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NC State Football

VIDEO + QUOTES: Dave Doeren's Weekly Quotebook

September 14, 2020

NC State head coach Dave Doeren met with the media via Zoom Monday afternoon to discuss the Wolfpack's season opener versus Wake Forest.

NOTE: Click the video in the player above to watch Doeren’s press conference.

Opening Statement

Like everything, this is a unique press conference to have. I’m excited to be in game week more than anything. I’m looking forward to watching our team play and compete. This group has endured a lot, going back to when we started up in January. You’re going through a really, really good offseason with coach Thunder and his staff, the leadership we’ve put together working with our guys on growing  as leaders and connecting. And then getting into spring ball and things are exciting and going good, and then all of a sudden on March 7 we break for spring break thinking we’ll see these guys in 10 days and next thing you know it’s June. They’ve been through a lot, staff and players.

They’ve come back and, I thought, done a tremendous job with all the things that were in place with the COVID protocol. As you know, when the students returned, things changed. Having that pause in our camp when we did, whether it was positive tests or contact tracing, but to finally be on the other side of that and have our team back, I’m very proud of the resiliency of this group and the way they’ve stuck together through all the unknowns, the ups and downs of ‘are we playing? Are we not playing?’ 

Having to move our opening game back, all the civil unrest. This team just keeps fighting and fighting together. I think that’s one thing that NC State, in my opinion, does extremely well. Obviously going back to Jimmy V, but it’s never, never quit. I think that resiliency is something that this team takes personally and has done a tremendous job with. They’re very excited to be on the other side of this with a game in sight. 

We look forward to playing our first of three in-state opponents. This is a game that goes back. It’s the longest continuous rivalry between two ACC schools and the third-longest in the nation. It’s a game that has been played since 1910, and it’s a game that has gone back and forth in my tenure here. We have great respect for Wake Forest and for coach Clawson and his staff. Obviously, they have the benefit of playing one game and having that game under their belt, as we all know. 

People talk about the improvements teams make from week one to week two, and I know that’s something that they have as an advantage. Looking at them as a football team, they have their systems. They are very sound. They don’t beat themselves. They don’t turn the football over. They create a lot of takeaways defensively. They don’t get penalized. They put themselves in positions that way to win games. 

They have a very unique style of zone-read offense, with the mesh and the RPO game and how it works timing wise in the backfield. They lost a lot of skill on offense, but the kids that they have showed a lot of athleticism in that game. Their tailbacks are returning players with a lot of statistics behind them. They have good speed and strength. I think they have a good blend there in their tailback position. You can see the athleticism of Donavon Green, number seven, and [Jaquarii Roberson], number five. I think they’ve found a playmaker in the slot with [Taylor Morin]. You can kind of see who they’ve replaced their playmakers with and what those guys are capable of. 

As always, their offensive line plays well together. They play a very, very up-tempo offense. The no-huddle has a lot of different versions in college football. This is, in my opinion, one of the fastest of those that we will face. 

Defensively, they have a very good front seven. It’s a very experienced front seven. They showed a little more depth on their D-Line than they have in the past on that rotation. They return a lot of guys that have made a lot of plays. Obviously, [Carlos Basham] is a player that we have great respect for, not that we don’t the rest of them because we do, but he is a very tough, big, athletic defensive end that anchors their front. 

Their linebackers play downhill. They understand their scheme. They’ve got good pressures that they run and disguise well. On third down they do a lot of different things. They are different each week in their approach. I think they are very sound in how they attack offenses. Like any game, it comes down to complimentary football. 

For us, we need to take care of the football on offense. We need to stay on the field. We need to be physical and do the things that we can do, and take advantage of the plays that are there. Defensively, you have to do a good job of getting off the field. Any tempo offense struggles when they can’t get their first first down. It’s just managing that throughout the game, and creating some short fields and field position. 

Last year in our game with them, we were pinned inside the 10 multiple times by their punter. We turned the football over. We didn’t give ourselves a chance. In any game, I think it starts with you not beating yourself. That’s a huge point of emphasis for this football team. I look forward to going out there and watching them do it. I’m excited. 

We announced our captains yesterday, and those four young men have great respect from their teammates, and a lot of hard work has gone into them earning that responsibility. I know they’re excited about what comes with it. 

Obviously, you also saw that Isaiah Moore was put into the No. 1 jersey yesterday. I’m super excited for him. He’s earned that. He represents our football team as a person, as a student and as an athlete. What he’s doing right now in our community as well, he’s just a standout individual that’s been through a lot, that has earned a lot of respect, not just on our football team but on our campus. 

