It was a long and winding road from Pittsboro (N.C.) Northwood High School to NC State for wide receiver Tobais Palmer, but everything came together last year and he enjoyed a solid debut campaign with the Wolfpack.
Palmer finished with 12 appearances and seven starts as a redshirt junior, while he hauled in 37 passes for 496 yards and five scores. The pass catching crew that surrounds Palmer is pretty inexperienced, but the 5-foot-11, 175 pound fifth-year senior is confident in himself and his teammates.
"So far, practice is going well," he said. "We're trying to come together as one big, strong unit and all be on the same page. We have some young guys that we have to take up under our wing and help get them going, but everything is going well and we're looking pretty good so far."
Palmer proved to be a pretty quick study in the NC State offense. He played running back until arriving in Raleigh before the 2010 season, but he'll enter his final campaign as the Pack's top returning wide out.
"By me being more comfortable with the offense, it helps me to actually reach out to the younger guys and help them grasp the offense like I did," Palmer noted.
The Pack would be greatly aided in their quest this season if some of those younger receivers emerged opposite of Palmer, redshirt juniors Quintin Payton and Rashard Smith, and redshirt sophomore Bryan Underwood because offensive coordinator Dana Bible likes to rotate his pass catchers, utilizing as many as six or seven at one time. Underwood was the most productive last year outside of Palmer, with 16 receptions for 226 yards and two scores, while Payton has hauled in 11 passes in 23 games played and Smith is a former cornerback with one career catch.
"The young guys, [true freshman] Charlie Hegedus, [redshirt freshman] Maurice Morgan and [redshirt freshman] Hakeem Flowers, all of those guys are making big plays right now and stepping up," Palmer said. "Overall, we bring explosiveness. We're going to move fast and we're going to play big at the same time. Most of all, we're going to play physical. We're going to try to keep playing fast, playing physical and make big plays went the team needs them."
Palmer is one of seven returning starters on offense, and one of eight seniors projected to start on that side of the ball this season.
"We're all confident as seniors," he said. "We all have one goal this year - that's to go all out, finish as ACC Champions, earn an opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl and fulfill our dreams of getting rings and playing in a BCS bowl."
Palmer enjoyed some of his best games on the biggest stages for NC State in 2011. In his first start at Wake Forest, which was just his second game at the FBS level, he paced the squad with seven catches and totaled 96 yards and a touchdown through the air. He came up big once again in the Pack's fifth-straight victory over North Carolina, and tallied five receptions for 94 yards, including a 54-yard catch and run.
In the upset of No. 7 Clemson, he scored a 43-yard touchdown and hauled in three passes for a total of 82 yards. He also scored in the memorable comeback victory over Maryland and again in the Belk Bowl win over Louisville, meaning that he found the end zone in each of the team's final three games of 2011. Due to that strong finish, he knows that many opposing defenses will concentrate on stopping him first in the passing game.
"I know the secondary may key on me because I'm the leading receiver coming back, so it's going to open up a lot more plays for the younger guys and the guys who didn't play as much last year," he noted. "That motivates me to be better than what I was last year and work on my weaknesses.
"This offseason, I worked on my route running, so I'm better at that and I have more awareness of where I need to be on plays. I'm ready to step up and make plays this year."
Palmer is excited to work with quarterback Mike Glennon once again, and his classsmate's presence under center raises his confidence in the offense even more.
"It's a great opportunity to work with Mike, he's one of the nation's top quarterbacks," he said. "Just having him on my team and having him as my quarterback is a blessing.
"This year, my goal is to go all-out. It's my last opportunity, it's my last shot and I want to be remembered for something here at NC State when I leave at the end of the season."