Person’s patience pays off, puts Pack rookie RB in end zone
Getting into the endzone was a ‘long time coming,’ for NC State running back Ricky Person Jr. The rookie finally scored on the first Saturday in November, crossing the goal line three times in the Wolfpack’s (6-2, 3-2 ACC) win versus Florida State.
In order to pick up a pair of TDs on the ground and add the first tally mark to his ‘receiving touchdowns,’ list, Person needed veteran Reggie Gallaspy II to run a little more like Person usually does.
“Each game, it’s always been that I’m the guy that breaks out for the long runs and they put Reggie in for the redzone and he scores the touchdowns,” Person said. “I’ve been like, ‘I’m going to get me one sooner or later, Reggie.’
“Florida State came around and he started busting out for the long runs, so I was like ‘Welp, I guess I’m the redzone back.’ And I got the three touchdowns.”
Gallaspy busted out a nine-yard run on the first down of the game versus the Seminoles, then got the handoff again as NCSU faced fourth-and-one at the Noles’ 32-yard line and broke free for a 22-yard run (tying his longest rush of the season). Person scored, finally, from a yard out.
“I was really proud of Reggie, he wasn’t just running downfield,” head coach Dave Doeren said of the veteran RB’s play versus Florida State. “He made some cuts in there where they brought some blitzes that I thought for him were really, really good.”
Those cuts were good for both yardage and Person’s opportunity to score.
Both ball carriers have navigated the 2018 season through being banged up and injured, Person missing the Week 2 and Week 4 contests, then returning to rush for 108 yards versus Virginia, then playing versus Boston College and Clemson before sitting out the Syracuse game because of a hamstring injury.
Especially with wanting to keep both players healthy enough to compete, runningbacks coach Des Kitchings “likes the fresh guy to be in the game if he can (in the redzone), unless there is a certain play that helps the other guy more because of his skill set,” Doeren explains.
As for Person’s first career touchdown: “I don’t know (...) if Reggie was tired at that time..,” the coach says.
The freshman from Heritage High School was handed the ball on the first snap of the beginning of the second drive he scored on, but got no where. Gallaspy ran for a pair of four-yard gains, and a penalty helped an already-short field after NC State intercepted FSU become shorter, making Person the better-rested back ahead of his four-yard score.
Gallaspy rushed three times for 21 yards to Person’s three carries for 12 yards before Ryan Finley threw Person a two-yard pass for six.
The trend worked well for the team in addition to giving patient Person his moment in the spotlight, but only time will tell if the reversal in the rotation lasts longer than a game.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound freshman’s usual style and pace was part of his appeal in recruiting and 5-foot-11, 235-pound Gallaspy said that playing ‘his game,’ and not trying to always run free for long-yard gains (like Person) helped him to his first 100-plus-yard game versus Boston College.
Having two different types of backs, regardless of which player threatens defenses in which way, is the advantage Doeren loves for his offense to have.
“In an offensive scheme, when you’re blocking things and the runners are different, and you’re fitting those runs as a defensive team, Reggie’s different than Ricky,” he said. “The ball gets there at a different speed, (Reggie)’s running over people and through people and Ricky’s putting his foot in the ground and cutting back or bouncing. As a defender, it’s not the same. You can’t just run in there and run in there and run in there, it’s not the same. It’s a different speed and it’s different angles, so that change of pace helps and it keeps those two guys fresh.”
But balancing freshness with fun, is certainly important too.
“I think it’s great that those guys can both get touchdowns,” Doeren said. “You don’t want to be the guy that gets it down there and never gets to celebrate either.”