NC State among teams benefiting from 'super seniors' phenomenon

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- If you're a college sports fan, you're probably going to hear the term "super senior" a lot this fall.

Those are all the college athletes who would have been out of eligibility if not for COVID-19. In football, their return won't count against the schools' 85-player scholarship limit.

What they will do is keep a lot of talented freshmen off the field.

NC State, for example, has more than 100 players trying to make the team including 20 incoming freshmen.

It's not the worst problem to have, according to Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren.

"We'll have some really talented guys fighting to get on the field that may not, and that's OK," Doren said. "If they have to redshirt and learn from some veteran players, that's not a bad thing for us to have that situation."

One position group that will be tough to crack is at receiver where State appears to be stacked. Both CJ Riley and Emeka Emezi return along with junior Thayer Thomas.

"I would say this year is probably the most depth we've had," Thomas said. "I look back in the room, we have like 21 guys that - 15 guys can go out there and play right now so it's really deep. A lot of competition."

Having experienced talent catching the ball can only help starting quarterback Devin Leary. Not only can the older guys lead by example, but if someone gets hurt, the next man up should pick up any slack.

"It helps me a ton," Leary agreed, "It makes my spot so much easier and all the other quarterbacks' jobs so much easier. I mean, just the comfortability of just being able to know that the next guy up is going to fill right in and do whatever he needs to do."

Another stout position group is at linebacker where the Pack's Drake Thomas, Peyton Wilson and Isiah Moore form one of the best trios in the ACC. The rookies and others further down the depth chart are having to learn by watching.

"We're hopeful that they get a lot of out that," Doeren said. "While they're standing watching, which is hard right? These guys are all used to playing every snap in high school. So, if they're not getting those reps, hopefully, they will get them mentally."

Moore and the other veteran linebackers are showing the younger generation the way.

"They trust us, you know me, Drake, Peyton. Levi (Dorsey), Jaylon (Scott), guys who've been here a long time," Moore said. "They trust us to lead them the right way, and they fall in line. They're doing a great job."

Doeren pointed out that the super senior phenomenon will benefit just about every team in the country -- some more than others.

"Pitt has 16 super seniors on their roster, you know," Doeren said, "There's teams with over 100 guys on scholarship right now, so the whole country is different from that standpoint, not just NC State."

With so many returning veterans and promising underclassmen, there is a lot of optimism surrounding NC State football this fall.

"I feel like everyone can play, everyone is out there getting better," said offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu, a sophomore from Charlotte. "We're not making a lot of mistakes and the mistakes that we do make, we don't make them again, so I feel like we're definitely headed in the right direction."
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