With that, game one to me is about getting out with these guys, letting them play, having a good time doing it, being physical, executing at a high level and playing complimentary football. We have a very good specialist group. That has to be a big part of this game for us. Special teams play a huge role. 

As we’ve seen watching college football here, there’s been some very sloppy games, there’s been some very clean games. Obviously, you want to be one of those teams that goes out and executes. 

It’s going to be fun to see these guys this week in practice. This will be probably the biggest group we’ve had back. We’re at about 95 percent of having all our guys back now. Some of them are still out from injury, but most of our roster is able to practice and compete right now. For us as coaches, it’ll be fun to have those guys all out on the field together again. 

Is Louis Acceus’ injury COVID-related? 

It’s not COVID related, it’s just a continuation of what he’s been dealing with. For Louis, the best thing for him was to become a coach. He’s excited about that. He’s been around the guys everyday, and he brings great energy to the group. He has tremendous respect from the coaches and his teammates. That’s kind of where it is. 

Have you talked with other coaches about what to expect?

Not since the games have started. We talked a lot in the summer and through fall camp. A lot of the conversations were really about practice. There were so many changes in how we were going to practice that I had a lot of conversations with colleagues in the business. 

The game-day aspect of it, it’s pretty straightforward on what we can and can’t do. Obviously with all the testing that takes place, there’s a lot of things that are just standardized for us. That’s where it’s been for me. 

What’s realistic to expect from Tim Beck and the offense in week one?

You’re not going to see the whole playbook, obviously. I think as we got into training camp we were able to install a lot. Those two weeks where they kind of backed everybody down in the summer and where we kind of had the 20-hour rule, we were allowed to do a lot of walkthroughs. He’s able to get a lot of things coached in that situation. We were starting to install quite a bit. Once we hit the slowdown and lost a lot of guys during that eight-day window, it was really a time where he settled in on ‘What do we need to have at the beginning of the year?’ 

He really started repping those things as guys came back. You’re going to see the offense grow as the season goes. It’s not going to be a deal where in game one everything he has, he can do. I think part of that will be his personnel as he goes forward to, just seeing how guys respond on game day. 

You think you know who your guys are going into the first game, but as we all know, some guys all of a sudden will emerge on game day as a playmaker. That will change some of the things that you do. It will be different. The whole thing is different really, how he calls it and the different things he can do within the system. You’ll see some formation similarities, but the system itself will be a lot different. 

Is the leadership responsibility of Isaiah Moore wearing the No. 1 jersey more important this year with all of the off-field stuff and holding guys accountable?

I think that depends on the individual. I think that’s part of who Isaiah is. I think that’s something that he’ll take on his plate because he likes that responsibility of holding people accountable. I think he looks at himself not only as someone who leads by not only how he plays and how he acts, but he really does have a voice with this team. He has no problem speaking from the heart about things. 

I do expect him to take on a bigger leadership role, not because of the jersey number which just validates it, but because of who he is. If he was wearing No. 41 he wouldn’t be any different as far as how he leads this football team. 

Does some young guys getting experience against Wake last year help now?

It’s hard to put experience into a player. You can’t do that. Last year we were forced to play a lot of freshmen due to those injuries. Those freshmen now have that in their background to draw from. That’s valuable for them. Having played not just at Wake Forest, but having played in games. We were playing guys out of position in that game last year. We had safeties and nickels playing corner against them. We don’t have to do that now, which is obviously a huge benefit. You can play guys in the position that they were recruited to play, where they have the best skill set to play in. It’s nice to have that. 

The biggest thing for us in this game in particular, and you saw it in a lot of the opener, is that there’s going to be a lot of rotation. There’s starters, but there’s going to be guys that play as much as the starters because of the first game, the tempo, all the things that go with it and the time lost. There’s players that were out not only for an eight-day pause, but they were out for contact tracing for an additional 14 days. 

That’s going to set them back where we can’t expect them to play 80 plays. 

We have those things going on within the roster and the depth charts where the depth is going to be definitely something that we have to be able to take advantage of. The rotation and the depth has to perform well. 

Is there an advantage of being able to watch Wake play while they don’t have tape on you?

I think there is. I think from a playing standpoint, getting on the field with your team and seeing them play a game is a huge advantage for your own wellbeing as a coach. The scouting aspect obviously gives us an advantage on who they are replacing their lost starters with and how they’re using them. For them not to have film on how Tim [Beck] is going to call it or how Tony [Gibson] is going to call it obviously helps us. 

Those guys had a lot of film as play callers at other places that I’m sure they are using. I think it’s the personnel piece, maybe, that’s the biggest advantage for the team that hasn’t played because you can see their guys and they can’t see ours. 

