Wolfpack 'In a Good Place' When it Comes to Player Availability

Brett Friedlander

The NC State football team won't have its full complement of players Saturday when it opens the 2020 season against Wake Forest at Carter-Finley Stadium.

But coach Dave Doeren and his staff will still have a lot more talent available to them against the Deacons than they had just a few weeks ago.

"We had 105 guys today," Doeren said Thursday during a virtual conference with the media, adding that some of the missing players are out with normal physical ailments rather than COVID-19. "That’s the highest we’ve been. 

"When we started back after the eight-day break, we had 45 players in practice. I think we gained about 10 players back per day after that. A week later we were up to 84, I think, after Sept. 1. We’re in a good place."

Of those 105 players, most have been in practice all week and none were just released from quarantine.

While that has led Doeren to say that he feels "good about the depth chart," heading into Saturday's game, it hasn't always been that way since the Wolfpack arrived back on campus in July.

The coach said that the uncertainty of who and how many players were available from day to day has made preparing for this season such a challenge.

Especially on the players.

"They’re just used to routine this time of year," Doeren said. "For me, it was the contact tracing piece that was the hardest. You have one kid who was asymptomatic eat lunch and three guys might have been around him when he ate and may have passed their COVID test, they feel great and they can’t come to the building for 14 days. That happened a lot over that period when the students came back.

'That was hard because our drills are based on our numbers. How many reps you are going to take is based on our numbers. You never want to push these guys to the point where you’re having soft-tissue injuries because you’re doing too much. 

"That was really challenging for us as a staff. It was something that we embraced, to be honest. We’ve talked about 'embracing the suck.' That’s really what it was at times. The guys were good, just trying to find solutions and not be someone that sits around and being more negative in a negative situation."

Whether that's good enough to make up for the disruptions in practice and the fact that Wake Forest has already played a game this season, losing 37-13 to top-ranked Clemson last week, won't be known until the Wolfpack actually takes the field on game night at Carter-Finley.

"Are we where we want to be?" Doeren asked rhetorically. "I think we’ve done as much as we can. I think we need to go play football now."

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