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April 10, 2012

James Washington aiming high in senior year




Running back James Washington does not shy away from the fact that he has lofty goals for the Wolfpack's 2012 season. With six other projected senior starters on the offensive side of the ball, the speedy back thinks the unit could help the team accomplish some special things in the fall.

"It's very exciting because starting from day one, we've all been together - from second team to first team," he said of his classmates rising through the program together. "As time has gone on, we've all gotten better and now we're able to take over. We'll push the offense to the next level.

"Most of my goals are team goals. We want to win every game, we want to win an ACC Championship and we want to win a National Championship. Personally, for me, my goal is to get over that 1,000-yard hump, average 100 yards per game and add probably 500 receiving. That sounds good to me."

The 6-foot, 199-pound Washington is coming off of a year in which he started every game - his first full college campaign - and finished with a team-best 897 yards and seven touchdown on the ground. He also added 42 receptions, which was second-best on the squad, for 315 yards.

"I had a good year, but I could get better," he said. "I watched film every day and tried to get better in some way. I'm trying to make sure that next year we have a 1,000-yard rusher."

If Washington seems intent on breaking 1,000 yards it is probably because he is, and it's something he even talked about last year. However, NC State hasn't had a back eclipse the century mark since 2002, when T.A. McLendon totaled 1,101 yards, and Washington's junior total was the program's highest rushing mark since McLendon's rookie year.

If Washington is able to accomplish his goal, he'll have his linemen to thank. The front line features a trio of seniors along the interior in Camden Wentz, Andrew Wallace and Zach Allen, plus reserve redshirt junior Duran Christophe, and three talented tackles in redshirt senior R.J. Mattes, junior Robert Crisp and redshirt sophomore Tyson Chandler.

If the unit can push Washington over the century mark, it's also going to mean a lot of doughnuts for the big men. In a practice the back started last fall, anytime Washington reaches 100 yards rushing in a game, he buys the linemen doughnuts. He happily did the honors three times last year, including in back-to-back games where he became the first Pack runner to eclipse 100 yards in consecutive games since Andre Brown in 2005.

"It's a lot better running behind them than it was in the earlier days," Washington admitted. "We are all up in age now and we've all been playing together for a long time, so we gel a lot better now."

Washington also noted that he is up to 199 pounds from last year's playing weight of 180. He feels stronger than ever before, thanks to new strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond, but has not lost any of his trademark speed.

"I'm trying to keep putting on more weight," he said. "I'm faster than ever, I'm one of the top three fastest guys on the team. It feels good to be bigger and still be fast.

"I've noticed my legs have gotten a lot stronger. I've been able to squat more, I'm able to drop my hips and push people further than I used to and my core has gotten a lot stronger. Overall, I feel like I should be a stronger running back this year."


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