TheWolfpackCentral - Transcript: NC State coach Dave Doeren's press conference
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Transcript: NC State coach Dave Doeren's press conference

Here is a transcript from NC State football coach Dave Doeren's press conference.

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Opening statement:

“The hardest part of the bye week was the time away from the media.

“I’m excited for the home game Thursday night, and opportunity to play for our Military Appreciation Game, which is a very special night. My favorite night in the stadium to see the representation here from our state from our country and wear a uniform — modeled to represent and honor them.

“What a great place to do it. You know, I've always loved the fanfare, the pageantry that goes along with our Military Appreciation Night, so I'm excited for that for our team. I look forward to our fans being there in full force for another night game and supporting our players.

“Before we get into players and games and all that kind of stuff, a few things, Taiyon Palmer, injury-wise is out for the year with a knee injury. Ricky Person Jr. is out, but not long term. He will be back but won't play this week. Same with Justin Witt. Two guys that have injuries that should bounce back but aren't back yet, and one that's out for the season, just to keep you abreast of that.

“A good time for us to have a bye week, obviously, after five games. A lot of information for us to study opportunity for the guys, coaches, players to digest a lot of film without a game right at the end of it. To study what we need to improve on. Then we had some good practices and give them a chance to have a Saturday off where they can really just reflect, hit the reset button and come back. I thought we had a really, really good practice yesterday coming off of that, and again this morning.

“Obviously, playing a midweek game creates a different schedule for your team, for your coaches, and that's unique in its own right. Coming out of that week, looking at us offensively, we're running the football well. We're playing really good football in the red zone. We've got a lot of first downs. We are No. 1 in the conference in first downs offensively. We got to improve our efficiency on third and short the last two weeks. We need to get more explosive plays and just be more efficient period in our pass game.

“Defensively, we're stopping the run — top 10 in the country. I think we're doing a really good job on third down. We’re pressuring the quarterback. We are doing well on total defense. There are some routes we've got to get off the film that we haven't been able to stop consistently. Just getting more takeaways, I think is the biggest thing, and I've talked about that already. Defensively, it is a huge goal for us to improve that area.

“Just as a team, I feel like if we just eliminate the pre-snap mental and post-snap emotional penalty that's hit us the last two games, which is really focus, discipline and maturity, those three things. Then correct and improve on the mentioned areas prior, we’ll be in a good place. These are things that we can fix. Things the guys understand. Things the coaches understand. We need to do a good job as a staff of putting these guys in position to make plays and they need to make them. That is the end all, be all. It comes down to coaches coach and players play, and together we go through it.

“I’m excited to get back into a game with them. As you see on the depth chart, [redshirt sophomore] Bailey Hockman will start for us at quarterback and [redshirt freshman] Devin Leary, who also came into the game at Florida State and did a nice, will have an opportunity. I feel like they're giving us more in the pass game. Matt [McKay's] doing a really good job in a lot of areas and needs to improve on his pass game and will. I’m really impressed with how Matt came to practice the last two days and he's going to get better. He's an incredible young man. For us to be able to do more things from a scoring standpoint and push the ball down the field, with where we're at, those two guys give us a better shot with their arms right now. Matt will continue to work on the things that he can.

“I thought Bailey came in the Florida State game and showed a lot of poise and guts, and took some tough shots in that game and kept getting up and competed. Devin came in cold at the end and threw it around well. I was proud of those guys. It is just like at the beginning of the season, those are tough conversations to have. I thought Bailey and Devin handled their roles, but improved and improved and improved in their roles and took advantage of opportunity that was presented. Matt will do the same now. I know he will.

“Talking about Syracuse, our opponent, we know a lot about this football team. Really, really good at taking the ball away on defense — 12 takeaways. Offensively, as you guys know, they're up tempo, they have very good skill at receiver and running back. The quarterback can throw it and can extend plays with his feet.

“We’ve had some good football games with Syracuse since I've been here and respect coach [Dino] Babers and his staff quite a bit. Schematically, we're familiar with both sides of the ball and how they play. I think their defensive front is arguably one of the best in the ACC. I have a lot of respect for their defensive linemen. Their defensive ends, the rotation at defensive end, I think they have really formidable group right there. They make a lot of plays for them and help their coverage with their pass rush.”

Questions from the media

What was your schedule like last week?

“We came in and put the [FSU] game to bed and did not go out and work them out like we normally would on a Sunday. We took that Sunday just as a film day and a recovery day. Monday, Tuesday, the guys were in the weight room and didn't have any practice. They had three straight days off the field. Wednesday, Thursday, we got back into football and worked on our first and second down stuff. Friday was just a weight room day for them, and then they were off completely on Saturday. They came back yesterday, which was Sunday, which is really game week Tuesday, and got into our game week routine from there.”

How much will freshman running back Jordan Houston be counted on if Ricky Person misses multiple games?

“I think him and Bam [Zonovan Knight] are very critical right now to us and Trent Pennix. Those are our three backs, right? Both Zonovan Knight and Jordan Houston have shown the ability to make plays, to be consistent, to get tough yards. They're playmakers, and they've played good football for us to this point.They're going to get more opportunities with Ricky out and look forward to seeing them take advantage of that.”

Will the time off be able to get them ready for the next 60 days or so?

“We’ll find out. Just judging them by how they were yesterday, they looked very refreshed. We were fast in practice yesterday. They've been in the weight room, so it’s not like we haven't seen them. I think it was good for our staff as well. We recruited Friday and had family day Saturday. It was good for us. We’ve been here every day since Aug. 1. To have a day away from the office for us, to have a day away from the coaches for them, I think that is really healthy at this point. It’s a weird schedule, so we’ll a few more of these, with two games in the month of October and more Saturday’s that we don’t play. We have to keep them fresh and keep them focused.Sometimes stepping out isa good way of doing that.”

