Story Poster
NC State Football

DOEREN: "There's Just A Good Vibe With Our Players And Staff"

August 12, 2020

NC State head coach Dave Doeren met with the media via Zoom Wednesday afternoon to discuss the continuing preparation for the 2020 season.

The transcript from Doeren’s press conference is posted below.

Opening Statement

“A lot of stuff has happened since we were on here last. We’re taking it one day at a time. I’m really proud of our staff and our team. We’ve only had one true week of fall camp. 'Fall camp' for us is practice without school going on. We were able to have two practices in helmets only and two in what we call ‘uppers’: shoulder pads and helmets. We had a lot of team meetings, a lot of install, a lot of situational football, and a lot of good competition during that week. I had a great feeling coming out of that week not only with the guys, the way we’re talking with each other, and the way the staff was interacting, but also with the chemistry in the club and how it’s coming together. I went home Sunday and had a really good plan put in place for this week, and then things started getting crazy in college football. Today, we’re feeling good about what’s happened in the Big 12 as far as pushing in the direction of what the ACC and SEC are also trying to do, but we’re really taking it one day at a time just trying to help our student-athletes and our staff manage what we can. Our focus right now has been on our install. We’ve backed off on some things contact-wise, but the players have made it more about operating our systems, the knowledge base, the mental stuff that goes on with it, and keeping them in physical condition. We’ll get back into it this weekend. Putting helmet and shoulder pads on and full pads Saturday is our plan. That’s where we’re at right now. When things started to look for the worst on Sunday, we modified things for the beginning of this week because we wanted our guys to be in a great headspace when we go out on that field. We sat down as a team, and [athletic director] Boo [Corrigan] did a heck of a job coming over and talking with the guys. We’ve been very transparent about everything we know, and there are a lot of questions that are about the same stuff we’re hearing about, asking, and reading that we’ve been dealing with. The guys have been awesome asking all of us and making sure we’re on the same page each day. That’s kind of where we are over here. Our protocols, day in and day out, have done really well. The testing, the mask wearing, the cleanliness, the spacing, the way we’re using our meeting rooms and spacing guys out, the way we’re doing our practices and splitting the team when we can in different groups, keeping the numbers small, and educating them on the things outside of this building because obviously here it’s very safe for them. They’ve done an outstanding job, the players and the staff alike. We’ll just keep working that way and keep learning as we go. I’m excited about where things are in this our and to see where things go in the next.”

What can be done better when it comes to the protocol?

“I think we’re all listening to the medical advisory boards, and all their information flows to our medical staff and into us. Everything that we know, we’re doing. I think you guys all know that this thing evolves on what the best practices are, and as they change, we change with them. We’re doing everything that we know how to do because of the experts and following their guidelines. If all of a sudden they change what they think we should be doing, we’ll change with them. The last thing I’m going to do is put any of our staff or players at risk. The things that they’ve asked us to do are working. If there is a positive test, the return-to-play protocol involves a cardiac exam, so there are a lot of things to get the guys back. Even after the 14-day quarantine, they have to go through a 5-10 day return based on what comes back in that physical. There are a lot of measures here, and we feel comfortable with it, but this is new for everyone, so I’m not going to tell you that it can’t change. Things can get better. If they give us better information, we’ll change with it.”

Should the players voices be heard? Are the players’ voices not being heard?

“I don’t feel that way [regarding the premise of the question]. I’m not sure where that’s coming from. I think our guys feel very heard. We’re having daily discussions. I’m going to the guys on a lot of topics. I’m not making any decisions without their input right now. It’s a physical sport. It’s a mental sport. It requires a lot of endurance physically and mentally. It’s a contact sport, and to be good at it, you have to be in the right headspace. For me to have any uncertainty out there is only going to prevent them from being the players I want them to be. We’re very cautious about that, and I think our guys, it you ask, will tell you they’re very heard. I don’t know how things are at other places, but I don’t feel that way on our campus.

