NC State running game needs a boost

June, 16, 2010
6/16/10
5:00
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The majority of schools in the ACC have too many answers at running back -- a position of strength throughout the conference, as it returns five 1,000-yard rushers for the first time.

NC State is in the minority.

The Pack only return 25.4 percent of last year's rushing yards, and right now, quarterback Russell Wilson is the team's leading returning rusher.

For the first time since 2005, the Wolfpack lack a halfback with any starting experience. And Taylor Gentry is the only fullback. Redshirt junior Curtis Underwood is the projected starter heading into summer camp, followed by redshirt sophomore Brandon Barnes, who dislocated his ankle this spring, and James Washington, a true sophomore. Underwood caught three passes for 28 yards and was the leading rusher with 14 carries for 44 yards in the first scrimmage of the spring. In the spring game, redshirt freshman Travis Leggett, a walk-on, led all rushers with 21 carries for 129 yards.

Underwood redshirted last season to help with future depth, and the hope within the program is for that move to pay off now. Washington played in six games as a true freshman and Barnes played in three. They all have experience, but Underwood must become the leader of the group if NC State is going to make it back to the postseason. NC State's rushing offense was 92nd in the country and ninth in the ACC last year and that was with Toney Baker in the lineup.

Wilson is good -- NC State had the No. 2 passing offense in the ACC last year behind Duke. But it's already been proven he can't do it by himself.

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