Wolfpack young receivers look to make mark in spring game
Jumichael Ramos figures North Carolina State's young receivers have the chance to turn last year's struggles into an asset.
"We made plays not even knowing most of the situations that go on, but we still made it through," Ramos said. "If we can do it then, why can't we do it now?"
Ramos was a freshman in coach Dave Doeren's first season, part of a group that's trying to make the position a strength as N.C. State wraps up spring practice this week. Those youngsters flashed talent but also inconsistency that matched the struggles that plagued the entire team during an 0-8 run through the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"We look for that group to be a lot better than they were a year ago just because of the game reps that they've had," Doeren said. "We need to have an explosive spring at that position."
N.C. State closes offseason drills with Saturday's Kay Yow Spring Game, which will be the public's first look at the offense led by Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. Brissett's success could depend largely on whether receivers like Ramos and fellow rising sophomores Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Bra'Lon Cherry have built some confidence after last year's bumpy game experiences.
Ramos was the team's third-leading receiver with 24 catches for 352 yards and three touchdowns, while Valdes-Scantling was fifth with 22 catches for 281 yards. Cherry had eight catches for 68 yards before missing the final three games due to injury.
That trio is poised for bigger roles next year behind senior Bryan Underwood after the departure of top receiver Rashard Smith, especially with freshmen Bo Hines and Stephen Louis joining the mix as January enrollees.
Brissett said he got to know last year's newcomers while sitting out as a transfer, then rarely missed a chance to throw with them during the spring to build on-field chemistry.
Brissett said he can see the benefits of last year's experience for those receivers, down to the simple things like knowing where to line up without any hesitation or the way they handle off-the-field responsibilities. In Ramos' case, for example, Doeren said that's meant building better habits in the weight room.
"They're not freshmen anymore," Brissett said. "They had to grow up, they had to be on their own and live by themselves. And it's more of 'I know what I'm doing, I'm about to go out there and do it.'
"That's what you need out there at receiver — you need those players that you know every time they line up, they're going to win, they're going to get the ball. They're going to do what they have to do to make the team better."
They also know how to handle tough times after the Wolfpack's frustrating three-win season, too.
"The experience from last year has just helped me out a lot," Ramos said. "Knowing what to do on certain downs, how to take adversity, being down and trying to come back and win — you've got to be mentally strong, so it taught me a lot."