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NC State Football

Dave Doeren: "It's Been A Good Offseason"

March 8, 2021

NC State head coach Dave Doeren met with the media via Zoom Monday afternoon to discuss the Wolfpack's start to spring practices ahead of the 2021 season.

The Wolfpack finished the 2020 season with an 8-4 overall record and 7-3 in ACC play. The new season begins on Thursday, Sept. 2 as USF comes to Carter-Finley Stadium.

A full transcript of Doeren’s comments is posted below.

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

Opening Statement

"It's good to see everybody, hope you're all doing well. I’m excited to get back on the grass tomorrow with these guys. It's been a good offseason with a lot of really good work. It’s nice having the continuity in the staff and the ability to not be showing someone else's film as you're teaching your installs for Coach [Tim] Beck. To be with the offensive coaches in the second year, and he's already worked with Joker [Phillips] prior, I feel like there's really good chemistry there. Defensively, the entire staff is back. The players did a really good job coming in, in January, and listening to the things that we really wanted to focus on, and felt like as good as we were in a lot of areas last year, there's across the board areas of focus.

“Having Devin [Leary] back for spring ball is a big deal. You always love having your starting quarterback leading you on the field and your practices and your offseason program. It's good to see him, not just being healthy, but the mental place he's in right now is outstanding. Excited about the growth we've seen from him as a leader, and Ben Finley has had a really good offseason. Aaron McLaughlin is on campus already along with 17 of our midyear guys. Focus for the spring, obviously you're always looking at your schemes, areas that you want to experiment a little bit and help players grow. We feel like there's certain guys that we lost, obviously losing Cary Angeline at the tight end position opens up some touches on the offensive side of the ball at that position, and looking forward to seeing a young group of tight ends develop there. I feel like Trent Pennix and Jordan Houston are guys that can take other steps for us in our offensive system and help us in other ways. The young class of receivers that came in a year ago, Anthony Smith and Chris Scott, Jalen Coit, look forward to seeing them. Josh Crabtree, that group now kind of has an opportunity to get some more work. On the offensive line, we lost one starter in Joe Sculthorpe, and I feel like there's really good depth and competition at that position group. 

"Defensively, it’s great to be able to get Daniel Joseph back for another season, and I’m excited about the gains he's made in the weight room and the defensive line in general. There’s a lot of experience.  Obviously our linebacking core returns.  Payton [Wilson] and Drake [Thomas] will not participate in contact this spring, but it'll give us a chance to evaluate the guys behind them and also an opportunity to really look at a couple of the young linebackers. I’m excited about the development of [Devon] Betty, Jordan Poole, and Caden Fordham and what they can bring to the table with that position group. At the defensive back position, we brought in two transfers, and I’m so excited to see competitive depth we have in the secondary. Getting Teshaun Smith back, he'll be a part of spring ball. He won't be in contact drills, but he'll be able to do a lot of our individual and non-contact stuff, and I’m excited about that. 

"It's going to be fun just to see the competitive depth across the roster. The guys are in a really good frame of mind. We need to cut our penalties way back, pre-snap and post-snap, and that's a huge focus this offseason. The discipline that it takes to limit the plays that hurts you in a game. We're able to overcome some of those penalties and not others, and feel like that's an area we can make dramatic improvement. When it comes to taking care of the ball and getting back, those are a huge emphasis and the details that go into that. As you get older as a football team, those kind of things get better, and we do have that experience on the roster. Biggest thing is just last year we lost so much of this time, and I think the spring and fall camp in general are just two of the best times of the year as a coach. There's not a game that you're trying to get ready for. You have a lot of teaching time. A lot of time to really slow it down and dig in on the little things that matter so much and the chemistry of your team and the development of your roster. 

