Aug. 7, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. - Back in the winter of 2011, NC State signed a 235-pound offensive tackle out of Centerville, Ohio. As that young man prepares to become a full-time starter at center for the 2013 season, Joe Thuney has not only changed positions but has also changed his body.
Thuney arrived in Raleigh in the 235-240 pound range in the summer of 2011. He redshirted the 2011 season, but that might have been the most important step toward getting ready to become the Pack's starting center.
Thuney's weight increase started from his first days on campus. After two years in the Pack's strength and conditioning program, Thuney is now up to 285 pounds, with a goal to get closer to 300 pounds.
"The strength programs from high school to college are a bit different as you can imagine," said Thuney. "I never really knew how many calories you were supposed to be eating in a day, making sure I eat more than I burn. I have also learned to focus on eating good food too: proteins, not just a bunch of fast food."
Thuney thinks that the increase in weight has served as a positive for his game.
"Even with the extra weight, I don't think it has affected me as far as speed and agility," said Thuney. "I was playing lighter last year, so the extra weight and strength I have gained since even last season will be a major benefit going into this year."
As for the position change, Thuney said it was a relative easy transition.
"When I came in, they needed a center to back up Cam Wentz," said Thuney. "I picked up the offense pretty quick, and the coaches took notice of that. I think that gave them confidence in me, and I just grew naturally into the position.
"I've grown to like center a lot. I like the ability to call out the defenses and being able to communicate with the whole offensive line."
Playing behind a three-year starter in Wentz last season, Thuney still saw 169 snaps in eight games due to injuries on the Pack's offensive line. In most of those situations, Thuney took over as the Pack's center, while Wentz moved to guard.
It was that lineup with Thuney at center that was lined up on the Pack's game winning drive against No. 3 Florida State.
"Playing those snaps gave me an insight of what it will take to win games," said Thuney. "Florida State was a high-profile, high-pressure game. I think we excelled as a group, and that was a great experience."
Preparing to be the Pack's starting center in 2013, Thuney spent a lot of time working on his game off the field during the summer.
"I spend extra time in the film room, studying defenses and memorizing our playbook," said Thuney. "I need to know everything in that playbook, to help the offense move more effectively and efficiently. "
The Pack's offense this season will certainly have a different look than in years past. Head coach Dave Doeren, along with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, have installed an up-tempo, no-huddle offense at NC State. A change for all positions that probably has the most impact on the offensive line.
"I think it can play to our strengths, getting those defenses to wear down late in games," said Thuney. "We are going to take pride in not slowing down and running this offense the same speed if it's the first play of the game or the last.
"The offensive line has to be fit and ready to run a lot of plays in a short amount of time. When we huddled, we could relax for, say, 25-30 seconds between plays. I think we have done a good job getting ready this summer, to run a high tempo offense."
Thuney is confident in the progress the offensive line has made during the summer and in the early stages of fall camp, and has seen the benefits of the new staff.
"We have a strong core of veteran leaders in seniors Rob (Crisp) and Duran (Christophe)," said Thuney. "We are a close unit on and off the field, and I think that helps build consistency among us.
"The team has responded really well to the new staff. They really push us hard and love competition, and I think that has helped us get better each day dating all the way back to those spring practices."
Off the field, Thuney was named as an ACC Top Six Award for Service recipient this past summer. This award is presented on behalf of the ACC to student-athletes at each conference school who have gone above and beyond in service in their respective communities.
"I think going out and doing community service is a big part of being a student-athlete," said Thuney. "We are given so much and looked up to, so it's important to be role models. I like being able to go out and show people that we are not just football players; we like to make a difference in the community.
"I talk to middle school aged kids, trying to set a foundation for what football can mean and how it has such a positive affect on people's lives."