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September 11, 2012

Wolfpack receivers progressing smoothly

The NC State wide receivers were a question mark going into the season, but are starting to take shape under new coach Troy Walters.

Walters was a terrific receiver with Stanford in winning the 1999 Fred Biletnikoff Award, after catching 74 passes for 1,456 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Cardinal. Walters went on to play seven years in the NFL, and caught 102 passes for 1,135 yards and nine touchdowns. The former fifth-round draft choice also returned punts and kickoffs during his pro career.

The Wolfpack receivers are all adjusting to new roles under the guidance of Walters and offensive coordinator Dana Bible. Redshirt junior Quintin Payton has emerged with seven catches for 177 yards, and redshirt sophomore Bryan Underwood scored the game-winning touchdown with a 46-yard grab against UConn last Saturday. Fifth-year senior Tobais Palmer leads the team with nine catches for 74 yards.

Walters is coaching players of varying experience. For instance, redshirt junior Rashard Smith and redshirt freshman Tyrrell Burriss both are making the conversion from cornerback. Redshirt freshmen Maurice Morgan and Hakeem Flowers are starting to learn the ins and outs of the offense.

The NCSU receivers collectively have 23 catches for 323 yards and two scores, both by Underwood.

"The older guys who know the offense like Tobais, Quintin, Bryan for the most part, do a good job of helping the younger guys," Walters said. "My philosophy is to teach and coach as if they don't know it.

"The guys that know it, and I've been around [quarterback] Peyton Manning [currently with the Denver Broncos], and he said you can always learn something each day."

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Payton has already eclipsed his receiving yards from last year (seven catches for 107 yards).

"That comes from the way he's practicing, and he's doing the same things in practice," Walters said. "I tell the guys that how you practice is how you play."

Charlie Hegedus is the lone true freshman in the group, and he's caught two passes for 18 yards, but has proven to be ahead of the curve with his early playing time.

"Charlie has been great because as a freshman to come in and grasp this offense, and what we do, it's not an easy offense to grasp," Walters said. "He grasped it early and made plays early in a couple of scrimmages with a couple of deep balls."

NC State rotates 6-to-7 receivers each game, and Hegedus could end up working his way up the rotation. Palmer, Payton and Underwood have been taking the most snaps out of the group.

"He's proven that he is a guy that we are going to count on this season," Walters said. "When they throw him the ball, he makes plays. He has a tremendous future and we are excited about the progress he is making."

The rotation helps the receivers stay fresh for the most part. Palmer had 58 snaps and Payton 56 against UConn.

"When you play 50, 60 plays, you get tired and your mind starts wandering," Walters said. "We have to be mentally tougher than we've been."

Walters wants to see the receivers become more consistent in the details, whether it's running routes or blocking.

"There are times we aren't getting our depth where we are two, three yards short," Walters said. "There was a couple of times we were running the wrong route. For the most part, they know what to do."

N.C. State NEWS


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