When Matt Dayes was a senior at Weston (Fla.) Cypress Bay High last season, he rushed 237 times for 1,878 yards and 31 touchdowns. He helped lead Cypress Bay to the 8-A state title game and was named the talent-rich region's player of the year by the Sun-Sentinal.
It is safe to say that going from being "the man" on a top high school team in the ultra-competitive Florida high school football scene to a reserve back on a building program in college has been an adjustment for Dayes.
"It's been rough cause I am not out there as much I am used to, but I am getting better everyday, and I am getting more opportunities as I go on," Dayes pointed out.
"I just got to be patient and just wait for my turn, and when I get the opportunity to play I need to take full advantage of it."
Dayes started the season with a bang, carrying 17 times for 84 yards and three touchdowns in the opening win over Louisiana Tech. He added 90 total yards (43 rushing and 47 receiving) and another score against Richmond a week later.
He had a 42-yard touchdown run in the win over Central Michigan Sept. 28, but he also got hurt in that game. He was unable to play in the loss at Wake Forest Oct. 5, and since then his carries have been limited.
Over the past two games though Dayes is starting to find his stride again. He caught a 44-yard pass at Duke, and then his 61-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass at Boston College last Saturday was one of the highlights of the contest for the Wolfpack.
Dayes felt prepared for the college experience thanks to his time at Cypress Bay.
"To tell you the truth, it's really not that much of a difference," Dayes said. "Everyone is much faster and stuff, but the competition I played at in high school is pretty good."
Dayes is NCSU's second-leading rusher with 54 carries for 221 yards and four touchdowns. He's also caught 10 passes for 173 yards and a score. Dayes though believes he can do better, much better.
"I don't think I have done very well this year," he said. "Most definitely need to work on my blocking and get better with the playbook. I've been having a hard time trying to cope with the plays, and I'm still trying to understand what I am supposed to do."
Once Dayes masters the finer points of the offense and fundamentals of being a college running back, those opportunities he once took for granted in high school could become more plentiful in college.