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October 9, 2013

Q&A: Brandon Mitchell remains 'day-to-day'



NC State coach Dave Doeren expects two of his freshmen to return for the Syracuse game Saturday, but is still 72 hours away from figuring out if graduate senior quarterback Brandon Mitchell will be available to play.

Below is a transcript of what Doeren said during his weekly ACC teleconference Wednesday:

Opening statement:

"We're looking forward to a home game here in the month of October, and playing a very physical Syracuse team. Looking forward to the opportunity of competing against them. I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff. They have a tremendous tailback [junior Jerome Smith] and middle linebacker [senior Marquis Spruill], two really physical, fun players to watch and great competition. That's for sure. Look forward to that opportunity. I know our guys are excited to get back on the practice field this week and go back to work."

Last week they rushed for well over 300 yards against Clemson. I know your run defense has been pretty solid. Is that a concern going into this week's game, their running game?

"Well, yeah, their tailbacks [Smith and senior Prince-Tyson Gulley], both of them kind of got two different personalities back there. I think they're both really good players, and that is the personality of their team. They want to stop the run on defense. They want to run the ball on offense and they sellout to do both. For us, it's going to be a challenge. We're looking forward to that opportunity.

"We know that you don't beat Syracuse unless you stop what they do after contact. They're very good at running through the first defender. So we've got to make sure we leverage and get off blocks and tackle well and play with good technique and that we're gap sound."

At the same time their young quarterback Terrel Hunt has been very good up until facing Clemson's pressure. That's something y'all did pretty well against Clemson. Is that a key to get pressure on him and shake him up a little bit?

"Yeah, I think any quarterbacks that play would tell you that they'd like to have time to throw, and Clemson has a tremendous defense, not just their pass rush, but they played great coverage in that game. He threw some balls and they went up and made interceptions. They got up on them early and took them out of their game plan. So that's hard on a quarterback when he can't rely on the run game.

"Obviously, for us it would be great to be able to get pressure on them and be able to defend their receivers and contest routes the way Clemson did, but we'll see if we're capable of doing that."

A couple of weeks now into your ACC career, I was just wondering is there anything that surprised you so far from making the switch from Northern Illinois to NC State?

"Well, I mean, I've been in the Pac-10 when I was at USC, and Big 12 at Kansas and Big Ten at Wisconsin. So I felt like I was ready to be in this conference. I've seen a lot of different kind of teams out there and played against the ACC in bowl games at different stops. There are really no surprises."

As far as Syracuse and a lot of people know their running backs and also Hunt has some attention, but the wide receivers were held without a catch, actually against Clemson. With them, they don't have a true No. 1 guy. Is there a way that you defend a team that has a bunch of different options but not necessarily a true No. 1 threat?

"Well, I think that there are multiple guys that get touches, like you said. It's really about the progressions. They do a nice job of working through receivers to the side and have concepts to the back and away from the back. They've got big targets. Their leading receiver (sophomore Ashton Broyld) is a big kid. He's 220 pounds and a big target for the quarterback. You've just got to have good underneath coverage from your linebackers and make sure you play on top of receivers because they will run some double moves and short spot and go type routes. So when you play man-to-man, those guys do a nice job of containing the quarterback because he'll take off on you if you have a bunch of people running down man coverage, it can hurt you.

"Until they've settled on a QB, I know it's somewhat of what we went through, it's hard to get a rhythm in your pass game. Now they're starting to have more of a personality, I think, of what he's good at. That will only continue to grow the more he plays."

How is Brandon Mitchell progressing? Is there a chance he'll be ready for this weekend?

"Well, there is a chance. He was out in pads yesterday. He's throwing the ball well every day. He feels really good in the pocket. He's just getting more and more comfortable with the side-to-side and straight ahead movements that you have to do. So we're day-to-day with them. I'm not going to put him out there until I feel like he's in a place of comfort and when he feels protected. So we've still got 72 hours until game time. But last week he was in a boot and this week he's in cleats. So there is progress. It's just how long will it take him to feel like he can be full speed? I think every day is a new day for him."

What extra dimensions does he bring to your offense?

"He can do the entire thing. Right now we feel like we're kind of a two-quarterback system to be able to run the ball at times with our QB, and not that he can't, because he's running the ball effectively. But we don't want to get him beat up. Once Brandon's in there, you have both where he can stretch the field. There is just one extra runner in the back field all the time that the defense has to be concerned about."

It seems kind of a schizophrenic season for you. Have you got a handle on who this team is and how to capture the same kind of consistency week to week?

"Yeah, well, the big part of it is we've got nine starters that aren't playing because of injury. So every week you insert a new guy into the lineup, and it's hard to be the same team week-in and week-out when your lineup changes every week. I think that is the biggest issue.

"I think any great team I've been on has had continuity where you can grow as a football team. Unfortunately, for us we haven't had a lot of position groups with the same lineups every week due to injuries. That's just the world we're living in and we'll try to survive the best we can and do everything we can to help our players within it, and it's helping our youth. There is no doubt we're going to grow long-term because of how many young guys are going to play right now.

"The continuity is the biggest issue. You go from one week to the next and you don't have the same guy next to you. We're doing everything we can. Our guys will continue to work hard. We'll get a few guys back this week. After this game we'll have a bye week, and hopefully we'll get healthy down the stretch and be able to get back to form.

"I know gaining [freshman running back] Matt Dayes and [freshman wide receiver Marques] Valdes-Scantling back this week is a nice spark for us. [Sophomore wide receiver Travares] Copeland is progressing for us. He was out the first three games, and now he's playing in his second game.

"There are some guys popping back in there and then you lose a couple, so I think that is the biggest thing that you look at. It's just part of the game. You've got to learn how to deal with it. When you have more depth after you've been somewhere for a while, it's easier. You have a little bit more dropoff probably in your first year from an injury standpoint than you will in year two, three, or four."


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