PEELER: Haynes's New Role
Aug. 31, 2010
BY TIM PEELER RALEIGH, N.C. -
RALEIGH, N.C. -One-by-one, NC State's football players flashed big, broad grins as they strode by the most surprising story of NC State's preseason training camp: recently named starting tailback Dean Haynes. Behind the camera and a slew of reporters, teammates began the chant: "Let's go, Deano! Let's go, Deano!"
Haynes, a redshirt freshman from Tunnel Hill, Ga., seemed unaffected by his new-found fame, other
than a quick smile at the razzing he was getting from his teammates. It's been an unusual preseason
camp for the 5-11, 178-pound converted high school quarterback.
He began earlier this month drills as a safety, but was moved to tailback exactly two weeks ago to compete with returning players James Washington and Curtis Underwood, junior walk-on Travis Leggett and true freshman Mustafa Greene and Anthony Creecy.
"Coach came to me and said if I learned the stuff I would have a chance to start," Haynes said. "I've been working my butt off and doing the things I am supposed to do."
Still, he was as surprised as anyone on Monday when NC State head football coach Tom O'Brien released the first depth chart of the season and revealed that Haynes had won the starting job at tailback for Saturday's season opener against Western Carolina (6 p.m., ESPN3).
"I am surprised," he said. "But then again, I kind of earned it."
Haynes was a hard-running scramble quarterback at Northwest Whitfield County High School, rushing for 878 yards and scoring 18 rushing touchdowns during his senior season. His brief experience at quarterback last year helped him learn the Wolfpack offensive playbook fairly quickly.
But his time at safety also helped him become aggressive enough to complete his first and most important duty on every passing play: keep blitzing linebackers and runaway linemen away from quarterback Russell Wilson.
"Sir, I love to hit," Haynes said when asked about his pass-blocking duties. "It's not a hassle blocking those backers as they are coming in. It's fun. I like it."
Haynes might not look over imposing, but he's already earned a reputation as a hard hitter from the Wolfpack defenders.
"Dean is one of those guys you can put almost anywhere on the field," said linebacker Terrell Manning. "He doesn't look real physical, but he can really hit you. He's a really good pass protector."
Greene is currently listed as the No. 2 tailback. He's still getting adjusted to the speed of the college game, but he has been impressive in camp.
"The first time I saw him run, I compared him to [former Clemson tailback] C.J. Spiller," Manning
said. "He's going to be a great player for us, definitely."
This isn't the first time in the last decade that a surprise starter has come from the other side of the ball in the preseason. In 2002, the year after veteran tailback Ray Robinson finished his career after four consecutive years as a starter, then head coach Chuck Amato was looking for someone new to take over.
There were a couple of veterans returning at the position, but both Cotra Jackson and Carlos Doggett missed preseason training with the team. That left Amato with three players who had never carried the football in a college game: converted cornerback Greg Golden, sophomore Josh Brown (who had sat out the previous year) and freshman T.A. McLendon.
Golden, like Haynes, began preseason camp as a defensive back, but switched to the other side of the ball at the request of the coaching staff. He ended up winning the starting job for the Wolfpack's season opener against New Mexico.
He started the first three games, before McLendon, a high-powered scoring machine, was ready to take over in the backfield. McLendon rushed for 1,101 yards, scored a single-season school record of 18 rushing touchdowns and won the 2002 ACC Rookie of the Year Award. Golden returned to defense and won his starting job back at cornerback.
The team averaged 144.1 rushing yards per game that season, the second highest rushing average in the last 15 years. Along with Rivers' impeccable passing, the Wolfpack posted a school-record 11 victories in 14 games, including the landmark win over Notre Dame in the 2003 Gator Bowl.
For now, Haynes is simply going to continue doing what he was asked two weeks ago: work hard and take advantage of this unique opportunity.
"When you get an opportunity like this, you have to take it and run with it," he said.
You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.