Transcript: NC State coach Dave Doeren pre-Wake Forest press conference
NC State head football coach Dave Doeren answered questions from media members Monday as the team prepares for its season opener versus Wake Forest on Saturday, Sept. 19 in Carter-Finley Stadium.
Wake Forest (0-1, 0-1 ACC) has a week of live game action under its belt after losing its season opener to No. 1 Clemson 37-13 Saturday.
The Wolfpack and the Demon Deacons have one of the longest-standing college football rivalries as a series that began in 1895 and a matchup that has met routinely since 1910. NC State leads the all-time series 64-41-6 but Wake Forest has won the past three meetings.
Here is the full transcript of what Doeren had to say about the Pack's first opponent and the game plan for Saturday:
"Excited to be in game week more than anything. I'm looking forward to watching our team play and compete. This group has endured a lot.
"Going back to when we started up in January, and we were going through a really, really great offseason with [Strength and conditioning] Coach Thunder [Dantonio Burnette] and his staff. The leadership that we've put together working with our guys on growing as leaders and connecting. We get into spring, things are exciting and going good, then all of a sudden, March 7, we break for spring break. Next thing you know, it's June.
They've been through a lot, staff and players came back and did a tremendous job with all the things that were in place with the COVID protocol. As you know, when the students returned, things changed in having the pause in our camp when we did, whether it was positive tests or contact tracing. To finally be on the other side of that, to get our team back, I'm very proud of the resiliency of this group.
"The way they've stuck it out through all the announcements, the ups and downs, are we playing, moving our opening game back, all the civil unrest, we just kept fighting and fighting together.
That's when NC State does extremely well. Obviously, Jimmy V, never quit. I think that that resiliency is something that this team takes personally and has done a nice job. They're very excited to be on the other side of this with a game in sight and look forward to playing our first of three in-state opponents."
It's a game that's gone back and forth in my tenure here. We have great respect for Wake Forest, [Head] Coach [Dave] Clawson and his staff.
"Obviously, they have the benefit of playing one game and having that game under their belt. As we all know, people talk about the improvements teams make from week one to week two, and I know that's something that they have as an advantage.
"Looking at them as a football team. They have their systems, they're very sound, they do not beat themselves, they don't turn the football over, they create a lot of takeaways on defense and they don't get penalized. They put themselves in positions that way to win games."
"They have a very unique style of zone-read offense, with the mesh, the RPO game and how it works timing-wise in the backfield.
"They've lost a lot of skill on offense but the kids that they have showed a lot athleticism in that game. The tailbacks are returning players with a lot of statistics behind them and have good speed and strength. They have a good blend there at their tailback position. You could see the athleticism with [wide receiver] Donavon Greene, No. 7, and [wide receiver Jaquarii] Roberson, No. 5.
"I think found a playmaker in the slot in Roberson. So you can kind of see who they replaced their playmakers with and what those guys are capable of. As always, their offensive line plays well together.
"They play very, very up-tempo offense. There a lot of different versions of no-huddle in college football, but this one, in my opinion, is one of the fastest of those that we'll face.
"Defensively, they have a very good front seven, an experienced front seven. They showed a little more depth on their D-line than they have in the past in that rotation, but they return a lot of guys have made a lot of plays.
"Obviously, [Carlos] Basham is a player that we have great respect for. Not that we don't the rest of them, we do. But he is a very tough, big, thick defensive end that anchors that front.
"The linebackers play downhill. They understand their scheme, they've got good pressures that they run and disguise well.
"Then on third down, they do a lot of different things. They're different each week in their approach and I think they're very sound in how they attack offenses."
"Like any game, it comes down to complimentary football. For us, we need to take care of the football on offense, we need to stay on the field. We need to be physical and do the things that we can do to take advantage of the plays that are there.
"Defensively, you have to do a good job getting off the field. Any tempo offense struggles when they can't get their first first-down. It's just managing that throughout the game, creating some short fields and field position.
"Last year, in our game with them, we were pinned multiple times inside of the 10 by their punter, we turned the football over, we didn't give ourselves a chance.
"In any game, I think it starts with you not beating yourself. That's a huge point of emphasis for this football team. I look forward to watching these guys go out there and do it, I'm excited."
"Game one, to me, it's about getting out with these guys and letting them play and have a good time doing it. Be physical and executing at a high level playing complementary football.
"We have a very good specialist group that has to be a big part of this game for us and special teams play a huge role in that. As we've seen watching college football, there have been some very sloppy games, there have been some very clean games. Obviously, we want to be one of those teams that goes out and executes.
