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Q&A: Dave Doeren impressed with first spring practice

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Returning NC State wide receviers C.J. Riley (left) and Emeka Emezie will make it easier on the new quarterback next fall.
Returning NC State wide receviers C.J. Riley (left) and Emeka Emezie will make it easier on the new quarterback next fall. (Jacey Zembal/TheWolfpacker.com)

NC State head coach Dave Doeren was excited Saturday about the Wolfpack’s first spring practice. Here are some excerpts from his post-practice availability:

How was the first day of practice?

“It felt great. It is always after the two or three months that you are not out there, it’s exciting to be back on the grass. You do what you got into the business to do. Our guys had really good bounce and were in good shape. I thought they flew around.

“It was good to see the spirit, not just of the team, but the staff. There are obviously some new parts and those guys are excited to be here and you feel their energy on the field. Now, it’s about being consistent and letting these guys get the reps that they need to grow and compete.”

How do you see the quarterback competition?

“I’m not going to give you an answer on quarterbacks until probably Aug. 31. You can ask me that every week and get the same answer if you want.

“I’m very confident with the competition we are about to have that [one] guy will come out of it. Whoever is behind him is probably a really good option. We have good talent. They are great guys.

“Coach [Kurt] Roper is a really good coach. It’s going to take time. I’m not going to rush it, and I’m going to let them fail and see how they respond. I’m going to let them have success and see how they respond. I’ll let the competition play for a while and that is how we have done it here.”

With the way you have recruited the past few years, is it easier to reload after losing starters?

“When you build a program — and this is just my opinion — but you recruit a certain kind of player that fits not just your schemes, but the character and the culture of your program. Then you have to develop those guys. You want retention to be a part of that. You have to coach them a certain way.

“When you lose a good player and you have a guy who has been in the system two to three years, now it is his opportunity. A great example is Emeka [Emezie at wide receiver]. He has been here for two years and now he has taken over Kelvin [Harmon]’s spot and has made plays and he has made mistakes. He is ready to step in that role. C.J. Riley is another one and Thayer Thomas is another one. It’s fun to see that progression with the guys.

"There are some things that play into it. Obviously the health of your team is a big deal. You need players to progress and you have 16 young new players here, so it was fun to have their first college practice today.”

What is the health of sophomore running back Ricky Person and what do you see from the group?

“Ricky won’t practice a lot this spring. He had to do some things postseason to get him healthy. He’s doing good, but he won’t be in that position until after spring break, and then we’ll see. He’ll be fully cleared for the summer.

“The running back group, today was the first day out there with Zonovan Knight, and we were excited about his athleticism and what he brings to the table. Once Damontay Rhem comes back from his foot injury, he’ll get back in the groove. Then we’ll have two more freshmen coming in. There is a group of guys in there and it will take some time.

“Trent Pennix was out there today and got a lot of reps. He looks good and is almost up to 230 [pounds]. Body type-wise, he is almost what we had with Reggie [Gallaspy], but a little bit taller. We didn’t have pads on today, so they didn’t get hit. You didn’t get a really good tell on it.”

How important are days like this in creating building blocks for the season?

“Every day is important, whether it is a practice day or meeting day or recovery day. Today was a really good day to get on the field to see what they know. We’ve had this week really to install, which is what we did today and tomorrow.

“It kind of gives you a feel for guys that are really ready to play and for guys that are behind, and how in shape they are compared to other guys. I don’t think there is an unimportant day for us on the calendar. Even a day off for these guys is important.”

How do you see the early enrollee freshmen changing their bodies in the Wolfpack strength and conditioning program?

“[Strength coach Dantonio Burnette] just had eight weeks with them and some of them, like [quarterback] Ty Evans, have gained 15 pounds. Some have already seen changes.

"I was walking out today with Joseph Boletepeli, one of our freshman defensive lineman last year that is going into year two, and he was here early. I was standing behind him and was like, ‘You look completely different.’ He looks really, really good in his jersey.

“That is one year with that group, Thunder [Burnette] with his staff and the trainers and the nutrition staff, they do a really good job of helping these kids develop. Then it is on the kid to want it and put the time in.”

How was it to see redshirt freshman Payton Wilson out there at linebacker?

“He is chomping at the bit and wants to go so bad. He was able to do some, and we’ll be able to graduate him into some things but not try to put him into everything too early.

“I’m really happy for him and excited to see the progression.”

What does quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper bring to a young group?

“In a way, I think it’s good timing for him. Coming into a group of guys that need to prove themselves and having a completely clean slate to do that. I think it is really good for that competition, and you can’t replace experience. All of us in our profession, we go back to things that have happened to us, and those are our learning moments.

“For him, it goes way, way back to a lot of quarterback situations, whether he was the quarterback coach, the quarterback GA or the son of a coach. He has been through that since he was 5 years old watching these guys. All those experiences and all those very good players he has been around, with Coach [David] Cutcliffe [of Duke] and all those times with him.

“He’s the right guy for the job and I’m excited for him. I’m looking forward to being there for him and those guys through this. It’s going to take time.”

How much are you going to be leaning on fifth-year senior safety Jarius Morehead?

“We call him ‘Old head’ now because he has been here so long. Jarius is awesome. He is a great person first of all and cares so much about his teammates. How he carries himself, he’s a true role model.

“We lean on him a lot, not just for football, but how he’s doing and the spirit of the team.”

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