I was really excited to be on the field with our guys this spring. We have a lot of experienced players and some good young players too that we were able to get out there and really needed reps.
Just to see some of the veteran guys and the way they've led and how they work together where sometimes they go against each other that much, things can get chippy. Challenge those guys to really work with each other and for each other. I was pleased with the results of that. Had some good situational work throughout the spring. There was some good competitions, and it was good to see some. We had some older players that had to red shirt due to injury last year that were back with us.
Germaine Pratt was one of them I thought had an outstanding spring. Steph Lewis went through it a year ago, and had a great fall for us last year. So sometimes you're adding some depth that has experience. In our case, we were able to do that.
The spring game was a good turnout. We had great weather, lot of good recruits. It's always a nice event raising over $10,000 for Kay Yow and her foundation.
So everything that we thought we would accomplish in the spring, I feel like we did. There are still some question marks in the kicking game in particular with the transfer kicker we have coming in, Carson Wise. Excited to add somebody to that, because that was a struggle last year. Nyheim Hines moved into the back field for us, and excited to see him back there, and then we'll get Reggie Gallaspy, and Dakwa Nichols off injury and have some really good depth. And Jaylen Samuels, move him out of the back field and do some things with him as well.
It's a special class of kids or men, as you could say now. Some of them came in probably before they should, and worked hard and stuck together to form my biggest senior class since they've been at State. It's an honor to be there with them and watch them grow up and see them on the field this spring and how important it is, and the way they've invested and taken ownership in the program.
Dave, with so many of your players on the defense coming back, especially on the defensive line, how do good do you feel that unit can be for you this year?
Well, if they continue to improve on little things, they're definitely as strong and big as we've been up front. You know how it is with injuries. You just hope you can continue to stay injury free there. But we feel like the four seniors that we have, plus Darian Roseboro and Eurndraus Bryant, those six guys have a lot of experience and they're good sized, tough guys. We could be very good up front.
Not just there, I feel like we have two senior linebackers that have played a ton of football, and Airius Moore and Jerod Fernandez. Now you have Riley Nicholson that's a third-year player that's gotten a lot better. Germaine Pratt who probably had our best spring, and then Brock Miller.
So our front six guys are as deep as we've been. We've finished fifth in rushing defense a year ago and challenged our players not to drop off there. Obviously want to improve in other categories around that.
Where did you see the group as a whole make some of its biggest strides this spring?
The team or the defense?
We worked really hard on our third down and red zone stuff in situational areas. We challenged the guys to improve in what we call football IQ areas. We felt like we hurt ourselves in some games. Sometimes your emotions can control you instead of you controlling your emotions. That was something we really worked hard on. I thought you could see that in some of our older players really demanding things from each other.
I think the biggest thing you see maybe is not a football thing. It's more intangible. But just the ownership and the accountability guys have and they're holding each other to a standard as opposed to just turning the other cheek. When they see something they don't like, they're really keeping each other in check, and demanding the same way the coaches do from each other, and that's a great sign.
With Hines at running back, what impressed you about him at that spot during spring?
He was a runner in high school more than he was a receiver. So it's just natural for him. He does have an innate ability to see things. Sometimes it's kind of forced with guys when it comes to see eight whole or making a cut. He's really good when it comes to our stretch play, planting his foot and the defense.
He runs harder than a lot of people think. He's a small guy maybe in height, but he's 195 pounds and he's not easy to tackle. So just seeing how hard he would run behind his offensive line was impressive.
You mentioned Carson Wise from our area, what about him kind of caught your eye and decided to bring him in? How does he fit into the kicking picture heading into August ball?
Well, it's his job to lose. The biggest thing, we were looking for an accurate guy that was proven on the field, and that would be able to come in and handle not just field goals under pressure, but the different things that you want to do as a football team with your kickoff coverage and ball placement and hang time. Talked to a lot of different people, watched a ton of film, and got to know him once he had his release. Just felt like he was somebody that could come in and help us in an area that we needed help.
Coach, to kind of go off of that and speak on a guy that's advanced out of the back field into the NFL Draft, just what you can say about Matt Dayes and what a team would be getting by picking him up?
Well, you're first of all getting an incredible person. I think Matt, everybody loves Matt as a person. A human being, great worker, treats everyone with respect. So just the ultimate player and teammate, which I know NFL clubs, like college teams, it's something that you want in your locker room.
He loves the game. He's super competitive, very hard on himself. Skillset-wise, I think he's one of the more skilled guys when it comes to catching the football. His ability to put his foot in the ground and get to top speed, you know, people may question his 40 time, I guess, but when it comes to getting to top speed fast, making good decisions and being aggressive and all of that, I think Matt's as good as any of them.
I know he's going to give them everything he has every day, which to me, that's what being a pro is all about.
Then, when you look back and giving everything you've got, when you look at that moment that you came into N.C. State to where this program is right now, just speak on the consistent productivity and the build of this plan to a program that obviously has gone to the bowl games, won bowl games and is establishing itself here in the ACC?
We've been to three straight bowls and won two of the three. We had teams that were very competitive. I think last year was probably our most competitive team. But didn't always get to feel what we wanted to feel at the end of it. Just to watch these guys grow, like I said at the beginning, Bradley Chubb and Justin Jones and B.J. Hill, Kentavius Street, Jerod Fernandez and Airius Moore, they were all playing when they were 18 years old. They should have been red shirted, but we didn't have that luxury. Now they're grown men, and they're tough, and they're great leaders.
There are guys like that on the entire football team, not just the defense. That's been the most gratifying thing is watching these guys stick together and fight and become somebody that I know no matter who we play, it's going to be a physical game. We're going to play hard for four quarters and do everything we can to be in it and win it in the end.