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September 5, 2013

Freshman receivers provide spark for Wolfpack



NC State needed an infusion of young playmakers at wide receiver, and based on the first game of the season, the Wolfpack appear to have found it.

Freshman Marquez Valdes-Scantling of St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood High earned his first start in the Wolfpack's 40-14 win over Louisiana Tech last Saturday. Bra'Lon Cherry of New Bern (N.C.) High, Jumichael Ramos of Hampton (Ga.) Lovejoy High and Johnathan Alston of Bunn (N.C.) High also were part of the receiver rotation.

Valdes-Scantling led the team with 87 yards receiving on four catches, and Ramos added one catch for 28 yards and Cherry had one reception for five yards. All four of Valdes-Scantling's catches went for at least 19 yards.

"He has done that since he got here for training camp started," NC State wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson said. "He has the ability to catch the ball away from his body and do some things like that.

"He has a long ways to go, and I don't want him to get satisfied or big-headed about what he did. Like I told him, it has to be every week — consistent players."

Pharoah McKever of Tabor City (N.C.) South Columbus High and West Virginia sophomore transfer Travares Copeland have yet to play, with the latter out for stretches of fall camp with a hamstring injury. The Wolfpack's class of 2013 is poised to be a quality group.

"I thought they played hard and made some plays," Jackson said. "We have to do better on the perimeter blocking, but for a first game, they came in there and competed and weren't scared. They got better as the game progressed. They still have a long way to go."

Jackson said his group came ready to go when fall camp started, but eventually hit the wall in August.

"I was a little bit nervous in how far they'd bounce back from that, but they were ready game one," Jackson said.

NC State returned fifth-year seniors Rashard Smith and Quintin Payton, and redshirt junior Bryan Underwood with past starting experience. Sophomore Charlie Hegedus and redshirt sophomore Maurice Morgan round out the group. The Wolfpack only had six scholarship wide receivers this past spring.

Jackson doesn't have a magic number in mind for the wide receiver rotation, but he has a nice dilemma to work with.

"I don't want to throw a number out there, but like I told those guys, we have a deep group, a very, very deep group," Jackson said. "It is going to be based upon practice performance. If you practice well and I can trust that you can go out and execute and do the things right, you will get out on the field and play.

"I think we have 10 guys that can go out there and make plays if we need them too."

Smith has emerged a leader for the younger receivers. He caught five passes for 82 yards and rushed three times for 28 against Louisiana Tech.

"He has been in the fire and has played," Jackson said. "He has had success and failures. I think they understand that. I think he does a great job of communicating and getting the guys going. He is a leader."

Jackson wasn't satisfied with the run blocking by the receivers as a group, but felt the guys caught the ball well.

"We have to do a better job on the perimeter blocking," Jackson said.


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