Overshadowed Wolfpack line paving way for offense

Offensive unit, often eclipsed by NFL talent on D, bands together

NC State guard Terronne Prescod (70) clears a path for running back Jaylen Samuels during the Wolfpack’s win Thursday over Louisville at Carter-Finley Stadium. (Rob Kinnan / USA TODAY Sports)

RALEIGH — NC State center Garrett Bradbury had to be helped off the field during Thursday’s win over Louisville. Soon, the team released an update on his condition, saying he was being taken for a chest X-ray, and his return was questionable.

“Bradbury’s out there, lying on the ground,” head coach Dave Doeren said. “Ribs are all beaten up. A lot of guys wouldn’t be tough enough to deal with that.”

Bradbury, however, isn’t one of them. A few series later, he took his place back in the middle of State’s offensive line and finished the game.

“The trainers let me know, ‘You can do this. It just may not be the most comfortable thing ever,’” Bradbury said. “And I knew I was going to be out there with my guys. We’re a unit. If I wasn’t out there, I would feel like I was letting them down.”

Besides, Bradbury seemed to say with a shrug, it’s just a rib injury.

“You’re not going to leave a game feeling 100 percent playing offensive line,” he said.

That’s the attitude of the Wolfpack’s line this season. While the potential draft picks on the defensive line have gotten the lion’s share of the attention, the big guys on the other side of the line of scrimmage have been just as crucial to the team’s success.

Two different linemen — guard Tony Adams and tackle Will Richardson — have won ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week, the first time two Pack linemen have been honored since 1996. They haven’t allowed quarterback Ryan Finley to be sacked in ACC play this year.

The 5-1 Pack will be looking to get bowl eligible in a road game at Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Panthers are 0-2 in the ACC and are ranked in the bottom three in the conference in rush defense, pass defense and sacks by the defense. That should have the Pack line ready to dish out punishment.

“I’m ecstatic about it,” Doeren said of his offensive line. “I think all programs that play well on the offensive line and defensive line are pretty good programs.”

Working against Brandon Chubb and the rest of the all-stars on the defensive line has helped to strengthen the offensive line.

“The line has had a great opportunity to go against a great defensive line in camp and spring ball and bowl prep,” Doeren said. “We don’t play anybody up front that is better than what they get to see in practice. We’ve got good players up front, and our O-line has benefitted from competition in practice.”

They’ve also benefitted from a close relationship off the field, which leads to fierce camaraderie across the unit. Known as the Band of Brothers, the line handled injuries to Bradbury and Terrone Prescod (who also returned) without missing a step.

“I hated to see the go down,” Doeren said, “but what I loved to see was how mad it made those guys and how hard they wanted to play. There’s a great environment in that room right now, playing for each other.”