How do you keep your players locked in and in the right headspace?

“Think about the week we just had. The hurricane and rain, we’re playing football then not playing football, then we have an earthquake, and now we’re playing football again. The guys are going through it, and so I think the first thing you have to do is admit that. They are going through a lot. You have to be vulnerable with them. You have to listen to them. You have to talk to them. You can’t hide things. Letting them talk and ask questions and letting them know that you care about them helps them be on the same page. We have to embrace the fact that things are going to change. That’s the one thing that I’ve told them. I could come in here today and tell them something, and tomorrow it could be different. We have to embrace that because everyone in the world is dealing with that. We have to be good at change. It’s about knowing that there are a lot of questions, and so you’ve got to let them ask them and build time for that with your players and staff.”

Does it feel like the time on the practice field is like a getaway from the outside world?

“Yeah, we had a blast yesterday on the field with them. I’ll be honest with you: this whole camp has been fun. There’s just a good vibe right now with our guys and our staff. That’s what’s making it hard for us. These guys are really enjoying it. They want to play. They feel like something’s going on here that they’re excited about, and I know that to be true. That’s what makes the uncertainty hard. You’ve got some young men that have gone through a lot injury-wise on this football team that have missed football and don’t want to wait another six months to play. It is a release, and I think you just have to be smart about how you do it. Assuming we still play a month from today, we’re 30 days out. We still have time. We don’t have to do this in a sprint. We have to be smart about the workload and the recovery aspect. It’s a much different camp. It’s what’s best for today.”

The Big-Ten and Pac-12 don’t think it’s safe to play; the ACC and SEC believe it is. How does that mixed messaging work when you try to look at what the season could potentially look like?

“I can’t judge those other two leagues because I don’t know what their conversations are. I haven’t been given that information. I’m just listening to what the ACC is telling us, our head coaches calls, and the daily conversations with our administration. I read all the same things that everyone else reads, but I’m not trying to get caught in the weeds of why the Pac-12 does what they do or the Big-Ten does what they do. They’ve got a different area of the country. They’re dealing with different things. Their student bodies may be different and how they’re being handled. Their class calendars may be different and how they’re being handled. All we can do is look at the medical advisory board and our different areas that we’re in and our team, and right now, things are in a very positive light.”

How’s the health of the team outside of COVID-19?

“You can knock on wood. Things are good, and we want to keep it that way.”

How are the players that are returning from injury?

“They’re doing well. I’m very proud of the rehab staff, the strength staff, and the young men for the work they’ve put in. We haven't had a lot of contact football here yet. What I’m giving you is based off of what we’ve done, but they’re doing well. We just need to progress over these next 2-1/2 weeks and hope that that stays how it is.”

What did Corrigan discuss with the team? How frequently do you speak with him?

“I feel like I’m getting daily info whether I’m calling him or he’s calling me. He’s been phenomenal keeping me in the loop, and if I have questions, I reach out. We have a good working relationship communication-wise. With what was going on the other day, there were a lot of questions the guys had, and I felt like going to the highest branch I could go to for them. Boo asked if he could come over to help, and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ We had a team meeting at 8:15 just to discuss the state of college football and what he knew and let them ask all the questions they wanted to ask. They’re all the same things you’ve been reading about: eligibility, if they push the season, and all the things like that, like how long are we going to have to wait to know. We all thought, when our schedule came out, that it was done and that we were playing, and then it stopped. That’s the hardest thing for all these young people right now: they really struggle in the unknown. Tell them they’re playing, or tell them they’re not playing. They may not like not playing, but at least they know. That’s hard on the mental well-being in these guys. They wanted to get a timeline and find out about the meetings that have taken place. I thought it was great that he came over, and I think that’s the thing our athletes respect about Boo. He’s very straight up with them. He gives them information. He’s not trying to duck and dodge. He’s transparent. If he doesn’t know, he’ll say he doesn’t know. They appreciated the honesty.”

