For the second straight offseason, NC State’s receivers are a question mark heading into spring practices. This year, the Wolfpack must replace leading receiver T.J. Graham, who was also one of the ACC’s best kick returners. Tobais Palmer is one of the top candidates to become quarterback Mike Glennon's new go-to guy. Palmer had 37 catches last year for 496 yards and five touchdowns. I spoke with him recently about his role on the team this year and his career to date at NC State. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What are your expectations for yourself this season, and how do you think your role is going to change?
Tobais Palmer: As a player, I see myself becoming more of a leader. It’s my senior season and people are expecting big things from me. I know I have to step up, and the things I didn’t do so well on last season I need to do better at and be more consistent at the things I do. I think that’s what the coaches are looking for from me, to be a more positive person and believe in myself more than I did last year and be a leader and have fun.
Do you think there’s more pressure on you, or are you putting more pressure on yourself because T.J. is gone?
TP: There is at times pressure on me, but on the other side of it, I think I’m putting pressure on myself, which I like, because I perform better under pressure. It makes me do things I know I’m capable of, but it never happens until I’m under pressure. I put myself under pressure more than anybody else does.
What are some of the specific things you think you can be better at technique-wise on the field?
TP: Technique-wise, I believe my route running. This is my second true year at wide receiver. I feel I need to be more aggressive and it’s real important in what I do when I get into my routes. Me running, that’s what I’ve been doing all of my life. It’s not even second nature. It’s just natural for me to run. But me having to adjust and running routes, I feel I need to be better than that.
Has your career at NC State gone the way you had expected?
TP: Honestly my career at NC State, it’s going pretty well. The way that I expected it? No, because I had planned on being here for four years. By me only being here two years and only experiencing two years of it, it’s going pretty well so far, just going through the whole redshirt season (in 2010) was kind of hard for me because I wasn’t used to it. Learning from things those guys did in that season and going to the bowl game and experiencing different activities, I feel my experience so far has been well. Could have been better than what I thought, but so far I can’t really complain about it.
In 2009 you were at Georgia Military. What was that experience like for you? Did it help you?
TP: Yeah, it helped me definitely become a better person and just being blessed to get a second chance, because most people don’t really get that opportunity. It helped me a lot with time management and helped me become a better person overall after being there. Now being here at school, walking around, doing what I have to do, it’s pretty easy.
We had you rated as the No. 27 athlete in the country. Do you feel like that now? Do you feel like you lived up to the hype, or is that potential still there to be tapped?
TP: I feel like I can live up to it now. I try to talk to my coaches and everything here. I’m trying to get them to give me the ball more and let me show my talent and the reason why I came here and I’m on this team and what I’m trying to bring to the table. I feel like if they do that, that’s just going to open up everything else for everyone else to shine, and do what they have to do.
How tough do you expect the competition to be at receiver this offseason?
TP: It’s going to be tough, hands-down. I’m the only senior receiver. It’s only me and two other guys who are experienced receivers who have played a certain amount of plays last season. I know I’m going to have to step up. They’re going to look to me as their leader. I’m willing to take that role and try and be better than what I was last year.
If one of you guys steps up as a dependable playmaker at receiver, you guys seem to have a lot of pieces in place with Mustafa Greene and Glennon and four starters on the offensive line. What do you think you guys are capable of offensively?
TP: If we play to our ability and everyone does their assignments, we’ll be a hard team to stop. Looking at last season, the games we won, and even the games we were down and came back -- especially the Maryland game -- we came out real flat. We were just thinking Maryland was going to give us the game. At halftime we were shocked, but we kept our composure and came back out and play by play moved the ball down the field and we scored. And we scored at will. When we play good, we do it well. That’s the only thing we need to do this year, be on the same page, stay consistent, believe in ourselves and have confidence in each other. I feel as though last year that’s one thing we lacked until the end of the season when it was a desperate win and we needed it. We just need that every game this year to be ranked in the Top 25 and play in the ACC championship.