NC State rising redshirt sophomore wide receiver Bryan Underwood has a golden opportunity to create his mark in the Wolfpack passing game.
Underwood was part of the Wolfpack's wide receiver rotation last year, catching 16 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. He made his one start a memorable one when he snagged three catches for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns in NC State's 28-14 win at Virginia.
Underwood got the start after Tobais Palmer suffered a concussion during pregame warmups, plus T.J. Graham had a first-half suspension. The 5-foot-11, 174-pounder showed off his speed with a 79-yard touchdown reception after previously catching a 33-yard score from quarterback Mike Glennon.
Underwood looks back fondly on the Virginia win and hopes to create future memories next fall.
"There was a lot of big memories like scoring my first touchdown, and I set a freshman record [for longest touchdown]," Underwood said. "I'm not trying to stop it because I'm trying to build from it and keep on staying positive. I'm trying to learn from what I did."
Underwood watched the UVa game more than a few times during this offseason. He also tries to check out Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson to learn some new tricks of the trade.
"I want to learn anything I can to get better," Underwood said. "I try to steal the routines that DeSean Jackson does. I'll also see what guys who are bigger than me are doing. I'm trying to put everything I've seen into one."
Underwood's freshman numbers compare favorably to two recent Wolfpack wide receivers at the same stage.
Owen Spencer caught five passes for 73 yards in five games his freshman year, before emerging as a sophomore for 31 receptions for 691 and five scores.
Graham caught 16 passes for 251 yards his true freshman season, but also made his mark in the return game. Graham broke out his senior year at wide receiver with 46 receptions for 757 yards and seven scores.
Underwood will be trying to fill the void of NC State losing Graham, along with Jay Smith and Steven Howard.
"I'm real comfortable," Underwood said. "I've taken all of the previous two years to learn the playbook. I'm just getting ready for when I have to step up, and this year it looks like I will have to.
"If you don't see anybody doing it [stepping up] or even if you see someone else doing it, you want to match it. You always want to come out with a positive mindset."
Coach Tom O'Brien has pointed out Underwood on a few occasions this spring as someone who has improved since the fall.
"I'm just taking everyday and trying to learn," Underwood said. "I'm looking at past film and studying what I can, and trying to get better in practice."
Underwood is on the second string behind junior Quintin Payton on the spring organizational chart. He admits there is a unique feeling between starting and being a part of the receiver rotation off the bench.
"It's a big difference," Underwood said. "I started in the Virginia game, so that was a new feeling for that game. I'm just trying to build on what I had in that Virginia game, and put it out there this year."
Underwood, Palmer and rising redshirt senior cornerback C.J. Wilson, joined the Wolfpack men's track and field team during the indoor season. Underwood participated in six indoor track meets in the 60-meter dash, and also ran the 200 once. He recorded a 6.99-second mark at the JDL Fast Track meet Feb. 11 in Winston-Salem, N.C., to finish 12th for his top time.
"Track has gotten me conditioned before spring ball," said Underwood, who will resume his track career following the Kay Yow Spring Game on April 21. "I got a little bit of my speed back. I know it's going to help me out in the long run if I go out [for outdoor season]."
Palmer had the fastest time out of the three football players with a 6.88 in the 60.
"I have to give it up to Tobais," Underwood said. "If we go out back in outdoor, we'll see who has the best 100. Tobais right now has the upper hand."