If the season isn’t played, what will the team’s reaction be?

“I know that a lot of them will be disappointed, and then we’ll just have to quickly turn them into what we’re allowed to do. I think the biggest fear for all of these guys is that it’s going to go back to how it was in March where, all of a sudden, they were on their own and everything was ‘Figure it out. Go home.’ That’s not the direction any of us want. We want to play. We want to be around our athletes, and they want to be around us. They want to train. They want to improve. They want the interaction of their teammates. Where all that goes, I don’t know. All I know right now is we’re focused on getting these guys ready for Sept. 12 and helping them through these ups and downs. Their mental health is critical for them to be the best versions of themselves, and we have to be very cognizant of that.”

Did any of the players discuss concerns about being in classes or on campus?

“There were some questions about how those classes would be. They were nervous. In our meetings, they're spread out, they’re wearing masks, and we’re very detailed about that with them. I have a son that goes to NC State. I called him and asked how it was, and he said ’There were five empty seats on each side of me, you couldn’t walk in the room without a mask, and the teacher had a big shield up in front of them when they lecture. It’s very safe.’ Our message to them was, ‘Go to your first class. If you don’t feel safe, go to your academic advisor and see if you can switch to an online class.’ The guys I’ve talked to that had class yesterday were very happy with the setup they had in their classrooms, and I haven’t heard from one player yet that didn't felt that way. That was positive because that’s the thing you hear on the national stage: ‘What’s going to happen when students come back?’ I don’t feel like the classroom setting is at all what they’re afraid of now.”

What should be the best contingency plan if the season gets shut down?

“The first thing is just giving us access to the guys and allowing us to have interaction in their lives and continue to help them develop. If you pull the plug on the season and just tell them to go home and figure it out, that’s not good for these young men. You’ve seen it stated by Trevor Lawrence: A lot of these young men are better being here where they’re tested every week, where they’re around health and safety, and where they have good food than they are going back to their communities where they may not have that kind of care. We would want them to be able to stay here with us and be a part of it. I can’t tell you the number one best way to have that setup, but I know there’s going to be a lot of sitting together in the ACC talking that through just like we did coming out of the spring.”

Which players have taken the biggest leaps in the first week of practice from when you last saw them?

Terrell Dawkins, one of our defensive linemen, has had a really good couple of days. He’s gained good weight. He’s running well. He’s improved his practice habits. He’s been very impressive. It’s been fun to see him out there. Tyler Baker-Williams has really excelled in this first week of camp. On offense, Emeka [Emezie] came out strong and made some really nice catches early on. The offensive line has been impressive. There’s good depth there. They’re all back, so we’re getting to see that rotation. Derrick Eason, who we moved from D-line to O-line, it’s been fun to see his progress on the O-line. Having ‘Ickey’ [Ekwonu] and Tyrone [Riley] running around out there at the same time at times has been fun to watch for all of us. The backfield is fun to watch right now. Delbert [Mims, III] has been playing well. To see the rotation that Coach [Kurt] Roper has from Jordan Houston to ‘Bam’ [Knight] to Ricky [Person, Jr.] and then Delbert and Trent [Pennix], we have five guys that are in and out of the backfield that are making plays in practice, that are physical, that have confidence. That’s been fun to watch.”

How did the addition of Rakeim Ashford come about? How has he adjusted to the team?

“When Isaiah Stallings decided to drop down a level to play his senior year, we felt like getting a transfer into that spot to spread out the depth. We have some good younger players, and we have some good older players, so we wanted to get that middle filled out. We went around and looked in the transfer portal and some of the junior colleges out there, and Coach [Brian] Mitchell found Rakeim. He’s been great. We’re really impressed with his football IQ and how fast he’s learned everything. He works really hard. He picked our defense up really fast. There’s a lot we need to do still to see how he is in coverage and tackling, but he’s been really good in the mental part of it, his day-to-day work ethic, attitude, and consistency.”

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.