind and show everybody what we're about this year."