Dave, you said all along that this team needed to improve every week. Yeah. But how much more difficult has that task become because of the injuries?

“Yeah, I'm not going to use it as an excuse. It's reality. You guys know all the different guys that are out and how young we were to start. So that's the reality.

“The challenging part of that is the chemistry of the guys that play, you don't have the same 11 in and out all the time.

“I feel like we have gotten several guys better. It’s just building off of who's the guy next to me all the time that changes and nothing you can do about that. He's got to get the reps that you can and these guys understand that the next man up is real. They got to take advantage of their moment that a lot of them want.”

Sometimes injuries can actually bring a team a lot closer together, are you seeing any of that?

“I think adversity in general forces you to do that. I think you either fight or you fail, and we're going to fight. That's how we're made here. These guys are going to stick together, they're going to compete, we're going to try to find solutions and stay positive.

“I think that that's the best thing any family can do that goes through tough times. That’s what we are, as football teams, a family. So we're going to stick tight. We ask our fans to do the same thing for these young men that are working their butts off for them. I think that's the beauty of having a home field advantage like we do this weekend. We need to the 12th man to be real, and this one to help these guys out.

You mentioned that Bailey showed a lot of poise and guts. Was that your decision process there? And you mentioned that when they saw Devin at the end there, just take us through where you kind of use the week? Did you use it just based on the Florida State game? Or was it more of a holistic looking at everything?

“Going into Ball State, we just felt like we weren't throwing the ball efficiently enough. That's where you saw us give Bailey a series at the beginning of the second quarter, so that we could make a better evaluation of would it be better because we hadn't given him real game reps, just mop up reps right? And felt like he did well there, and then he improved in practice.

“And as I've been telling you guys, course you don't get to see it, but Devin had been getting better in the things that he was doing. Then we got in the game and we just weren't moving the football. And so gave [Hockman] an opportunity. We started to get some balls down the field and open up some things.

“We are running the football well. It's just a matter of having the ability to take advantage of coverage matchups that we're getting. I felt like that gave us that, and then to see Devin come in and do what he did. And that's where we're at.

“Statistically when you look at it, we're not explosive in the pass game right now, we're not getting enough explosive passes, we're not getting enough, even, pass interference calls against down the field plays. Feels like that gives us a shot.

“And for Matt, it's a chance for him to really look at what he needs to do to improve. And I know he will.”

Could Devin play on Thursday night

“He could. I don't think I should give you my game plan today, but he could.”

What is the estimated timetable for Nick McCloud to return and as a follow up is there any consideration of possibly using this year as the redshirt year for him?

“Nick plans to be back as soon as he can be. And so the goal is this game. And if it's not this game, the goal will be next game, and we'll just keep going that way. If you end up in that scenario, we'll get there. But his goal is to help us win this year.”

How tough is Thursday games to plan and to kind of get everything ready. And is that offset by the atmosphere that usually takes place here on a Thursday night game?

“Yeah, it's electric here on Thursday nights. It's awesome. That part of it is a huge plus. The tough part of it is if you’re the home team, your Wednesday's different than if you were the traveling team. Our players have class that they do go to. Wednesday, we don't just take our guys to the hotel like we would on a Friday where they don't have classes.

“You have a different routine the night before the game, and then you play at night, and then they wake up and it's Friday, and some of them have class Friday morning. We don't get home till, eight o'clock game against the team that throws the ball, it could be one in the morning, two in the morning.

“There's some unique things around it. It's not ideal for the players, when you talk about particularly in a short week game, playing two games in five days. That's really hard, especially when you're the road team cause now you're traveling [and] coming back, all the things that you can imagine, but that's part of the deal.

“For our guys, it's something we talked about. I sat down with our captains in preseason and showed them how all this stuff's going to lay out, let them kind of marinate on it. So that when we get to it, there's no, ‘Coach, I didn't know it was going to be like this.’ So yeah, we talked about it. Here's what we're at.”

Because of Justin Witt’s injury, the depth chart says you're starting a true freshman at left tackle. How ready is [Ikem Ekwonu] for this?

“He's ready. He's played well. He’s been very physical. Has a lot of physical plays. He's done a lot. He's played in every game. And so excited for him. I think he's going do a great job and Emanuel McGirt and Bryson Speas, those guys have all waited their turns to play. Now they got a shot and look forward to seeing them compete.”

On McKay handling the decision and do you worry about it:

“Matt's a tremendous teammate, and he’s a great young man to coach. I worry about everybody that goes through things to answer your question, but I don't have to worry about how Matt's going to handle it.

“I do worry about every one of these kids that goes through an adversity. My job is to tell them the truth, and then try to help them through it. That's where we're at with him and other guys.

“To lose your job is one thing, to quit is another, and Matt’s a fighter. He's going fight hard to get back. And just like Devin and Bailey, when they were backups, they didn't give in, they got better. Now Matt will have that opportunity and we’ll support them through it.”

What was McKay’s reaction?

“He was disappointed but understood and just asked, ‘What can I do? And let's get a plan and let's go.’ Talked about being a great teammate to those guys.

“Everything you would want a young man to be. No one's going to be happy with that news. And if they are, you're probably like, ‘Wow, why is this guy starting if he's happy to lose the job?’ So nobody's going to be happy about it.

“But the way he handled is the way you'd expect a great teammate to handle it and a competitor to handle it.”


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