New NC State head man Dave Doeren has only been a head coach for two seasons, but in that short time period, he has put together an accomplished resume that includes a pair of Conference Championships, while his second Northern Illinois team was selected to the Orange Bowl, marking the first BCS bowl bid for the Mid-American Conference.
What the 41-year-old coach has done so far in his career as the man in charge, including a 23-4 record and 17-1 showing against conference foes, is not lost on his new players, who have not had much interaction with him outside of a few conversations while preparing for the Music City Bowl. Regardless, they are excited to play for the new leader of the Pack, who has already made a quick and positive first impression despite being on the job for only about a month.
"Where he came from, he won two previous championships," junior cornerback Dontae Johnson said. "He's a great guy. From sitting down and talking with him, he's full of energy and wants this program to go in the right direction. I feel he can do that."
"He brings a lot of energy," junior offensive tackle Rob Crisp agreed. "You can tell he's really into the game and wants to win ball games. That's what he is all about — putting his heart into the team and making sure we are doing the right things and being successful."
Doeren brings a different approach to the game than previous coach Tom O'Brien, who could usually be seen on the sidelines with his arms crossed, showing little emotion.
"I think his enthusiasm is there, he's more like a player when it comes to games," redshirt junior receiver Quintin Payton said. "Coach O'Brien brought a different aspect, so it will be interesting to see."
"He seems like he is going to be a players' coach," redshirt sophomore defensive end Art Norman noted. "He's younger. He's already come up to me, asking me if we are going to have parties in the backfield. I'm looking forward to it, I'm pretty excited about it."
The new coach told players on day one that his door was always open, and that represents another change from the previous regime.
"It's pretty different," freshman running back Shadrach Thornton admitted. "You didn't really get that from Coach O'Brien, but if you wanted to talk to him, you could definitely go up there and talked to him. Guys just didn't, but Coach Doeren is open with it. He's like a position coach, but he's the head coach.
"That's kind of big right there. It's not every day that you can go out and talk to the head coach about anything and build a relationship. Some coaches try to keep their distance because there are so many players and so many different personalities, but he's the type of guy that wants to know everybody. He's a players' coach, and I like that. He brings a lot of energy and knows exactly what he wants to do."
There was a consensus from the players — young and old — that if a move had to be made, Doeren was the right man to fill the vacancy. They respect and appreciate what O'Brien has done for them, but are ready to begin a new era of Wolfpack football.
"We just let everything play out, put everything in the Lords' hands and we knew that the best decision would be made by our athletics director [Debbie Yow]," Thornton said. "We knew she would find a presentable coach to come in and take over next year.
"He knows how to amp everybody up. The first time he came in, we all met him in a team meeting. It was just him and us, it was the day of the press conference [Dec. 2]. We were in there talking to him, he was just saying a few words, but everybody was getting pumped. I was like, 'dang, I feel like we need to go out and play right now.'"
The new man in charge has even made a positive impression on the departing seniors, who will not get to line up for him in the Red and White, but are as equally excited about the future as the returning players.
"I sat down and met with him because he wanted to meet with some of the older guys, to see where our heads were, see how we felt about the team and everything," fifth-year senior safety Earl Wolff said. "He was a very respectful man. I feel like he's going to do big things with this program. I feel like they made the right move and they made the right choice in coach."
"He's definitely going to be different," Payton added. "I think our AD hit the nail on the head with a players' coach. I think he portrays that well. I think it's going to be a good change for us."
At least one player has known of Doeren for a long time, and that is senior safety Brandan Bishop, who was recruited by Wisconsin out of high school in 2008, when the Pack's new coach served as the Badgers' defensive coordinator.
"I was pretty familiar with him," he remembered. "I got to speak with him a little bit when he came in, and I'm sure I'll speak with him more. I look forward to building a relationship with him, even though he won't be my coach. I would still like to come back and be around the guys some, so I'll definitely speak with him.
"I've known who Coach Doeren is since high school, and I think he's a great coach. I think the program is in great hands going forward."
After a disappointing Music City Bowl performance to cap a 7-6 season, the next chapter can't come soon enough for many of the Pack's returning players. They are looking forward to getting back on the field and rebounding from what many considered a disappointing up-and-down campaign.
"We're really encouraged [for the future]," redshirt sophomore running back Tony Creecy said. "He took NIU to the Orange Bowl. As we've seen, they play great football. With him here, we're going to turn it around.
"We definitely feel like we can move on and turn the page."