NC State Football

Key Injuries Taking a Toll on Wolfpack

September 23, 2019

Injuries are a common problem for football teams at any level. N.C. State is no exception.

However, the Wolfpack has faced several injuries for key leaders and impactful positions so far this season, and it’s only four games into the season.

First, graduate student offensive tackle Tyrone Riley lost his 2019 season due to a broken foot before a snap was played. Next, redshirt junior wide receiver C.J. Riley tore his ACL in the East Carolina game while attempting to take down the Pirates’ punt returner in the first quarter, ruling him out the rest of the year.

Senior cornerback Nick McCloud became the next major player to miss time with an injury, having been sidelined since the East Carolina game. More defensive injuries began to pile up shortly thereafter with graduate student defensive end James Smith-Williams and redshirt freshman defensive end Joseph Boletepeli absent for the West Virginia game, but Boletepeli returned for the Ball State game while Smith-Williams got the all-clear for the upcoming game at Florida State.

But this brings the timeline to Monday where it was announced that redshirt junior tight end Dylan Autenrieth would miss the rest of the season while freshman running back Zonovan Knight’s injury status is in question after getting banged up in the Ball State contest.

Individually, all these parts impact their respective areas. The two Rileys were considered to be key components to the Pack’s offense with Tyrone as the presumed starting left tackle before his injury and C.J. as one of the top returning playmakers at wideout. McCloud has been highly touted as State’s best player in the secondary. Smith-Williams and Boletepeli’s absence in the West Virginia game impacted the Pack’s ability to stop the Mountaineers’ offense. Knight has arguably been the best rusher State has implemented, but he’s part of a four-player rotation. However, all those running backs have been aided by Autenrieth’s blocking ability. That being said, there are greater impacts aside from those on the field.

Apart from the two underclassmen in Boletepeli and Knight, the major injuries have come from players who have been playmakers on the field and leaders off the field for this State squad. The prime examples of that are Smith-Williams, McCloud, and Autenrieth, who have all been captains for the team.

On a team that was ranked as one of the youngest in the nation heading into the season, senior leadership is paramount. Those are the players that aid in the development of the underclassmen, and to lose them in games and practices, that growth will take a hit no matter how well the coaches can coach. Dynamics change. The chemistry changes. It’s akin to taking a hike, but halfway through, the incline suddenly increases by an extra 20 degrees.

However, the necessary step is to adapt. Losses like these are tough, and even as they continue to pile on, the games on schedule still need to be played. It’s up to the Wolfpack to move forward with the season, develop the talent it still has, aid in the recovery of those who can, and press onward to the next game.

“It's a revolving deal with your chemistry at times, so it does make it challenging,” head coach Dave Doeren said. “I told the teams last week we don't have freshmen or seniors; we have a football team. We have to go out and do our job and not worry about your age anymore, period.”

Tags: Football
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