NC State coach Dave Doeren broke down his All-ACC candidates in the trenches, gave an update on the indoor practice facility and talked about Maryland junior quarterback C.J. Brown.
Below is a transcript of his weekly ACC teleconference:
"Happy Thanksgiving to everybody, and looking forward to our game with Maryland. End of a long series, and a very even series. It's 33-32 in the series if I'm not mistaken, and a chance to play them here on senior day for us, a team that, like us, has dealt with injuries throughout the year, a very talented team, and has had a tough loss last week, but started fast to the season.
"For us it's a chance to play our last game at home here for our seniors and try to end the season on a positive note, coming off of a tough loss in which we had a good fourth quarter rally but fell short against ECU. With that we'll open it up for any questions."
What does that rally in the fourth quarter against ECU say about the team and maybe how they're performing this week?
"Yeah, I wouldn't say we're getting killed, but we definitely haven't won a game. We haven't won a game. We've been in a lot of these games and haven't found a way to win in the fourth quarter, and it's something we've been straining to do as a staff and with our players, and felt like we finished the game the right way, and the second and third quarters kept us out of the game.
"It was good to see [senior quarterback] Brandon [Mitchell] play as well as he did, four touchdowns and no interceptions, and hit a lot of people. He hit a lot of throws that he hasn't been making and still had some I know he wishes he had back, but it was his best game since he's returned from injury, and a lot of young players continued to make plays. ECU obviously played better than we did Saturday, but our team hasn't quite. They continue to come to work every day, and that is a positive, and I've seen a lot of growth in some of our players."
Is there anybody on offensive or defensive line that maybe you could make a case for that we ought to give strong consideration to for All-ACC?
"Well, [redshirt sophomore left tackle] Joe Thuney for us is probably our most valuable offensive lineman because he's played all three positions and he's played both tackle spots with what we've had to deal with from a depth and injury standpoint on the line. He's done a lot of things and held his own and done better than that at times.
"I think that [fifth-year senior left guard] Duran Christophe has started every single game and played almost every snap for us. Those two guys would probably be the most deserving on the offensive line.
"D-line standpoint, there's a lot of guys that have made plays. [Redshirt junior defensive end] Art Norman has played the most and [redshirt sophomore defensive tackle] Thomas Teal. After him would probably be our two most productive players, and until he was injured [fifth-year senior Darryl] Cato-Bishop was having a very, very good season. Just unfortunate he missed five games in the middle."
What do you see with Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown and what difference he makes and how dangerous he is?
"Well, there's not many good teams out there that don't have a quarterback playing well for them. It's hard to find them at whatever level you're looking at. I think when you have depth at that position, it's easier to sustain the injury, but [Maryland coach] Randy [Edsall] was — last year at Maryland; is that correct, so probably hadn't established the depth he wanted there yet and didn't have one but had multiple injuries at that position. So that's very difficult for any coach to overcome. And now having a guy that lost the football not once but twice with C.J., I'm sure he's playing with that senior mentality that I'm out of time and I've got to play my best football, and I'm sure he's preparing the right way, as well."
Speaking of quarterback injuries, obviously senior Brandon Mitchell struggled with that earlier this year. His good performance last Saturday, is that a product of getting healthier?
"That's part of it, yeah, and I think the reps. I think what people don't understand is two things: We inherited [redshirt junior] Pete Thomas and [sophomore] Manny [Stocker], and Manny wasn't ready to play, and Pete we felt like we needed competition there and we brought Brandon in who hasn't been a starting quarterback, but he's a very smart football player. He learned our offense and we felt like he was more multidimensional, and so every game Brandon would have played would have been his first year as a starting quarterback, and every one of those reps would have mattered for him as a growth at his position.
"He had a great fall camp and it showed in the first quarter of the first game, and then he lost five and a half games. So a lot of the growth that — he's really like a freshman. He's playing his first year as a starter at that spot. I think what you're seeing now is some games under his belt. Florida State, the way he got to play there, and then he struggled in that game, and then North Carolina and didn't get to play against Duke and got a little healthy — excuse me, played against Duke and got injured and got healthy in the BC game, and he's just got four games of reps here where you're starting to see the progress. I think for a coach, I think the more you coach a guy, the more you understand what his strengths and weaknesses are, and to be able to detail a game plan that fits him better."
What are some of the things you think you've established this year in your first year as the head coach of the program and the kinds of things that you want to create for the future?
"Yeah, I appreciate that. Well, we had the highest team GPA they've had in football history my first spring here on campus. To this date we've had very few off-the-field issues to deal with. Our players have really taken the one attack, one goal mentality that we've established as far as the accountability to your teammate and those that play here and played before you mentality, and I think there's a lot of bad things publicly going on in all sports, and our team has done a nice job with that.
"I think we've played a lot of young players, and we're recruiting extremely well, and within that, we've done $900,000 worth of facility improvements and we're getting ready to build our indoor here in February, which will be done next December. So there's a lot of positive facility changes to a place that already had good facilities.
"I think all the people that have been around here and understand what we're doing from the inside out really get the progress. Unfortunately, the win-loss part of it hasn't matched up with that, but we know where the program is headed, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it."