NC State football: 5 breakout stars for Pack so far
NC State has reached its bye, and the Wolfpack will get a needed break from football coming off a 24-9 loss at then-No. 18 Syracuse.
The Wolfpack is 5-2, with losses to No. 5 Clemson and the Orange during 2 of the past 3 weeks. Preseason hopes of winning the ACC for the 1st time since 1979 are gone. So too is ACC Preseason Player of the Year Devin Leary, who is out for the season with a chest injury suffered against Florida State.
Still, there are things left to play for. This Wolfpack team has a bunch of veterans on their way out of the program. A chance at 10 wins still is possible, and there are plenty of players having great seasons for the Pack.
Here are 5 players who have been pleasant breakout surprises in 2022:
A defensive player who wasn’t expected to be super utilized but is having a great season is Boykin, who has been exceptional for the Wolfpack playing nickel.
Starter Tyler Baker-Williams missed 3 games with an injury and backup nickel Joshua Pierre-Louis has been suspended, and in their stead Boykin has been great. He grabbed the 1st interception of his career to seal the win against Florida State, and he has been all-around great in coverage since getting meaningful snaps.
For Boykin, 2022 has been a revelation. He’s playing more, he’s playing well and he has become a really important piece in NC State’s stellar defense. In his 3rd year in the program, Boykin has nearly eclipsed his 2020 season tackle numbers in just 7 games.
There’s a bright future ahead for Boykin, and he’s showing in 2022 what is in store for him moving ahead.
For a year and a half, everyone inside of NC State’s program raved about running back Demie Sumo-Karngbaye.
And to start 2022, he finally got his shot to play. And he has been great, with 299 yards and 3 touchdowns over 6 games. He’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry, and he has time and again broken off grown-man runs when guys simply couldn’t get him down.
He started the year with 79 yards and a touchdown against East Carolina, and he has rattled off pretty much nothing but strong games since. He has dealt with some injuries, missing the Syracuse game, but overall he’s having a major breakout year.
Maybe not a surprise but certainly another breakout player, Davin Vann has been having an excellent season on the defensive front.
He’s 1 of just 2 players on NC State’s roster with multiple sacks, and he also has 3.5 tackles for loss. Playing more on the end than ever, Vann consistently has shown his explosiveness and athleticism to get into the backfield and create havoc.
It’s not the 1st strong season for Vann, but he is breaking out of his shell and becoming the superstar NC State always knew he could be. Vann is an awesome defensive lineman, and he’s putting together a great 3rd year in the program.
The Wolfpack’s leader with 3 interceptions, Aydan White has had a fantastic season to date as part of a 2-headed cornerback rotation.
White had 2 picks, including 1 that was returned for a touchdown, against Texas Tech, leading to ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors for the 3rd-year cornerback. He had another pick Saturday during the loss at Syracuse.
For the Pack, White, Shyheim Battle and Derrek Pitts have been listed as co-starters for the 2 cornerback spots all season. Both Battle and Pitts have missed opening halves this season because of targeting calls, but it has been White who has been arguably the best, anyway.
He has been a great asset for the Wolfpack’s elite corps of defensive backs.
The biggest loss for the Wolfpack this offseason came on the offensive line, as NC State had to replace 1st-round NFL Draft pick Ikem Ekwonu.
And while Anthony Belton earned the starting spot at left tackle with Bryson Speas starting at right tackle to open the season, Timothy McKay performed well enough to get himself into the starting mix just a few weeks into the season.
McKay has performed consistently for the Pack, and he’s playing a lot of right tackle with Speas rotating between the right and left. He leads the Wolfpack in pancake blocks, including an 8-pancake performance against Florida State.