"Being back on the grass and seeing kind of the direction that things are going with the pandemic, I'm very positive about this opportunity to improve. Losing out on all those days last year I know was really difficult, particularly on the offensive side of the ball for Coach Beck installing a new system without the opportunity to coach in it and really get a sampling of what his guys can do. I think he's got a very good handle on the things he wants to do differently with the staff, so it's gonna be fun. I'm really looking forward to it.

"There's a lot of positivity here right now. There's a lot of good chemistry on this roster and it's opportunity for a lot of young guys, and in some cases not so young. Guys like Dylan Parham, who I think is chomping at the bit. Trent Pennix is chomping at the bit to get out there and earn a role to be playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. We'll see how it goes. I'm not gonna have a great feel for probably till about midway. We won't scrimmage until we get into the second week, that second Friday, and start to be able to kind of see where things are heading."

Considering all of the challenges that last season presented, how valuable was getting some time off in the month of January to yourself, your coaches, and also your players?

"It was mentally exhausting with just the number of things we had to deal with from an operational standpoint: the decisions, the planning. Usually, it's pretty cut and paste when you figure out when you can start practicing how it's gonna roll out, and last year, it was the opposite. We were changing things daily at times, and it wasn't just on the coach's doing it. I mean, everybody was involved. I thought we handled it very well. I think our guys accepted the fact that we were going to be very flexible through all this and had to embrace that part of what happened, but it did wear you down. It was a blessing in disguise, really, not being able to go out on the road and recruit and be here with our players and be here with our families and be able to take some breaks in the calendar to hit reset and just rejuvenate. I think everybody's in a good headspace right now, and our calendar's set up a certain way to allow us to continue to work hard, but we also rest when we can."

Can you just talk about what you've seen from Leary in the last couple of months?

"Devin believes in himself. He's played well, he's very confident. He’s not cocky at all, just very confident. He's very comfortable in the role that he's in. He believes in himself, and his teammates believe in him. He's done a really good job building relationships with his teammates. He’s just excited. You see him walking around the building, and I think last year he was trying to win a job and prove himself. He had to deal with all the things you guys are aware of with contact tracing. It was hard on him. Just to be in a good space right now where he can be himself and take advantage of the time he spent here, he understands the system. He knows his talent around him. He's played in big games, and he's brought us back from behind to win games. There's just a lot of things that are different for Devin now and different in a good way. It takes time, as a player, to have experiences and grow. To his credit, he's been able to do that and push through some tough times.”

Before the end of the season we asked you about some of the seniors. You said you guys would have conversations when the season ended. Can you share what some of those conversations were like and let us know what made them want to come back for the extra year?

"I think they're all a little bit different. Daniel [Joseph] was at Penn State, as you know, for a while and didn't really have a main role on that football team, and I think he's embraced being a starter. He's embraced being a playmaker, and he wants an opportunity to do that more. I think having more film is important to him. I think, in Emeka [Emezie's] case, he's got a lot of film. It's not that. I think he really loves his teammates. There are some things he knows he can do better, and he wants to improve on those things. Each of these guys was different. It always starts with, ‘What can you gain by coming back?’ Each guy has different things. C.J. Riley and Tyrone Riley are both guys that have battled injuries, and I think they want to just go out on a good note and want to have a healthy season and finish college the way they want to finish college. Dylan Parham, like I mentioned, I think having a role, battled injuries as well, but being a starter. Dylan Autenrieth and Cary Angeline were such a presence here for so long. I think it's his opportunity now, and he looks at it that way. Chris Ingram is another guy that has an extra year here, and hopefully we'll get Chris back healthy, but they're all a little different. For me, it's just about listening and trying to give them my two cents and talking to their parents, if that's part of it, and helping them through it. It's not trying to coerce them one way or the other. Like I tell all of them, I want them to have peace. I want them to be happy. I want them to turn around and and know that they did everything they wanted to do while they're here to the best of their ability. Each kid is different. I think some guys feel like they've done it. In Nyheim [Hines'] case or Alim [McNeill's] case, they felt like they were at the point where they're ready to go. Then in other guys cases, there's just things they want to work on. Ryan Finley had things he wanted to work on. Bradley Chubb at things he wanted to work on. It takes time. Each of them were a little different in their timeline."

