The Wolfpacker Q&A with Dave Doeren, Part I
This week, NC State Wolfpack football head coach Dave Doeren did an interview with The Wolfpacker to discuss the upcoming season for the Pack.
It has been the most unusual of offseasons, and it continues to evolve. Doeren talked about trying to deal with a fluid situation while at the same time rebuilding after a challenging, injury-riddled season that resulted in NC State going 4-8 overall in 2019.
Here is Part I of highlights from our conversation with Doeren.
How have you managed day-by-day and week-by week during a period like this spring?
“Trying to get as much information daily from all the many people involved in making these decisions that are above me. It seems like it changes every day.
“You just take the information in, you discuss the information, you ask questions and then you build a plan based on all the information given. It’s really what we’re doing right now.”
Are you starting to feel like you have a little finality on the planning with the NCAA giving a framework for the preseason camp schedule?
“That allows us to build a calendar and let us know when we can and can’t meet with the guys. The hardest part of all of this is knowing what you can and can’t do when you can be with them.
“If I’m allowed to have an hour of meeting time, well what does that mean? Can I have X-number of players in a room? Do we need to be six-feet apart? Do we need to have masks on? Do we not be in a room together? Do we only meet outside? There are a lot of questions that go into that, still.
“It’s good to have a framework that you can start looking at when you can be with them and how you can help them.”
Do you have to come up with a tailored plan for this fall camp or try to approach it as normal as possible?
“Obviously you look at what you’ve done, but what we don’t know, and I still won’t know this for a while, is the shape we are in. You can’t assume that they’re going to be fine for a normal training camp.
“You have to go in with the assumption that this may have to change based on where you’re at. It’s going to be fluid. It’s going to be a plan that definitely acclimates the guys.
“Some of them are going to be in better shapes than others, we know that. I think you are better off, just my opinion, being ready to have a plan that gradually builds up as opposed to starting at max velocity and having eight guys hurt quickly.
“I think just building up slowly these next three weeks are critical. Our team is back June 22. Come June 22 to July 11, it’s kind of a three-week window that they will be with Thunder [strength coach [Dantonio Burnette], and we’ll have a much better picture of where they’re at from a conditioning and aerobic standpoint.”
From the standpoint of installing the new offense and defense, how comfortable do you feel with what you were able to get in the spring and how much are you going to have to catch up?
“We are behind, there is no doubt. We only got five days in, so we’re behind. I think the defense is ahead of the offense just because we learned a lot of the system last year, but we’re behind. Even defensively we got four new coaches over there, so even though some of the schemes are the same, the techniques have changed.
“There’s no doubt we’re behind, but through all these Zoom meetings we’ve been through, we’re trying to play catchup that way. Now it’s about muscle memory and repetition. That’s what we’ve lost. We’ve got to find a way to play catch-up there.”
When you look back at last season, how much did you have to balance overreacting to a year where everything that could go wrong seemingly did, and also not underreact?
“For me, it was more about stepping away and making sure these decisions weren’t made quickly. In some cases, they were. I tried not to make emotional decisions. It’s really sitting back and evaluating scheme, personnel, staff and trying to do it in a way that I’m not exhausted making these decisions, I’m not angry, mad or pressured.
“I think [director of athletics] Boo [Corrigan] did a good job of allowing me to take some time to go through a lot of things. In the end, the worst thing you have to do as an executive is to make changes in your department. It’s not enjoyable, but you do it at the end of the day for a collective group of people.
“I think there’s a lot of things at play. I don’t think you can just throw people under the bus and say this coach got fired or it’s all his fault because it’s not. There are a lot of things, myself included. I have to do a better job. We obviously need to stay healthy. We need to do a better job for each other, the coaches and everybody. It’s a collective thing that starts at the top.”
What are some of the things you really want to see be better and improved besides being healthier?
“Offensively-speaking, the ball security piece of our offense is as bad as it’s been, in my opinion. We need to take care of the football. We can’t win games turning the ball over. So, that’s No. 1.
“I think a lot of these things are basic things. I think just being consistent in our ability to move the football down the field, the explosive part of our offense. A lot of that is personnel, too, but we need to be more explosive with what we do.
“Nice thing about with where we are headed with [offensive coordinator] Tim [Beck] is Tim’s been calling plays a long time. He knows kind of what’s going to happen and what his changeups are going to be, and he’s been through it before. It’s nice to have that.
“I think on the defensive side of the ball, I didn’t think we tackled well. That has to improve. We didn’t get enough pressure, and that’s never just the d-line’s fault, it’s everybody’s fault. You want to cover better to give them more pressure. You need to schematically give yourself a chance when you can, but also the 11 guys need to do a better job creating more takeaways.
“I think if you looked at our team overall, if you take care of the football and create more takeaways, we would have won more games. Those two things, we were bad in both areas. As a football team, we’ve made a huge deal about that, and will continue to as hard as we can.”