NC State opens spring Wednesday — a day later than expected because of weather — to kick off Year 2 of the Dave Doeren era. As the Wolfpack go about moving beyond their 3-9 season from 2013, we talk to Doeren to see where the program is at as it readies for 2014.
Check back this afternoon for Part 2 of our conversation.
As you enter your second spring here, what is your biggest challenge in going about erasing the bad taste in your guys' mouths from the way last season ended?
Dave Doeren: Well these guys don't have to be reminded about it, to be honest with you. It's been a really focused offseason. The guys have got a lot of purpose in their actions, and we were a really young and inexperienced and an injured team the year before, and guys went into the offseason and didn't want to have the same experience, and we've done a lot to focus on the things that we need to be better at. But at the same time, it's not a deal where you stand around and consistently talk about what happened last year. I'm a big believer in learning from the past so you don't have to relive it, but at the same time I think there's a point where you kind of focus on what you're doing today and how you're doing it and why you're doing it, not just consistently reminding about negative things, you know?
For you going into your second year here, having last year and a whole recruiting cycle under your belt, what would you say is the biggest difference?
DD: It definitely helps to be more precise, I think, in exactly what you're trying to replace on your roster. When you go out recruiting a class and you haven't even coached a kid, it's difficult; you're really looking at numbers and 'losing this many of these guys.' But after you coached them for a year you really know this is exactly what we're missing. This is exactly what we have to make ground up in in this league, and here's where the roster is light. And even though there might be numbers there, you don't know the talent because you haven't coached it yet. The ability to be precise, I think, and obviously the routine -- just knowing your surroundings better, knowing the the people, knowing the players, the high school coaches in the area and all the things that go with walking in for a second year.
You knew the margin for error would be pretty thin going into last year. Games like the Clemson game and a couple others where you were close in the fourth quarter certainly come to mind. How do you turn those into building blocks for these guys moving forward?
DD: We had seven games last year that we lost where in the fourth quarter we were either in the lead or within a touchdown at some point in the fourth quarter. And some of those ended up being blowouts where we lost. But it's easy and with them it's 'All right, here's how close you were, but here's the reason that we didn't finish.' And there's a lot of reasons. For our guys it's I think one thing when you go 3-9 and another when you're able to turn on film and show them how close you were to not being in that situation. And for the guys that played it's very memorable for them because they know things they could've done different. For the guys that were watching as redshirts, I think it's a great learning experience. It's been a huge focal point of our offseason program -- being, I don't know if the right word's 'tougher,' but more resilient and having a greater ability to focus when you're tired in the fourth quarter.
You were quick to declare Jacoby Brissett your starter for 2014. What has he shown you in the past year behind the scenes, and what are you looking forward to seeing out of him this spring?
DD: He came in last winter, so he went through spring ball and got a lot of reps. There were only two quarterbacks on the roster when I got hired. So we watched him for 15 practices and he got a ton of reps. And then in fall camp he got some reps because you can't let the guys get every throw. And the entire season he was our scout team quarterback, and the way he led that unit, and the things that he did in our locker room -- he personally drove himself to every game because he can't travel or play when he was ineligible. He drove to Tallahassee to see us play Florida State and was in our locker room. He couldn't make it his team because he wasn't the guy, but he did everything he could so they that knew it was his team next year. I thought he showed remarkable maturity, the way he handled it, because that's difficult when you're a player of his caliber and you can't play and you're watching and you know that you couldn't be out there. Other guys would pout and kind of maybe even have some depression, and he was the opposite. Every day he showed up with a just really positive, excited attitude. He studied the game plan each week like he was playing and he would talk to (quarterbacks) coach (Matt) Canada after games about things he saw and things he wished he could've done. He's very excited to play. And I don't want to put undue pressure on him -- he needs to go out and make the plays now -- but there was no question in anyone's mind, not just the coaching staff but the players, that it was going to be his team this year.
Going off that pressure point, what do you think it does for him to know that he's the guy?
DD: It would probably be a good question for him. I would think as a player you have extreme confidence knowing that your coach thought that way about you, but I think he's known that. ... He's focused more on what he has to do and really how much he can help the guys around him.