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A three-star running back recruit out of high school, Matthew "Matt" Dayes, who is a native of Montego Bay, Jamaica and moved to the states at the age of five, committed early to N.C. State, but re-opened his recruitment after the Wolfpack made a coaching change.
He switched his commitment to Vanderbilt on signing day, but was unable to get in contact with the Commodores' coaches, causing him to rethink his decision, sticking with N.C. State. He was part of the crowded backfield as a true freshman, rushing for 252 yards and four scores in 2013. He started four games as a sophomore and rushed for 573 yards, adding a career-best 321 receiving yards and five touchdowns. With Shadrach Thornton dismissed from the program, Dayes took over as the starter in 2015, but his season was cut short due to injury, leading the team in rushing with 865 yards and 12 scores. He had his most productive season as a senior in 2016, finishing third in the ACC with 1,166 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns to earn a spot on the All-ACC Second Team. Dayes accepted his invitation to the 2017 Senior Bowl.
Dayes doesn't boast elite skills with only average build, run strength and lower body athleticism, but is an effective one-cut runner, doing his best work off tackle with a clear runway. Although he doesn't have a distinguishing trait that separates him as a runner, Dayes' reliability as a receiver and potential as a blocker are what could land him on a NFL roster as a third down option.
STRENGTHS: Collects his footwork to efficiently plant-and-go through holes on the offensive line. Subtle juking skills to set up and sidestep defenders. Quick to scan and makes decisive movements once he feels room to work. Not a powerful ballcarrier, but runs tough and drives his legs to finish. Effective pass-catcher to slice through the defense -- often motions from of the backfield to the slot or out wide, running routes. Bodies up rushers in pass protection and has the attitude necessary to improve in this area. Senior captain and an unselfish teammate. Productive senior season, becoming the first Wolfpack player to rush for 1,000-yards in a season since 2002 -- leaves NC State with 40 all-purpose touchdowns, which ranks second in school history.
WEAKNESSES: Only average build and muscle tone for the position. Offers below average power as an inside runner with a bad habit of turning his back at contact. Not a creator and runs with tunnel vision. Makes sharp cuts, but lacks the lower body fluidity to be consistently shifty. Monotone play speed and doesn't have multiple gears in his accelerator. Exposes the ball at times in his run style. Requires hand technique work in pass pro, struggling to anchor vs. bull rushers. Not a proven workhorse with only one season with 150+ rush attempts. Hard on himself and allows mistakes to linger to the next play.