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NC State Football

MONDAY PC: Dave Doeren Previews ECU, Talks Roster and Much More

August 29, 2022

After a long offseason and fall camp, it’s finally game week for NC State football. The Wolfpack begins what it hopes is a highly successful season coming off last year’s 9-3 with East Carolina in Greenville, North Carolina.

Dave Doeren spoke to the media Monday for his first game week press conference of the season, here is what he had to say.

NOTE: Click the video above to watch the Zoom press conference.  A collection of quotes are provided below.

Opening Statement...
We're excited, as a staff, as a team and, as a program to kick off the season.  I'm very proud as a head coach, to be on a staff like this, we have over 310 years between us and this sport. It's a group that cares a lot about each other, enjoys time together and does it for the right reasons for the players and very, very special, coaching staff to be on.

Our team, it's a team that has been on a journey together for time now, and we've grown together,  a lot of vulnerable conversations with each other and, there's a genuine commitment,  and an understanding of what it takes to be good and what it takes not to be good. 

 it is a one day at a time journey with our team, a mentality of trying to stack days,  that resemble actions that lead to our goals.  and we have high goals as a football team, as a program it's about winning today, over and over and over and over so that we can play well in the moment of truth. That's what Saturdays are about. So trying to be the best version of ourselves.

I really have enjoyed this training camp with this group and the preseason.  It’s been great having the two extra days the NCAA allow for rest to break up the work. It's as healthy as I've ever seen a team coming out of training camp here because of the time they've had from a recovery standpoint.

So I'm excited about that. 

We've been able to blend really hot weather with some rain, and so the conditions have made us adjust, which is good for what we might see in the opener.  It’s unique that we've practiced so much since our last game.   We played UNC that Friday before Thanksgiving or of Thanksgiving weekend preparing for a bowl, which we didn't play, had spring ball, which doesn't have a game against someone else and then fall camp. So we've practiced a lot without a game.  I know we're all ready to go play a game and see where we're at against an in-state team, in their house.

It’s a great opportunity to go play against coach Houston, who I have great respect for, and his staff. 

They also have a lot of continuity on their staff and a team that he's been able to recruit, develop. It's, it's more of his roster now than it ever has been, and they bring back a team that has a lot of veteran players with game reps. When you watch 'em, they play hard. They execute their systems well.  They play the entire length of the game. You see them come back in games. They've been in overtime games and they don't quit, so I have a lot of respect for that when you watch him.

Their quarterback has played a lot of football.  I've known Holton since he was in high school... big, strong kid that can run around and super smart... has a lot of game experience. 

He's got skill players around him. They're impressive. His top receiver, Johnson, obviously is a high school teammate. So there's chemistry there.  The tight end that transferred in from Oklahoma, Ryan Jones, we recruited from Mallard Creek and was a really good athlete in high school. I think their tailback is a really, really good football player for them. The o-line has some starters back and also have added some competition to the roster in the portal there on defense. They're very multiple, a lot of pressure, a lot of stunts changes, change up their coverage packages quite a bit. They play hard.  I do see good defensive speed when you watch their film.  Best thing they do on defense is get the ball back.  Last year they, they got 21 takeaways on defense. 

We know that their fans will be loud and for us, it’s something we need.  We need to go play on the road and play in front of a fanbase like that.  We’re going to come home after this game for three weeks and then have to go play at Clemson and that'll be our next time to really have that.

So I'm excited. We have that challenge in our opener as well, and it's a stadium that NC State has not played well in as a program.  We’re 1-4 in Greenville, and my last time there we had 13 penalties and lost a one-possession game. I know this is a tough place. Trust me, our team knows that as well. 

It's been a lot of conversation about who we're playing and where we're playing, and I've always felt winning starts with not beating yourself.  Particularly in these openers, you see a lot of early-season mistakes in opening games that we need to avoid to be the best team we can be. We need to not make it harder than it needs to be on ourselves with pre-snap penalties and layup type plays that you have to make, whether it's offense or defense.  Our special teams need to be special, needs to be an area like last year, that was a weapon. We talk about complimentary football and playing offense, defense, special teams and on the sidelines, I love the energy that we have.

I think all those go into the game itself. 

Anytime you travel, if you can win the turnover margin, you've got a great opportunity to win the game.  You have two defenses that pride themselves on getting the ball back.

When you talk about our team, start on offense, our offensive line returns four of its starters... we're excited about Anthony Belton at left tackle and Lyndon Cooper at center.  

