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April 10, 2013

Backs ready to run in new offense



Running backs Tony Creecy and Shadrach Thornton shouldered much of the load on the ground last season for NC State, and the duo combined to rush for 1,170 yards, while they also hauled in 64 passes for another 456 yards and scored 10 total touchdowns.

However, the rushers have never been the focal point of the offense at NC State, and that could change in 2013. That won't be the only difference this fall — the new system will be an up-tempo spread, and the backfield tandem is looking forward to their opportunity to thrive in offensive coordinator Matt Canada's preferred style of attack.

"It is a whole lot quicker," Thornton said of the offense's pace. "In one minute, we could've already run about 40 plays. It's crazy, they've got us going rapid. Realistically, it's only about 10 plays, but I love it.

"It's going to kill [defenses]. The defense is going to be real tired and it's going to open up holes. The offensive linemen are going to be in real good shape and we're going to be in real good shape, so when they're tired, we're going to be standing tall with our chests held high, ready to run the ball, pass the ball and block for the ball."

"It's a whole different offense," Creecy added. "We're not huddling every play, sometimes we just keep going. I think it will work to our benefit. We're going to keep plugging away and, by the third or fourth quarter, I think we're going to be knocking them back from them being tired and us being in shape."

Thornton, a rising sophomore, has experience running a spread system from high school, and although he admits that did not play a factor in his college decision, he knows how well that style fits him and Creecy.

"It's much different, there's a lot of space, but I love it," he explained. "You get the ball deep, so you can make decisions early. You can get your eyes on your read keys faster.

"Zone will always be zone, no matter what formation we're in, but the running lanes are much larger. The blocking scheme is a little bit complicated, but it's working and everybody is getting it. We're student-athletes, so we're able to obtain the information, go out there and do it."

One thing that probably won't change is how much the two backs are used in the passing game. Both tallied at least 30 receptions last season, and the well-rounded tandem is excited to contribute in all facets of the game.

"We've got a real good combination," Creecy, a former high school wide receiver, said. "Shadrach is a great running back; he runs the ball hard, has great vision. We possess the same things. Once we keep plugging away, it's going to be hard to stop us. It's good because when I come out and he comes in, or when he comes out and I come in, we never lose a step and it keeps going.

"They utilize us both really well — running the ball, getting us out on the perimeter and catching the ball. It's going to be a great offense."

Last year gave Thornton some game experience under his belt and his average of 69.4 rushing yards per game ranked fourth in the ACC. Despite not appearing in the first three games, he paced the Wolfpack with 694 yards on the ground and he ranked second with an average of 96.8 all-purpose yards per game. Despite the encouraging debut, he has focused on improving his blocking and vision this offseason, while he notes that running backs coach Des Kitchings also preaches that, "ball security is job security."

Meanwhile, Creecy, a rising redshirt junior, has eight starts and 23 appearances, while he has logged over 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage during his career. Both players know that the team has a long ways to go until they're ready for the fall, but they're confident the offensive changes can bring success.

"We're not close to being conditioned to run the offense right now," Creecy admitted. "Once we keep plugging away at it with these practices, summer workouts and then camp, we'll be ready for it by the time we play Louisiana Tech."

"We're still progressing to get there," Thornton agreed. "It's a challenge, but we're up for the challenge."


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