Doeren looks back at open date, ahead to Syracuse

Brett Friedlander

Here are some highlights from Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren's weekly press conference on Monday, including an injury report on cornerback Taiyon Palmer, running back Ricky Person and left tackle Justin Witt, a look back at how the team spent its week off and what to expect from this Thursday's game against ACC Atlantic rival Syracuse ...

"Before we get into players and games and all that stuff, Taiyon Palmer is out for the year with a knee injury. Ricky Person is out, but not long-term. He'll be back but won't play this week. Same with Justin Witt -- two guys with injuries that should bounce back but aren't back yet."

"A good time for us to have a bye week. Obviously after five games (we have) a lot of information for us to study. (It's an) opportunity for the coaches and players to digest a lot of film without a game right at the end of it to study what we need to improve on. We had some good practices, then gave them the opportunity to have a Saturday off so they could reflect, hit the reset button."

"Looking at us, we're running the football, we're playing really good football in the red zone, we've got a lot of first downs -- No. 1 in the conference. We've got to improve our efficiency on third-and-short the last two weeks. We need to get more explosive players and be more efficient period in our pass game. 

"Defensively we're stopping the run top 10 in the country, I think we're doing a really good job on third down pressuring the quarterback, doing well in total defense. There's some routes we've got to get off the film that we haven't been able to stop consistently and just getting more takeaways."

"Talking about Syracuse, we know a lot about this football team. (They're) really, really good at taking the ball away on defense, 12 takeaways. They're uptempo, they have very good skill receiver and running back. Their quarterback can throw it, extend plays with his feet. We've had some good football games with Syracuse since I've been here and I respect coach (Dino) Babers and his staff quite a bit."

Doeren and his staff gave their players several days off during the open week before returning to their normal game preparations on Sunday. The Wolfpack coach said his team should be fresh as it gets ready to play the bulk of its ACC schedule ... 

Just judging them by how they were (Sunday), they looked very refreshed. We were fast in practice yesterday. They've been in the weight room. It's not like we haven't seen them. It was good for our staff as well. We recruited on Friday, had a family day Saturday. We've been in here every day since August 1, so for us to have a day away from the office for us and a day away from the coaches for them I think was healthy at this point."

Even with the time off to get healthy again, the Wolfpack is missing numerous key players on both sides of the ball. In addition to Palmer, Person and Witt, State is also without wide receiver C.J. Riley tight end Dylan Autenreith and offensive tackle Tyrone Riley for the rest of the year while starting cornerback Nick McCloud hasn't played since the first game of the season.

Doeren addressed the injuries and how his team is planning to overcome them ...

"I'm not going to use it as an excuse. It's a reality. You all know all the different guys that are out and how young we were to start. The challenging part of that is the chemistry of the guys that play. You don't have the same 11 in and out all the time. I feel like we have gotten several guys better. It's just building off who's the guy next to you all the time. It changes and there's nothing we can do about that. You just gotta get the reps that you can. These guys understand that the next man up is real."

Doeren was asked if the adversity his team has faced when it comes to injury has brought the players closer together ...

"I think adversity in general forces you to do that. You either fight or you fail and we're going to fight. That's how we're made here. These guys are going to stick together, they're going to compete, try to find solutions and stay positive. That's the best thing any family can do in tough times and that's what we are. This football team is a family, so we're going to stick tight and we ask our fans to do the same thing for these young men."

Finally, Doeren talked about having a true freshman -- Icky Ekwonu -- starting at left tackle in place of Witt against Syracuse on Thursday ...

"I think he's ready. He's played well. He's been very physical. He's played in every game, so I'm excited for him. I think he's going to do a great job. Emanuel McGirt, Bryson Speas ... those guys have all waited their turns to play. Now they've got a shot. I look forward to seeing them compete."