You see a lot of good things out of Anthony Carter. He is one of our guards and Patrick Matan is another one of our tackles. We feel like we have good competitive depth there where we can rotate some guys on the o-line. 

Obviously at quarterback we feel great about Devin.  I met with him earlier today. He's got a good handle on what we're looking for as a leader and what he needs to do.

The running back position... I think they're all excited to get out and prove what they are.

At receiver we know what we have in Thayer, who probably had the best training camp he's had.  I thought he was outstanding, really has improved from last year. Devin Carter returns, and then you see kind of the up and coming guys. 

We’ve increased definitely our depth of playmakers. I think we leaned hard as y'all know on Emeka, so how are we going to create production? It's gonna come in a lot of guy's hands, I think.

We'll see, as you get into the games, obviously one guy outperforms others he'll get more time, but the system has been able to grow because of our staff continuity and the number of returners.

On defense, a lot of the same names... Savion, Cory Durden, Davin Vann,  Josh Harris, CJ Clark, those five have played a lot for us are back and playing well... Travali Price and Claude Larkins are two younger guys that are now rotating as well.

The three linebackers look good and really healthy, excited about those three.  Then the improvement of Jaylon Scott, Jayland Parker, and Caden Fordham behind them and our rotation. 

The secondary, we've got some competitive depth and we'll be able to rotate some guys... Tanner Ingle and Jakeen Harris... Cyrus and Devan Boykin... T. Bake and Josh Pierre-Louis at the nickel and dime. Our cornerbacks, Shy Battle, Aydan White, Derrek Pitts, and Teshaun Smith.  We'll see how this plays out. There's going to be a lot of guys, particularly early, getting some rotational time.

As the season goes on, we're gonna need 'em all.

The specialists are  the same as they were with Chris Dunn and Shimko, and then Shane McDonough as the transfer punter.  He had a great camp and is also our holder.  Colin Smith, our kickoff guy, and then Thayer and Julian Gray are our returners.  

That kind of rounds out the roster, and we're in a pretty good spot. We had a great practice on Sunday. We used Sunday as a day to get out and work since normally we'd be coming off a game.

We were all kind of expecting to see the two deep depth chart today. Is there a reason for delay? 
There's no reason for it. We just felt like we handed it out the same day our opponent does.  They do it on Tuesday. So that's when we're doing it. 

Looking back at 2016 loss at ECU...
One, you talk about it, you recognize it, and two, we're not the same team we were in 2016 either. That was a young football team, really young.  All those guys that ended up being NFL players were sophomore starters in that game. We made a lot of immature mistakes, and so I've talked about all of that with them.

You recognize it, but you also have to look at who you are.  We're a team that can play a lot better than that team did at that time in their career. So we need to,  and I think maturity is a big deal on the road. You look at your leadership, and we've got an experienced team that needs to make sure that we're not making it harder than it is to win a football game.

Thoughts on Holton Ahlers...
Well, he reminded me a lot of guys that I had at Northern Illinois... so we liked that about him. We thought we could run some of the downhill QB runs because he is a 230-pound guy and still have the dropback pass game that we wanted to have.

So those are the things,  as he is a 4.0 guy, he's obviously from a football family, he had all the right things and ultimately he chose to stay home and be a part of their family's legacy at that school.  I have nothing but respect for him for that.  What makes him good now is the same things then... he was mobile still has a good arm,  sees the field and is good on his feet. He's a four-year starter for them. 

With that third wide receiver spot, there's a lot of young guys battling for those positions. What have you seen from?
I've seen people emerge more than anything.  There's a lot of competition and guys that we were hoping would be playmakers for us showing that they are.  These are practice things that we're watching, not games yet, so this could change. Sometimes games bring out better things than some guys and not so good in others.

Judging it from what we've had, which is a lot of practice,  since we played UNC. Now, the improvement from Keyon Lesane, Julian Gray, the addition of Darryl Jones has really helped the room.  Jalen Coit, what he did in our second scrimmage, Anthony Smith had a great spring.  There's competition, and I think that pushed our guys. 

I think Thayer's better because of Porter, Julian Gray, and Jaylen Coit.  He had to push himself to get better because he knew they were coming for his job.  That makes him better.

The running back position, you guys helped us there. All you did was talk about how they lost Bam and they lost Ricky.  Who is going to be good in that room? They read that stuff. They know. That's a hungry group right now.  They're, they're anxious to get on the field and let you know who they are.

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