"It's going to be fun to see these guys. This is probably the biggest group we've had back. We're about 95% as far as having all of our guys back now, some of them are still out from injury but you know most of our roster is able to practice and compete right now. For us as coaches, it will be nice to get back on the field together again."
"We announced our captains yesterday and those four young men have great respect from their teammates. A lot of hard work has gone into them, earning that responsibility and I know they're excited about what comes with it.
"You also saw Isaiah Moore was put into the number one jersey yesterday and super excited for him. He's earned that. He represents our football team, as a person, as a student, as an athlete and what he's doing right now in our community, as well. He's just a standout individual that's been through a lot that has earned a lot of respect not just on our football team, but on our campus.
On Louis Acceus' status (Story: Acceus is out for the season):
"It’s not COVID related, it’s just a continuation of what he’s been dealing with.
"For Louis, the best thing for him was to become a coach. He’s excited about that. He’s been around the guys every day, and he brings great energy to the group. He has tremendous respect from the coaches and his teammates. That’s kind of where it is."
On talking with other college coaches about game-day experience:
"Not since the games have started. We talked a lot in the summer and through fall camp.
"A lot of the conversations were really about practice. There were so many changes in how we were going to practice that I had a lot of conversations with colleagues in the business.
"The game day aspect of it, it’s pretty straight forward on what we can and can’t do. Obviously, with all the testing that takes place, there’s a lot of things that are just standardized for us."
How much of Tim Beck's offense will we see on game one?
"You’re not going to see the whole playbook, obviously. I think as we got into training camp, we were able to install a lot.
"Those two weeks where they kind of backed everybody down in the summer and where we had the 20-hour rule, we were allowed to do a lot of walkthroughs. He’s able to get a lot of things coached in that situation and we were starting to install quite a bit.
"Once we hit the slowdown and lost a lot of guys during that eight-day window, it was really a time where he settled in on ‘what do we need to have at the beginning of the year?’ He really started repping those things as guys came back.
"You’re going to see the offense grow as the season goes. It’s not going to be a deal where in game one, you're going to see everything he has and can do. I think part of that will be his personnel as he goes forward, just seeing how guys respond on game day.
"You think you know who your guys are going into the first game, but as we all know, some guys all of a sudden will emerge on game day as a playmaker. That will change some of the things that you do. It will be different. The whole thing is different really, how he calls it and the different things he can do within the system. You’ll see some formation similarities, but the system itself will be a lot different."
Does having a player like Isaiah Moore help in terms of holding guys accountable this season?
"I think that depends on the individual. That’s part of who Isaiah is and that’s something that he’ll take on his plate because he likes that responsibility of holding people accountable.
"He looks at himself as someone who leads not only by how he plays and how he acts, but he really does have a voice with this team. He has no problem speaking from the heart about things.
"I do expect him to take on a bigger leadership role, not because of the jersey number, which just validates it, but because of who he is. If he was wearing 41, he wouldn’t be any different as far as how he leads this football team."
On younger players getting experience versus Wake Forest last year
"It’s hard to put experience into a player, you can’t do that. Last year, we were forced to play a lot of freshmen due to those injuries. Those freshmen now have that in their background to draw from and that’s valuable for them. Having played not just Wake Forest, but having played in games.
"We were playing guys out of position in that game last year. We had safeties and nickels playing corner against them. We don’t have to do that now, which is obviously a huge benefit. You can play guys in the position that they were recruited to play, where they have the best skill set to play in. It’s nice to have that.
"The biggest thing for us in this game, in particular, and you saw it in a lot of the openers, is that there’s going to be a lot of rotation. There are starters, but there’s going to be guys that play as much as the starters because of the first game, the tempo, all the things that go with it and the time lost. There are players that were out not only for an eight-day pause, but they were out for contact tracing for an additional 14 days. That’s going to set them back where we can’t expect them to play 80 plays.
"We have those things going on within the roster and the depth charts where the depth is going to be and it's definitely something that we have to be able to take advantage of. The rotation and the depth has to perform well."
Is there an advantage to having tape of Wake Forest already and having not played yet?
"Yeah, I think there is. From a playing standpoint, getting on the field with your team and seeing them play a game is a huge advantage for your own wellbeing as a coach. The scouting aspect obviously gives us an advantage on who they are replacing, their new starters and how they’re using them.
"For them not to have film on how [offensive coordinator] Tim [Beck] is going to call it or how [defensive coordinator] Tony [Gibson] is going to call it obviously helps us. Those guys had a lot of film as play-callers at other places that I’m sure they are using. I think it’s the personnel piece, maybe, that’s the biggest advantage for the team that hasn’t played because you can see their guys and they can’t see ours."
