Jaylen Samuels got a respite from practice on Tuesday. After his performance in the opener, the N.C. State senior had earned it.
Samuels was everywhere in the Wolfpack’s 35-28 loss to South Carolina last Saturday. The receiver/running back/tight end caught 15 passes (for 85 yards), which equaled a school record, and scored a touchdown. Despite a hamstring injury, he was on the field more, too, which was an offseason priority.
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The rest of the team was in pads on Tuesday, but Samuels went through the practice in shorts and a T-shirt. He tweaked his left hamstring in the second half of Saturday’s loss. He came back on the field with a compression band stretched from his waist to his left heel – one South Carolina defender even used the stretchy-band to tackle Samuels on one play in the second half.
“It actually helped,” Samuels said of the unique looking band.
A little rest won’t hurt, either. Samuels was on the field for 80 of N.C. State’s official 99 offensive snaps. That’s a career-high in plays on the field and second-highest percentage (80.8) of plays in his career (he was on the field for 84.1 percent of the snaps against Florida State last year).
Quarterback Ryan Finley targeted Samuels 17 times and Samuels came down with 15 passes, which tied Torry Holt’s school record for catches in a game.
Samuels has led N.C. State in receptions the past two years but this was actually the first time he recorded double-digit catches in a game. His previous best was eight, against Clemson in both 2015 and ’16.
There was some talk in the preseason about using Samuels more at halfback, but he took the majority of his snaps in the slot (62). He was lined up as the lone back on his fourth-quarter touchdown catch, from 1 yard out, on fourth-and-goal.
Samuels also had one rushing attempt, on an option play for 9 yards, in the first quarter.
The ultimate goal, either as a pass-catcher or runner, is to get Samuels more involved in the offense and about 15 touches per game.
“Coach Drink told me during the week, he was going to try to give me the ball way more,” Samuels said of offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz.
Being on the field more will help achieve those goals. Samuels was only on the field for 54.6 percent of the team’s plays in 2016.
Staying healthy is a big part of that equation. Samuels had dealt with ankle and shoulder injuries the previous two years. He said after the game he didn’t think the hamstring would be an issue.
“I kind of tweaked it a little bit blocking,” Samuels said. “It wasn’t that serious. It wasn’t a pop or anything, it was just a strain.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio