One of the most promising players of the 2010 season was true freshman running back Mustafa Greene. The four-star recruit out of Irmo, S.C. led the team in rushing with 597 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, in addition to 272 yards and another pair of scores through the air.
However, the 6-foot, 213-pounder was unable to build on his impressive debut campaign after injuring his foot last April during spring practice. Originally, the youngster was projected to return in October, but a second surgery forced him to miss the entire season and redshirt.
Greene was back in action at NC State's first practice of the spring last Friday, and nothing could make the tailback happier.
"It's exciting, it's been a long time coming," he said of his return. "I'm just excited to be back out there and work hard with my teammates. Hopefully, we'll have a good season.
"[The past 12 months] were tough, but my teammates have been behind me the whole time. With the new [running backs] coach [Des Kitchings] and everything, he makes me feel good, it's been a good transition and everything. My trainers have been getting me right, so I feel pretty good."
Although Greene is working with his third different running backs coach during his time in Raleigh, he said he feels there could be an advantage in getting three different points of view as he molds himself into a college back.
"I feel comfortable around him and everything," Greene said of his new mentor. "We're forming a bond. Coach Kitchings is more of a don't run it out of bounds type of guy. He wants us to work hard, go 110 percent on every play and he's definitely big on the playbook. He wants us to get in and out of the playbook, and know it like the back of our hand."
That shouldn't be a problem for Greene, who spent last season watching his teammates and working on the mental parts of his game while he was limited physically. However, Greene felt no ill effects from the time off when he returned to the practice field for the first time.
"It wasn't boring to me [to sit out last season] because it's always fun watching my boys play football and everything," he said. "I would kind of dread some of the days, some days I felt worse than others. Otherwise, I was good and we had a good season.
"It felt good to be back out there. My adrenaline was pumping, so hopefully tomorrow I don't feel too bad, but it was pumping today, and I felt good. Just getting back out there with the guys is fun to me, I love it. I didn't have any butterflies or anything like that."
Greene is anxiously awaiting later this week, when the full pads are put on and the contact starts.
"I can't wait for that," he said. "That will be the real test. Hopefully, they'll let me get hit a couple of times, so I can lay the hits, too. That's what I want to do. I'm not sure yet, it's probable right now, but I'm going to tell [the coaches and trainers] I'm ready to go. Ultimately, it's up to them."