With the NCAA really making your senior class juniors this upcoming year, how is that impacting 2022 recruiting for you?

"The roster management conversation is very challenging right now. Normally, you can predict your attrition through how many seniors you have. In our case, you know there's 16-19 guys that are in that kind of category. Not necessarily knowing where they're going to go, you have to recruit like they're leaving, but you have to also take into account how their season’s going to be because they could opt to come back as we just saw with the class we just had. We're really in a tough spot, you know. We're hoping that we get some answers from the NCAA. There's a lot of committees, subcommittees, and groups that are studying this right now and coming up with plans for us to be able to recruit a ‘22 class the right way. As a coach, you're really in a tough position because we are over. You have 85, and then you have your super seniors, and your super seniors don't count in your 85. How many you're going to lose and how many we can bring in is a hot topic right now. We're just trying to manage it and listen and pay attention to the conversations that are happening and, when asked, give our input as an ACC coaching group to the ADs and to the subcommittees and Todd Berry with the ACA and all the commissioners and everybody else so that we're on the same page with the best path forward. It's a financial piece for universities as well. When they gave everyone a scholarship for an extended year, there's additional fundraising and obviously money generated that has to pay for those scholarships. It's tough. I'm not sure I answered your question because I really don't have one for you yet. There's a lot that gets to that. For us, we're just trying to be fluid. We have to communicate well with recruits, and in some cases, there'll be conversations like that: 'We're not sure if we have a spot, but if we do, you're our guy.' We’ll see where that goes.”

How would you evaluate the nose tackle position coming out of the bowl game and going into spring? 

"We'll miss Alim. Obviously, he was a really good player, and we're excited for him. I’m also excited about what we have coming back and the competition there. C.J. Clark is really excited and has worked really hard to get to where he is. Josh Harris is a young man that, as we continue to get him into the shape we want him to be in, we feel like can be a force in there. Davin Vann is another young man that we feel can play nose and end in our scheme that has grown up a lot this offseason. He was really impressive, and his personality is coming out. He’s learned how to play the position. You know, he was a linebacker in high school, a lot like Alim, that has now grown into that state championship wrestling body that he has and how to use it and play with leverage. At this point, I can't tell you how it's going to play out. I'll just tell you that we're excited about the guys that we have there and to look forward to watching Coach [Charley] Wiles develop that position group."

What did you learn the most from managing things through the pandemic?

"I think just the the amount of sacrifice that went into this whole thing. The players did a phenomenal job of listening to the things that they needed to listen to, of really protecting the season, and buying into that. So many of the things that players look forward to, playing in front of a sold out stadium, and all these things that go into college football fanfare weren't there. I do think the love of the game really came out last season in college football. As a coach, it was really fun to be a part of that. Just to see the guys opt in, to play through something that was scary and unknown and stick together, and the opportunities to really grow apart or grow together were all over the place, socially and medically through the offseason and the season. I thought our guys, our staff, and our players just grew together through all of it. I think that's what coming out of something that's challenging. You just can't lose sight of how important that is. I think it’s just the love of the game and the chemistry and doing this and understanding why you do it. I think that really came to the forefront last year for players and coaches. In some cases, you were more worried about the coaches’ health than player health when you were learning about what the virus can do to the age group. I think there's not one way to do things; that's for sure. You think back in your career: 'This is how we do fall camp. This is how we do two-a-days. This is how we do whatever.' All of a sudden, it was completely different, and you still had good results. I think the open mindedness that needs to be a part of this profession, it really put that to the forefront. Your ability to plan, be fluid, communicate well, and get buy-ins from everybody, not just your players, but from everybody to work together for a common goal, it was really a test to that. I think you saw programs that really failed in that environment and programs, like ours, that really thrived in that environment. Moving forward, there's a lot of lessons from it that will carry with us. The things that were really good about how we did fall camp, the walkthroughs, the teaching style, and the way that we're able to do things, I think there's some things that will carry forward.”

