Doeren, Wolfpack Begin Work on Bouncing Back
The first step toward bouncing back from last year's injury-plagued 4-8 season for coach Dave Doeren and the NC State football team began back in December with the addition of a new recruiting class.
It continued through the new year with a staff shakeup that saw five new assistant coaches hired, with a change of coordinators on both side of the ball.
The next phase in putting 2019 into the rear view mirror will begin on Feb. 27, when State begins its annual spring practice. There's a lot to accomplish during the 15 offseason workouts leading up to the Wolfpack's Better Together Spring Game at Carter-Finley Stadium on April 4, but Doeren is anxious to get to work.
Here's what the veteran coach said about a number of different subjects at a media availability on Thursday, starting with the new additions to his staff -- Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay (nickels), Tim Beck (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Joe DeForest (safeties), Brian Mitchell (cornerbacks) and Charley Wiles (defensive line), while Tony Gibson has gone from co-defensive coordinator to the only DC:
"There were certain things I wanted to do differently and felt like we needed to do differently to move forward, so I then went about finding the guys I felt most comfortable with and trying to have chemistry within that group.
"In Tony (Gibson's) situation, they were already guys he'd worked with, had done it with him and knew his system. And then Freddie, having a graduate on our staff is something I've always liked. It gives you, like Thunder in the weight room, a perspective that they can bring, not just to the players but in recruiting when talking to moms and dads, because they have that experience.
Tim and I go back a long, long ways, so having an OC that I've worked with at Kansas and known since he was a high school coach. I just wanted to have that experience over there, not only with what the system is, but how to fix the system and how to evolve the system based on the personnel."
Doeren was asked how similar Beck's offensive philosphy was to his own and how things might change with a new voice calling the plays:
“What I asked him to do is learn what we did and why we did it, and then look at all personnel and then put it together the way he wants it to be so that it fits our guys. He uses the terminology he needs it to be so he can call the plays, so the terminology will be completely different.
“He'll look at the players. What he did at Texas may not be exactly what our guys can do. The stuff that fits, some of things we did they may not have done and he wants to do it here. That’s going to be an evolving process throughout the spring. They spent a lot of time watching our games, a lot of time watching his games, so that whole (offensive) staff has put it together."
The biggest question heading into the spring is at quarterback, where Devin Leary and Bailey Hockman both started games while Ty Evans was redshirted and Ben Finley -- younger brother of three-year starter Ryan Finley -- has enrolled early to compete for the starting job:
“I look forward to seeing all of their growth, first of all, because two of the guys got valuable reps last year. Devin is the starter going into the spring. Bailey has worked really hard this offseason, Ty Evans has really changed his body and Ben Finley has been here for half a semester and he’s getting used to things. I haven't seen him throw yet, but I'm looking forward to watching what he can do.
“The spring is a great competitive time where you’re not in a rush to put a gameplan in and you can kind of see the progressions. It's a position I know Coach Beck is working with every day with those guys It’s not wide open, but at the same time it’s Devin’s job and it’s up to the other guys to try to catch him.”
Doeren said it's not in the plan to go out and look for a graduate transfer to solidify the quarterback position.
"You never know how things will play out, but I really like the guys we have and I'm excited to see them this spring."
Doeren addressed the exodus of eight players leaving via the NCAA's transfer portal since the end of last season:
“There’s 2,700 people in the portal, which is an average of 10-plus per team, so it’s part of what we deal with now. They leave for a lot of reasons. A lot of it is, ‘Am I playing enough?’ ‘When am I going to get to play?’ ‘What’s the depth chart look like?’ ‘Do I get the ball enough?’ Things like that.
“Sometimes you've got a kid that just want to get closer to home. That happens. Each kid that comes in those situations, we have one-on-ones and try to figure out the whys and make it where they don't want to leave. Sometimes it’s just not the right fit for them and you help them find a place to go.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Doeren downplayed the change that gave Gibson sole possession of the coordinator duties after sharing the title with the now-departed Dave Huxtable last year:
“The ‘co' thing’ I think a lot of people get hung up with publicly. It’s a title. It’s a professional title that shows that you’re higher up than just a position coach. But Dave Huxtable was our defensive coordinator. Des (Kitchings) was our playcaller last year as an offensive coordinator. You see it at a lot of schools. It’s more of a way, I think, to recognize stature within your coaching staff but it doesn’t mean that (Gibson) was calling the plays.”
So how will things be differently defensively now that Gibson is making the calls?
“What I asked Tony to do is similar to what Tim. I told him to break apart what we have. I don’t want to run last year’s defense. I don’t want to run two years ago's defense. I don’t want to run West Virginia’s defense. I want to run what’s best for our players and to look at each part of what we have coming back, what we do well and what we don’t do well and then build it from there.
“That’s kind of where we are right now with a lot of experience back on defense in a lot of places other than the d-line. We’ve got to use those pieces the right way."
Have you decided to stay with a three-man front or will you go bout to four down this year?
“It’s a multiple defense. We’ll be able to be in a three-down front and we’ll be able to adjust from that to four-down and five-down fronts.”
Finally, Doeren reflected on the Super Bowl championship of the Kansas City Chiefs, the team he pulled for as a youngster growing up in Kansas.
"I remember they were terrible and then Marty Schottenheimer came in and then Christian Okoye, and then they has Marcus Allen and Joe Montana, and had a run. I'm a huge Chiefs fan, so it was a big night for our family I tried to go to the game, but I couldn't make it work."