Is the F position on the depth chart a hybrid H-back position?
"Our Y is more of our in-line player and our F is going to align in a lot of places. Our tight ends have a lot of different assignments and alignment within the system. That’s just a way to categorize them that way."
What’s the reason for the change of a BUC linebacker to a SAM linebacker and what are you expecting from Drake Thomas and Vi Jones in that position with Louis Acceus out?
"Sam, Mike and Will is just how Tony [Gibson] has always done it with his system. That was done regardless of Louis [Acceus] being here. That’s how that would have been.
"With regard to the lineup, Tony has cross-trained, I talked about that a lot during fall camp. … Drake being able to play multiple spots and Levi in the rotation that we are going to need because, again, Payton [Wilson], Isaiah [Moore], Jaylon Scott, we expect to play a lot of these guys at linebacker. It will be a rotation and see multiple guys in and out so we can play fast. We have to be able to match their tempo and also have fresh bodies to do so. There will be a lot of rotation at that spot.
"When you look and see our ‘or’ positions, guys that in our opinion have earned the right to be out there as starters, whether they are out the first play or not they are going to play a lot of reps.
The move of Ikem Ekwonu to guard is that to get your five best blockers on the field at the time at the same time?
"Exactly. Well Ickey was a guard in high school so it’s a position he’s played. For us to be able to get our top five guys out there we felt that having Tyrone [Riley] and Ickey on the left side allowed us to have that. You’d see [Justin] Witt and Joe on the right and then Grant [Gibson] at center.
"Behind those guys we got some depth where we can rotate on the o-line. Ickey can always bounce out to left tackle if Tyrone gets tired there. Tim McKay’s had a great camp for us, too, and he’s a guy that we expect to see in games. There’s some rotation that’ll happen, again, throughout the game, but that was our way to get what we felt like was our most experienced five offensive linemen out there.
What do you think will be different mentally about opening the season against Wake?
"Where we play them is really up to the ACC. The only game that really has been our last game until recently is UNC. I think the mindset of opening with a conference game is no different than opening with a Power Five nonconference game. I think the antennas go up, it counts for more, in the guys’ opinions, and obviously for our league statistics.
"So you’re going to have that urgency in training camp, that urgency in your conversations you’re having about who we’re up against. It’s a lot different than opening up with a non-Power Five team when it comes to the urgency from the players and the staff.
How much does starting this fall return some normalcy to the community and what impact does that have on your guys?
"I think we’re starving for a routine. This allows us to hopefully have one, just to get into game week and know that we have an opportunity to have back-to-back similar weeks as we move forward because we’ve had the opposite.
"Every day has really been a day where change could happen. Hopefully as we get into these games, if they continue the way they are, we can get into that ‘this is what your Monday looks like, your Tuesday, your Wednesday and so on.’ The guys can have a routine, and the coaches can have a routine in their lives.
What did participating in the event over the weekend do for their mindset?
"It’s an event that they’ve been wanting to have for a long time. I think the ability to have all the student athletes together and do that, it was a great day. It was very well organized by Isaiah [Moore] and the other student athletes.
"I thought there was tremendous thought and expression. The speakers did a phenomenal job of speaking on #PackUnited and what that stands for, and the awareness, education and action that they want that platform to have from the student athletes, to the campus, to the community.
"It’s really about having empathy, listening and understanding and being there with them through their pain. Acknowledging the fact that all of us can’t completely understand what other people go through, but we want to sit there and support them and be next to them with it, and help them get through it and support them.
"I thought it was a great day. I thought it showed a lot from our student-athletes, from our administration, from our support staff, from everyone that was a part of it. Not everybody’s going to understand it, that’s OK. I think everyone just has to have empathy right now and understand that there’s a lot of people in pain.
"It’s not about politics. It’s about heart, it’s about love, it’s about being better people to each other. That’s what this is right now. I’m very proud to be a part of what NC State stands for."
Has there been anything that has occurred over the past few months that has turned into a bigger issue than you thought it would or something you had not really thought about it?
"I think the biggest challenge in all this has been the contact tracing piece. We’re all going through tests the same way, we’re all doing the CDC protocols with masks and social distancing and sanitizing things a certain way. But the way people are being contact traced from what we’re seeing is different school to school. There isn’t really a unified way of doing that.
"I think that’s been the biggest issue where you had, in our case, you have multiple tests a week, and guys who are completely healthy and passing tests but are unable to come work on their skills because somebody they were around at a certain time has shown symptoms or has a positive test. That’s been the hardest piece to manage.