When you're recruiting players who play multiple sports, do they tend to be better college football players because they played multiple sports in high school?

"I think competing in more than one season makes you a better competitor, regardless what that other sport is. I just think there's a competitive edge that some guys have when they go to a second season of competition or a third season of competition in some cases, three-sport athlete. It does make them a little bit different. Does it mean they're going to be better? Not necessarily, but I do think they have an edge when it comes to this competitiveness and the way that they're able to manage their time, because there's so much time management that goes into college football for these young men. I think they are you know used to doing that. They're used to school and and another sport throughout their high school and that helps them when they get here. I like what it does, just from a dynamic of learning other skills from a movement standpoint, whether it's a basketball player, whether it's a track athlete, a baseball player, a wrestler, depending on the position that we're talking about. Obviously, you can see Thayer was a great baseball player and still is. He's a really good returner. He's an outfielder that can track the ball,. and those kind of things carry over. The track speed carries over, the wrestling skills carry over for linemen, and the toughness that goes with that sport [carries over]. I'm always excited to recruit someone that's a multi-sport athlete. It doesn't mean we don't recruit players that aren't because, as you know, there's a lot that do not do that anymore, but it is something that we look for, and it's something that we deem as a very positive thing.”

Could you tell us about the impact that Joker Phillips has had since he came to Raleigh, not just on the players but also on you?

"Joker is a very experienced football coach. He’s been to a lot of places, worked for a lot of really good coaches, and been a head coach himself, as you know. The thing that's cool about him, he's got no ego. He gets up in front of the team or he'll talk in front of the staff and presents things in a very open, just an honest way. He's got a good way of speaking to people, and he's had some great ideas. He's a good listener. He doesn't come in and try to force things down your throat that he's done, but he gives you his perspective. He's a good sounding board, having him and Ruffin [McNeill] here, it gives me two guys that were head coaches to talk to about things that come up. For me, that's great to have. As the head coach, you love to be able to get opinions from people that sat in your chair because there's no one else that can really feel what you're feeling even though they want to think they can. Being in this chair is different; it brings different things. Your decisions affect a lot more people than just a position coaches, so it's great having that. I can walk down to his office and say, 'Hey man, this came up today. Did you ever deal with something like this?' Whether he did or didn't, at least he knows where I'm coming from with the question. His chemistry with Coach Beck and Coach [Kurt] Roper makes it a great fit for us. Unlike a lot of hires when you bring a guy in, and he's not only learning your system, he's learning the personalities of the people he's working with. In his case, really Coach [John] Garrison's the only coach on our offensive staff that he hadn't been around. He's been around Coach [Todd] Goebbel. There's really good chemistry, similar to when we brought in Brian Mitchell and Joe DeForest on defense for Tony [Gibson] last year. They had already worked together, and so you're kind of stepping through some of the hurdles very quickly that you normally would have in a transition. With the players, he's coached a lot of players, guys that have developed, guys were elite, guys that were in the NFL, so he can bring more perspective and other ways of doing things. George McDonald did a great job here, and so Joker's been able to step into a very experienced coaches room and pick up where he left off and some nuances that George didn't have,. Each coach has a little bit different way of doing things that I think was really good for our veteran wideouts. Because we got a unique wide receiver room. You've got C.J. Riley, Emeka Emezie, Devin Carter, and Thayer Thomas who are veteran players, and he's got a bunch of young guys that are freshmen and COVID-freshmen, as I call them, that are going into their second year, but they're really first year players on their clocks. He's got to develop that group, but at the same time, he's got to make sure these upper level guys are getting master's type lessons. He has the ability to do that."

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