On your depth chart, you’ve got the position of F with Dylan Parham and Dylan Autenrieth. Is that kind of a hybrid H-Back type position? How does that fit in the offense?

Yeah, it is. Our Y is more of an in-line player, and our F is going to align in a lot of places. We have a lot of different assignments and alignments in the system. So that’s just a way to categorize them that way.

With the loss of Louis Acceus, there’s another change in the position for linebacker. We saw the release coming out with Payton Wilson being listed at the weak-side linebacker position. But we also saw the SAM linebacker being added as opposed to the Buck linebacker. What’s the idea for the change there, and what do you expect from Drake Thomas and Vi Jones going into the season with that change there? 

Sam, Mike and Will is just how Tony’s always done it with his system, so that was regardless to Louis being here. That’s how that would have been. With regard to the lineup, Tony has cross-trained, through fall camp, these guys. With Drake being able to play multiple spots and Levi in the rotation that we’re going to need, because Payton, Isaiah, Jaylon Scott, we expect to play a lot of these kids at linebacker. There will be a rotation where you see multiple guys in and out. So we can play fast, and we have to be able to match their tempo and also have fresh bodies to do so. There will be a lot of rotation at that spot. When you look and see “or” positions, guys that in our opinion have earned the right to be out there as starters, whether they’re going to be out there to start or not, they’re going to play a lot of reps.

You moved Ikem Ekwonu to guard, is that just to get your five best blockers on the field?

He was a guard in high school, so it’s a position he’s played. And for us to be able to get our top five out there, we felt that having Tyrone and Ikem on the left allowed us to have that. You see Witt and Joe on the right, and then Grant at center. And then behind those guys, we’ve got some depth where we can rotate on the O-Line. Ikem can always bounce back out to left tackle. If Tyrone, Tim McKay’s had a great camp for us too and he’s a guy that we expect to see. So there’s some rotation that will happen throughout the game. But that was our way to get what we felt like was our five most experienced offensive linemen out there. 

What’s different about opening the season with Wake Forest?

Where we play them is really up to the ACC. The only thing that really has been our last game in recent years is UNC. I think the mindset of opening with a conference game is no different than opening with a Power Five nonconference game. I think the antennas go up, it counts for more, in the guys opinions, and obviously for league statistics. And so you’re going to have that urgency in training camp, that urgency in your conversations about who we’re up against, and it’s a lot different than opening up with a non Power 5 team when it comes to the urgency you feel from the players and the staff.

Nothing’s been normal for the last six months, but how much does getting ready to start this weekend return some normalcy to the campus and community? 

I think we’re starving for a routine. This allows us to hopefully have one, just to get into game week and get the opportunity to have back-to-back similar weeks as we move forward. Because we’ve had the opposite. Every day has really been a day where change could happen. Hopefully as we get into these games, if they continue the way they are, we can get into that, ‘This is what your Monday looks like, your Tuesday and so on. The guys can have a routine and the coaches can have a routine in their lives. 

Your guys participated with other athletes last week in talking about racial unity and other things that are happening at the same time as the other parts that we’re going through right now. What did that do for their mindset?

It’s an event that they’ve been wanting to have for a long time. The ability to have all the student athletes together and do that, it was a great day. It was very well-organized by Isaiah and the other student athletes. I thought there was tremendous thought and expression. The speakers did a phenomenal job of speaking on Pack United and what that stands for, the awareness, education and action that they want that platform to have from the student athletes, to the campus, to the community. It’s really about having empathy, listening and understanding. Being there with them through their pain. Acknowledging the fact that all of us can’t completely understand what other people go through, but we want to sit there and support them and be next to them, help them get through it and support them. 

I thought it was a great day. I thought it showed a lot from our student athletes, from our administration, from our support staff, from everyone that was a part of it. Not everybody’s going to understand it. I think that’s OK. I think everyone just has to have empathy and understand that there’s a lot of people in pain. It’s not about politics. It’s about heart, it’s about love and it’s about being better people to each other. That’s what this is right now. I’m very proud to be a part of what NC State stands for. 

This has created so many changes. Has there been anything that really surprised you that turned out to be a bigger issue than you thought it would? 

I think the biggest challenge in all this has been the contact tracing piece. We’re all going through tests the same way, we’re all doing the CDC protocols with masks, social distancing and sanitizing  a certain way. But the way people are being contact traced from what we’re seeing is different from school to school. There isn’t really a unified way of doing that. I think that’s been the biggest issue, where in our case, you have multiple tests a week, and guys who are completely healthy and passing tests but are unable to come work on their skills because somebody they were around at a certain time has symptoms or has a positive test. So that’s been the hardest piece to manage. As you all know, the symptoms for this, there’s many, many symptoms. 

