Wolfpack wideouts working to fill void from loss of Ramos

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
N.C. State wide receiver Bra'Lon Cherry (13) practices Monday

RALEIGH — Plenty of coachspeak involves talk about dealing with injuries. They’re “a part of the game” and it’s “next man up.” Generic indeed, but also 100 percent accurate.NC State experienced the reality before fall camp even began. Jumichael Ramos, the team’s leading wide receiver in 2015, will redshirt the season due to knee surgery. It’s a critical blow for a team needing size at the position with a trio of new quarterbacks leading the way.”It’s really tough for our team,” offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz said of losing Ramos. “Leading receiver coming back, a guy who knew the ropes here? That’s a difficult thing. But now we’ve got to have other guys step up.”So far, the receiving corps has been led by senior Bra’Lon Cherry — who was expected to start before Ramos’ injury — along with Stephen Louis and Nyheim Hines. NC State head coach Dave Doeren also noted Maurice Trowell and Kelvin Harmon are expected to step up in heightened roles.After lining up as a running back mostly in the spring, Hines is back with the receivers and still working on transitioning back to the role.”I can tell I haven’t played receiver in a while,” Hines said with a smile. “I’ve been forgetting a little bit of the fine details. [Wide receivers] coach [George] McDonald has been doing a great job working with me and making sure I’m up to par with the receivers and DBs because the DBs in this league are so tough.”While the learning curve has been a tough one for other offensive players on the team, the wideouts have benefited from an easier play set. Unlike the offensive backfield, most of the receivers noted the routes are similar to previous years, which is key for a team with new faces needing to step up.For Louis, a player whose shining moment was catching one touchdown against Old Dominion as a freshman in 2014, filling the void of Ramos is not an easy task. Louis is sure of his hands and ability, but also understands replacing a senior is about more than just stuffing the stat sheet.”He’s a big-play receiver, but he was our voice on the field,” Louis said. “He always brings that leadership along with being a physical player.”Cherry and Hines combined for 544 receiving yards and one score last year while Ramos alone had 457 yards and three touchdowns. Luckily, the passing game still has Jaylen Samuels, who led NC State in catches (65), receiving yards (597) and receiving touchdowns (seven) in 2015.But if NC State is looking to stretch the field — an important component in Drinkwitz’s system — it will need the wideouts to perform at a high level. With less than a month remaining before the Sept. 1 season opener against William & Mary, Doeren gave an honest reaction to what he’s seen thus far.”We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Doeren said of his receivers. “… Between Steph[en Louis], Bra’Lon Cherry and Trowell, Kelvin [Harmon] we’ve got four guys that can catch the ball out there.”