This season represents what fifth-year senior tight end Mario Carter admits is a "great" opportunity for him.
It also reminds him of what it felt like as "a kid as in junior year of high school."
Carter's junior season at Independence High in Charlotte was also the last time he was both healthy and starting. Before his senior year, Carter tore his ACL, an injury that practically led to his redshirting in 2008 at NC State.
After a promising spring, including a spring game performance where he caught six passes for 68 yards, Carter once again tore his ACL the following preseason, costing him another year.
It was not until 2010 when Carter was healthy, and by this point George Bryan had established himself as an All-ACC tight end for the Wolfpack.
Carter played sparingly in 2010, catching a pass for 14 yards, and then added nine receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown in an increased role last season.
When Carter looked back at 2011 however, he saw something that he did not like
"I really focused, got back in film, study myself from the beginning of the season to the last game, and see what I needed to work on, and one thing that came across was my body composition," Carter admitted. "I played too big last year. It was sloppy in a sense. It was bringing my speed down."
He worked diligently with strength and conditioning coach Corey Emdond and his staff to increase his core strength during the summer.
"It was about slimming down, and getting my core strong," Carter said. "I really didn't know anything about that. I was like, 'I can run routes, get open and catch pretty well.' Your core is everything.
"If you have a strong core, you can do everything. You can move, you can go low, if somebody pushes you can stay in position, stay strong."
The result of working with Edmond has led Carter to lose at least 20 pounds. Carter acknowledged that he was about 275-280 pounds last year, and he checked in this preseason at 255.
Now Carter is hoping to translate that hard work from the offseason into a successful senior campaign.
"It's been very exciting," Carter said. "The opportunity is great. The competition is great. I like competition because it brings the best in me. As a person, I am very competitive.
"I'm trying to take advantage of it."