So a guy can wake up with a stuffy nose, and all of the sudden his three roommates can’t come in until a player passes a test. So you can have a position group be completely healthy and not be able to come into the building for a long period of time. So that’s been challenging. I think that’s the hardest part of this for us, and I’m not sure how it is at other campuses. But just the unknown of losing to guys to things where they’re not in harm's way right now, because that’s what’s best by CDC protocol and the people on campus. So you just have to kind of work with what you have and do the best you can that day. Continue to work through all the things that go with it. 

As far as phone calls go, you get crazy phone calls all the time right now. You just kind of shake your head and go ‘Well, alright, what can we do about it.’ I’m just trying to be solution-based. I think it’s really easy right now to be negative with all the things that are going on. That doesn’t fix anything. I’ve told our players, our coaches, we need to take a positive mindset in facing this adversity. If we’re a team that handles chaos better than other teams, we’re giving ourselves an edge. So that’s something we’ve challenged ourselves to do day in and day out. But it is challenging. It is. There’s constant times when we’re holding each other to that standar of ‘Let’s find the solution. Complaining fixes nothing.’ For us, that’s really where we’ve been day in and day out, hour to hour with this thing. 

You guys get so much energy from the crowd at Carter-Finley, especially at night. But you guys won’t have that this weekend. Does that matter once the ball’s kicked off, or have you talked to the guys about bringing their own energy on the sidelines?

We definitely have to have that. We’ve talked about offense, defense, special teams and then our team, our sideline team has to be great in supporting each other. It’ll be unique playing in an empty stadium. We do have some pretty sweet cutouts over there. I saw Zach Galifianakis’ face in the crowd yesterday during our mock game. There’s some comedy relief there right now. But not having the students there, not having our fans, our parents, that’s hard. To say that we don’t get energy from them would be a lie. We do. We know that they’re going to be cheering us on from afar. Hopefully this is just a thing we deal with for one week. We don’t have another home game in September, so our fingers are crossed that things can possibly change after that.

Porter Rooks is an “or” on the depth chart, how has he impressed in camp? 

He’s just consistent. He makes plays every day. He’s the same guy. For a freshman, that first semester is hard, particularly with what they’re dealing with here, and Porter’s been very mature. He learns the offense very quickly. He catches the ball naturally, he’s a good route runner. More than anything, he’s earned trust because he’s the same every day. I think that’s the biggest thing you’ve looked for if you’re going to play somebody at a young age and not know what you’re getting. For him, it’s a very consistent performance day in and day out.”

I’m sure you’ve been following what’s going on at Virginia Tech. In the back of your mind, do you think about the fact that you’re not sure if a game’s going to be played or do you tune those things out?

I don’t know what can happen week to week. I think that’s part of why I said this earlier when we moved that game. The league created a schedule that has some bye weeks in it, that has some open end on the back side of things if they have to move games due to other teams’ health or circumstances. So I’m trying not to worry too much about that. I know we went through a similar thing here; they were just later than us with students coming back. So hopefully their return is similar to ours. I know they were down in the 40s to what could practice; we had a similar situation here. Over a period of days, you get 10 players back a day and you’re back in the 100s within six days. So hopefully they have a quick return for their team’s well-being up there. 

As far as preparing your team, does that play in the back of your mind?

No, I think obviously seeing Wake play and no things have come out about anything from that game, you feel good about the one coming up, and we’ll deal with the next one when we get to it. I think that’s the only way we can approach it right now.

Shyheim Battle is listed as an ‘or’ with Malik Dunlap on the first depth chart, what has he done in camp to earn that spot?

At corner, Shyheim and Cecil Powell have been very consistent. Teshaun Smith is a proven player who’s played a lot for us. Malik played a lot last year. So we feel like there’s four corners that we can play with and rotate. Aydan White is a freshman who’s done a really good job in camp. That’s another young guy we’re excited about at that position. So that’s really our group that we have right now. We’re going to get into this week and continue to evaluate it. I think what the or tells you is right now there’s four guys that we look at as guys that could be in the game at any point in time.

Is there any update on Chris Ingram?

Chris is still not ready to go. It’s just kind of week to week with Chris. Obviously with the NCAA allowing this to be a zero year from an eligibility standpoint, we’re just going to see how long it takes for Chris to get back. We certainly want him to be healthy and feel good about being out there. Until he feels that way, he won’t play. 


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