Before tomorrow night’s game at North Carolina State, CSZ had the opportunity to sit down with Red and White Podcast’s Evan Roberts. You can follow him on Twitter (@ER) and his podcast (@redwhitepodcast). Red and White Podcast is also available on Stitcher, Soundcloud and on redwhitepodcast.com.
JK: Most media members had NC State labeled as a dark horse for the ACC this year. Those expectations were tempered initially with the opening loss to South Carolina. Has it been in the discussion again, after winning on the road at Florida State?
ER: The hype is real and palpable around Raleigh. I think most people are able to excuse the first game for a variety of reasons. USC has played everyone close, NC State was without some key offensive linemen and we beat them in every facet of the game other than the score. Add that to the FSU victory and then somehow not doing what we normally do in those situations which would be losing to Syracuse in between FSU and Louisville. This is a good team and people see that, but we have to temper expectations on these sorts of things because we’ve just not done it consistently.
JK: As you may have seen, 93.9 FM’s Mark Ennis proclaimed he would eat a live animal if NC State made the playoffs. What would you do if NC State made it? Have you ever made a similar bet in sports?
ER: First, it is generally known around Raleigh that Ennis likes to troll and especially troll State fans. A lot of the radio guys do it, we’re an easy target. But he’s not wrong. Cole Cubelic (the SEC guy that made that prediction) recognized this team as a very good one with all the pieces. But when people say NC State, it is easy to do what he did and scoff at the thought of the Wolfpack actually having a team capable of competing in the mighty ACC Atlantic.
I don’t even want to think about NC State making the playoff, we’ve got to compete in the ACC Atlantic first. State fans were probably the most vocal about Cubelic’s prognostication with the “you’re crazy” or “thanks for the jinx.” We’re not a confident bunch. I’ve made a lot of stupid bets in my life, but as I’ve gotten older I typically limit those to a bottle of something brown or even something that brings me a little more joy. Like forcing the loser to sign up for TrashTalkingText.com for a few weeks. Nothing worse than a slow and painful death by SMS.
JK: Matthew Dayes did a lot for the Wolfpack as a multi-purpose back. How has (head coach) Dave Doeren worked to replace him this season?
ER: We miss Matt Dayes, there is no doubt about it. He was an all-everything back and Doeren relied on him heavily. The only positive thing about losing a guy like that to the NFL is that it gives other playmakers the chance for more touches. More touches for Jaylen Samuels, Kelvin Harmon and Nyheim Hines in particular are good things.
Hines move from the slot to RB, which is probably more of a natural position for him and he keeps getting better. He’s got all-world track speed and he’s learning how to run like a RB as we saw last week, where he rushed for his first 100+ yard game. He hasn’t really broken one yet, but he will. He’s fast, tough and starting to be more patient. Glad to have him for another year, he’s got big things in front of him and hopefully big holes.
JK: Jaylen Samuels is a tremendous talent. NC State uses him a lot as the H-back, balanced between runs and catches. Where do you see him as a possible NFL Draft prospect?
ER: We talk about this just about every week on the podcast, RedAndWhitePodcast.com, and never seem to come to a conclusion. He doesn’t fit anywhere but he also didn’t fit anywhere in high school either, but guys that can just play football are invaluable. Put him in a system like the Patriots or with a coach that knows how to use a guy like that and he’ll find success. In high school, his senior year, he scored every 2.8 touches. That is absurd, and at NC State he’s doing the same sort of thing. He makes plays, he scores, he does everything He’s one of those guys that you want to pull for. Any fan base that gets JaySam will love him.
JK: Aside from Samuels and Brandon Chubb, give me one player on offense and defense we should be watching for.
ER: Well, I already talked a bit about Hines but Finley might be the most underrated QB in the league. He’s in complete control of the offense each game no matter what the situation is. It helps that he’s got a couple of horses to throw to as well. Sophomore Kelvin Harmon will play on Sundays. He’s that good and he’s still young. A big tough kid that makes plays, Finley relies on him a lot. Other guys like Jacobi Meyers, who everyone probably saw on Sportscenter’s Top 10 making Derwin James look silly as he broke his ankles and bolted to a 75 yard TD. He’s a smaller guy that plays in the slot but is really starting to find a place in Finley’s offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, B.J Hill and Justin Jones are the interior. They don’t get the love Chubb does but those two are space eaters and give Chubb the room to operate. There is a reason we are a top ten run defense and it’s those guys. As a Louisville fan, watch our secondary. They’re inexperienced and susceptible to big plays. Petrino will exploit that.
JK: For NC State to beat Louisville on Thursday, they will need to _______ & _______.
ER: Contain Lamar Jackson and control the ball. Quarterbacks that can run have killed NC State in the past. Seems like the easy answer but it is true. If we can disrupt him a little bit and avoid doing any stupid things, we’ll be in the game until the end. It’s a big task for sure.
JK: Switching gears to basketball, what’s been the buzz surrounding NC State basketball and new head coach Kevin Keatts?
ER: Keatts is saying & doing all the right things. He’s bringing in talent, but unfortunately they are transfers and have to sit a year. I hope Wolfpack fans have patience with him this year. This team will win some games, but the guard play might not be what Keatts needs to run his system. Overall, the hire looks great on paper and I think he’ll bring a new identity to NC State baskeball, a much needed one….that plays defense.
We thank Evan Roberts for taking the time to interview with us at CSZ, and wish for a good game tomorrow.