Aug. 21, 2014
RALEIGH, N.C. - Yesterday GoPack.com started to release the Pack’s opening-game depth chart, breaking down the quarterbacks and cornerbacks. Today, we look at the running backs and defensive line as we are nine days away from the opening kickoff.
The depth chart at running back has the same names as a season ago, but all three are smarter, stronger and faster for 2014. Running backs coach Des Kitchings is pleased with the depth and talent of his group.
Starter: Tony Creecy (5-11, 213, *Gr.)
- One of the strongest leaders on the 2014 squad, he graduated in May.
- Most experienced player in the group, he has played in 34 career contests.
Backup: Matt Dayes (5-9, 205, So.) OR Shadrach Thornton (6-1, 206, Jr.)
- Averaged 4.0 yards per carry last season.
- Ranked third in the ACC in rushing vs. league opponents last season.
- Led team in rushing in 2012.
Kitchings on the running backs: “Camp competition was great. Those three guys were tremendous and want to be the strength of our team. They’ve worked hard and it showed in camp. Those three feed off each other.
“Shad is a more powerful, stronger running back. Matt Dayes is very elusive, very good at catching the football and good in the open field. Tony is a collection of it all. He’s very reliable and dependent and is a great leader.
“Matt Dayes had a tremendous camp. He can catch the ball well, he can run, he’s going to be a kick returner. He’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
Defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen has the most depth of any position on the Wolfpack squad. His players have collectively started 71 career games and two of the four spots will be manned by seniors. However, like the rest of the team, youth is prevalent on the d-line, with seven freshmen or sophomores among the rotation of 11.
Starter: Art Norman (6-0, 254, *Gr.)
- Just 8.5 sacks from tying Mario Williams career record.
- Had more snaps (508) than any d-lineman last season.
Nielsen on Norman: “Art’s one of the leaders. He’s probably the most experienced members of our group – he’s played a lot of football. He’s very fundamentally sound, very tough and very steady. He has a great work ethic every single day. He’s so sound that he’s hard to block. He’s a real technician.”
Backup: Drew Davis (6-3, 252, *So.)
- Former linebacker who has added bulk.
Nielsen on Davis: “The best thing about Drew is his effort. He’s got the highest motor on the defensive line. He never takes a snap off. He’s very explosive and distruptive.”
Starter: T.Y. McGill (6-1, 289, Sr.)
- Veteran of 38 games and 13 career starts.
- Has worked hard in the offseason to come back with great conditioning and attitude for senior campaign.
Nielsen on McGill: “T.Y. had a great offseason – a phenomenal offseason. He added upper and lower body strength. He’s put in extra work and was always asking ‘what else can I do.’ He’s really focused on his technique and becoming a fundamentally great player.”
Backup: Thomas Teal (6-1, 296, *Sr.)
- Another vet with 31 career games played and 24 games started.
- Saw action at tackle and end last season.
Nielsen on Teal: “Thomas added a lot of strength too and brings a ton of experience to our group. He’s played both positions for us and is quick-twitch and very athletic. He will explode off the ball and runs hard.”
Reserve: Kenton Gibbs (6-2, 287, *Fr.)
- Redshirted last season with an Achilles injury.
Nielsen on Gibbs: “Kenton redshirted with a pretty major injury but put in a lot of work to get back. He’s an intelligent player – his football I.Q. is very high. He’s a tough, tough guy.”
Starter: B.J. Hill (6-4, 300, Fr.)
- Graduated early and went through spring drills with the Wolfpack, he has added over 30 pounds since arriving on campus.
- Started the spring game.
Nielsen on Hill: “Coming in at midyear really helped B.J. to learn the system and the fundamentals. I don’t really look at him as a freshman. He’s done a great job in the weight room. He takes on double-teams and combination blocks and holds the point well.”
Backup: Monty Nelson (6-2, 312, So.)
- A second-team freshman All-American last season according to Athlon, he started five contests.
- Missed time in fall camp with an injury.
Nielsen on Nelson: “Monty was impressive as a true freshman and got great experience. He had a good offseason, putting on 15 pounds without losing a step. He’s a good anchor in the middle and I’m looking for big things from him.”
Reserve: Justin Jones (6-2, 294, Fr.)
- True freshman who has added almost 40 pounds since committing to the Wolfpack.
Nielsen on Jones: “Justin is explosive and I look for him to be disruptive, playing in the backfield and creating a new line of scrimmage. He’s quick.”
Starter: Mike Rose (6-3, 271, *Jr.)
- Started four games as a sophomore.
Nielsen on Rose: “Mike has really gained strength and confidence in taking on blocks. He’s working to get better and brings great experience to our group.”
Backup: Kentavius Street (6-2, 287, Fr.)
- Highly touted recruit who has already worked his way into the two-deep.
Nielsen on Street: “His high school coaches did a great job with him. He came in really strong. He played three down linemen in high school and we’re playing four so it’s different in terms of technique, but he’s used his size and speed to make up for lack of knowledge so far. He’s been in practice for two weeks and is already in the lineup.”
Reserve: Pharoah McKever (6-6, 256, *Fr.)
- Former wide receiver (yes, you read that right! Wide receiver!) who the coaching staff feels has huge potential at end.
- Tallest player on the defense.
Nielsen on McKever: “What a good guy. He’s quick twitch and long and that’s a great combination to have on the defensive line. He’s never played this position before this year and he’s still learning the position, but he has a tremendous upside and a very, very bright future. He wants to be good.”