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Nothing He Can’t Do

By Carlos Pineda
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Jaylen Samuels is as versatile as they come.

He's as versatile as they come.

He’s listed on NC State's depth chart as an H-back, but Jaylen Samuels is a utility player to the letter for the Wolfpack.

A receiver, running back and tight end, Samuels is certain to draw attention from any defense when he's on the field.

The senior out of Charlotte has caught a pass in 35 consecutive games, and is the only active player in the country with over 15 career rushing touchdowns and 15 career receiving touchdowns. He ranks third all-time at NC State with 41 career touchdowns, and is one touchdown shy of second place.

Samuels, who ranks third in program history with 180 career receptions, has played an essential role in NC State's eye-opening 6-1 start this season. He scored two touchdowns in September's 27-21 victory against No. 12 Florida State. The upset giving Dave Doeren his first win over a top 25 team as NC State's head coach.

Two weeks later, Samuels hauled in 104 receiving yards in the Wolfpack's Thursday night home win versus No. 17 Louisville.

With wins against FSU and Louisville, NC State is having one of its best campaigns since the days of Philip Rivers. The season-opening loss to South Carolina is a distant memory as the Wolfpack has been trending up.

NC State is ranked 14th in the AP Poll as it enters Saturday's non-conference contest at Notre Dame. It's the team's highest ranking in 14 years. NC State is also 4-0 in the ACC for the first time since 2002. The '02 Wolfpack sported an 11-3 record, becoming the winningest team in program history. They capped off the record-setting campaign with a 28-6 throttling of Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. 

Through eight weeks, it is NC State, not Clemson, FSU nor Louisville, at the top of the Atlantic Division. Don’t look now, but next week’s Textile Bowl against the Clemson Tigers is likely to decide who wins the division.

NC State faces a Notre Dame team that has been on a roll since suffering a key early season defeat. The Fighting Irish have gone from unranked, to ranked, back to unranked, and have climbed up the polls since a second-week loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. Notre Dame entered the top 10 this week after a dominating win versus USC last week.

Saturday marks only the third meeting in the series, the first in South Bend. The first matchup occurred in the Gator Bowl, where Rivers threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns.

Last year saw the two teams meet in Raleigh under less than desirable weather-related conditions. The game was played as Hurricane Matthew's outer bands passed through the state. NC State won the soggy game 10-3.

Of note, Notre Dame has yet to score a touchdown against the Wolfpack.

Doeren's NC State squad has made a lot of noise in his fifth year in Raleigh. The Wolfpack has already become bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive year in Doeren's tenure, but this is a team that has exceeded any outside expectation.

Winners of six straight, NC State eyes win No. 7 in South Bend on Saturday.

Carlos Pineda - Carlos Pineda is a featured writer for Southern Pigskin. He covered the UCF Knights football team for Florida Today in 2010. Carlos' work has been published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal. He attended the University of Central Florida. Follow Carlos on Twitter @CarlosFPineda.