"As you all know, the symptoms for this, there’s many, many symptoms. So a guy can wake up with a stuffy nose, and all of the sudden his three roommates can’t come in until that player passes a test. So you can have a position group be completely healthy and not be able to come into the building for a long period of time.
"So, that’s been challenging. I think that’s the hardest part of this for us, and I’m not sure how it is for other campuses. Just the unknown of losing to guys to things where they’re not in harm's way right now because that’s what’s best by CDC protocol and the people on campuses. You just have to kind of work with what you have and do the best you can that day. Continue to work through all the things that go with it.
"As far as phone calls go, you get crazy phone calls all the time right now. You just kind of shake your head and go, ‘Well alright, what can we do about it?’ I’m just trying to be solution based. I think it’s really easy right now to be negative with all the things that are going on. That doesn’t fix anything.
"I’ve told our players, our coaches, we need to take a positive mindset in facing this adversity. If we’re a team that handles chaos better than other teams, we’re giving ourselves an edge. So that’s something we’ve challenged ourselves to do day in and day out.
"But it is challenging. It is. There’s constant times when we’re holding each other to that standard to let’s find the solution. Complaining fixes nothing. That’s really where we’ve been day in and day out, hour to hour with this thing.
You get so much energy from a night crowd at Carter-Finley that won’t be there this weekend. Does that matter once the ball kicks off or have you talked about bringing your own energy?
"We definitely have to have that. We’ve talked about offense, defense, special teams and then our team. Our sideline team has to be great in supporting each other.
"It’ll be unique playing in an empty stadium. We do have some pretty sweet cutouts over there. I saw Zach Galifianakis’ face and Bill Cowher’s face was in the crowd yesterday during our mock game.
"There’s some comedy relief in the stands right now. Not having the students there, not having our fans, our parents, that’s hard. To say that we don’t get energy from them would be a lie. We do.
"We know that they’re going to be cheering us on from afar. Hopefully this is just a thing we deal with for one week. We don’t have another home game in September, so our fingers are crossed that things can change possibly after that."
I see an “or” there with Porter Rooks and you were excited about him signing day. What has he done to get that “or” there?
"He’s just consistent. He makes plays every day. He’s the same guy. For a freshman, it’s hard that first semester, particularly with what they’re dealing with here, and Porter’s been very mature.
"He learns the offense very quickly. He makes plays. He catches the ball naturally, he’s a good route runner. More than anything, he’s earned trust because he’s the same every day. I think that’s the biggest thing you’ve looked for if you’re going to play somebody at a young age you don’t want to not know what you’re getting.
"For him, it’s a very consistent performance day in and day out."
With the news about Virginia Tech, in the back of your mind do you think about the fact that you are not sure a game is going to get played until it’s actually game day or do you tune those kind of things out?
"I don’t know week to week what to happen. I think that’s part of why I said this earlier when we moved that game. The league created a schedule that has some bye weeks in it, that has some open end on the back side of things if they have to move games due to other teams’ health or circumstances. So I’m trying not to worry too much about that.
"I know we went through a similar thing here; they were just later than us with students coming back. So hopefully their return is similar to ours. I know they were down in the 40s to what could practice. We had a similar situation here. Over a period of seven days, you get 10 players back a day and you’re back in the 100s within six days.
"So hopefully they have a quick return for their team’s well-being up there."
As far as preparing your team does that play in the back of your mind?
"No, I think obviously seeing Wake play and no things have come out about anything from that game, you feel good about the one coming up, and we’ll deal with the next one when we get to it. I think that’s the only way we can approach it right now."
Shyheim Battle is listed as an or on the depth at cornerback, what has he done at camp to earn that spot?
"At corner, Shyheim and Cecil Powell have been very consistent. Teshaun [Smith] is a proven player who’s played a lot for us. Malik [Dunlap] played a lot last year. So we feel like there’s four corners there that we can play with and rotate.
"Aydan White is a freshman who’s done a really good job in camp. That’s another young guy we’re excited about at that position. That’s really our group that we have right now. We’re going to get into this week and continue to evaluate it. I think what the ‘or’ tells you is right now there’s three guys that we look at or four guys that we look at as guys that could be in the game at any point in time."
Is there any update on the status of Chris Ingram?
"Chris is still not ready to go. It’s just kind of week-to-week with Chris. Obviously with the NCAA allowing this really to be a zero year from an eligibility standpoint, we’re just going to see how long it takes for Chris to get back.
"We certainly want him to be healthy and feel good about being out there. Until he feels that way, he won’t play."