NC State fifth-year senior wide receiver Rashard Smith started the season on fire. He was contributing in every facet of the game and ranked fifth in the ACC with an average of 132.8 all-purpose yards per contest heading into the tilt with Wake Forest on Oct. 5.
However, Smith was injured after he logged just six plays and was able to make one catch for seven yards. He was not able to get back on the field for the Syracuse game, either, but after a bye week, he is ready to go for Florida State.
"It feels great being back out here trying to help my team and being with my brothers," he said. "We're striving for success and it feels good to be back."
The Georgia native, who currently ranks eighth in the ACC for all-purpose yards, has recorded 21 catches for 242 yards, rushed 14 times for 105 yards, returned four kickoffs for 117 yards and has taken back seven punts for 114 yards and a touchdown. His return should aid the offense in just about every aspect, but he is not the only guy returning from injury.
At one point in the Syracuse game, the team was without seven of its starters from the season opener and two guys who had stepped in, quarterback Pete Thomas and cornerback Jack Tocho, were also lost due to injury. The majority of those wounded players, including quarterback Brandon Mitchell, left tackle Joe Thuney and Smith, are expected back on Saturday.
"It gave the team a new type of energy, it's the first time all of us have been healthy since the first game of the year," Smith said. "We've got a lot of guys back, not too many guys are on injured reserve.
"Brandon looks good, ever since the day he got hurt, he's been focused. He's been studying the playbook, watching film, coming out and throwing — he did that even when he was hurt, just to make sure his mechanics stayed sharp. When he came back to practice, he looked even better then before. Having Brandon back in that leadership role at quarterback is great."
Needless to say the bye week came at the right time for State.
"The bye week helped a lot," Smith noted. "It helped us get all the guys back healthy, we studied more film on Florida State and they played last week, so a lot of guys got together and watched the Florida State-Clemson game.
"A healthy team is better than a beat-up team. We've got a six-game season left, and we're trying to win all of them."
Smith has been a part of the Pack for the program's last two victories over Florida State. In 2012, NCSU upended No. 3 at Florida State and they did the same to the nation's 16th ranked squad in Raleigh during the 2010 campaign.
He also has memories from the last trip down to Tallahassee, where FSU won, 34-0. However, Smith played cornerback then and noted that crowd noise doesn't have much of an impact on that side of the ball for the away team. It will be a different story Saturday, and the coaching staff has been blaring the Florida State fight song for a week at practice. Smith said that has helped the players tune the crowd and band noise out, while they focus on the task at hand.
"We've heard the song the whole week at practice, now we've got to go down to Florida State Saturday and hear it the whole game," he said. "It's just like coaches yelling at practice now because we've heard it so much.
"It's a great environment [at FSU], it's one of the most traditional stadiums in college football. I just tell the team to stay focused, focus on the little things and the things we work on every day. We're just going into another stadium to play another football team that puts their pants on the same way we do. We've just got to focus and execute the game plan."