NC State's wide receiving corps took a sudden jolt in recent weeks. First freshman Johnathon Alston hurt his elbow while trying to run a jet sweep at No. 3 Florida State. The injury ended Alston's season.
Alston had only played sparingly from the line of scrimmage for NCSU, but he was an integral part of its special teams.
Then within a week later, redshirt junior Bryan Underwood suffered a collarbone injury and was also lost for the season. Underwood is NCSU's leading receiver, catching 32 passes for 382 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 12 times for 135 yards.
The result is receivers coach Frisman Jackson reshuffling the depth chart to compensate for the losses.
"Obviously we are losing the vertical passing game of Underwood, and then Alston gave us help on special teams," Jackson noted. "He was on all of the big four of special teams. All it created was an opportunity for other guys to come in and step up and make plays.
"It gave more reps to [Travares] Copeland and more reps to [Jumichael] Ramos, and I think they have gotten better because of that. It's tough losing those guys, but also gives guys opportunities to come in and get them."
Against UNC, the first game State played without Underwood and Alston, Jackson only used five receivers. He prefers to go into every game with eight dressed wide outs available to play. Against UNC though, Jackson said that only five played because "just the way the game was going."
"It had nothing to do with where we are headed as a group," Jackson added.
Players that did not see action against UNC, such as sophomore Charlie Hegedus and freshman Bra'Lon Cherry, are still being counted on, especially since Jackson admitted he has not been pleased with the performance of his unit against both FSU and UNC.
"Obviously, [FSU is] one of the best teams in the country, but we missed out on some opportunities," Jackson stated. "We have to do a better job of protecting the football. We had three drops the previous game, and that's something we talked about that was big this year was not dropping the football.
"I just want to see collectively all the guys play well. The last couple of games we have not played well as a group. I don't want to see one particular guy, I was to see the whole group, all eight guys that get a chance to play, play well. We have an opportunity, we just have to get out there and take advantage of the opportunity."