The Wolfpacker

September 2013

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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■ pack perspective Quarterback Battles Are Not Uncommon In Pack History By Tim Peeler irst-year NC State head coach Dave Doeren has no problem challenging the old football adage that if you have two starting quarterbacks you actually have none. With transfers Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas fighting it out until opening day for the starting job, Doeren is heading into his inaugural season with the Wolfpack just like Mike O'Cain did back in 1993, when the first-year coach had to choose between veteran junior Geoff Bender, sophomore Terry Harvey and possible newcomer Trot Nixon, a highly regarded two-way player from Wilmington's New Hanover High School who was slated to enroll in classes in the fall of 1993. For O'Cain's first two seasons, he had both Harvey and Bender — roommates and best friends — at the ready to step in and compete for the Wolfpack. In 1994, two-sport star Harvey earned the starting job, but Bender took over against Clemson and Western Carolina after Harvey suffered a concussion, and at Georgia Tech when Harvey was ineffective. The Pack went to postseason bowl games both years, beating Mississippi State at the Peach Bowl in 1994 and losing to Michigan at the Hall of Fame Bowl in 1993. It's just one of the many instances during that era when the team's identity wasn't solely tied to the quarterback position. Still, for many years now, from Jamie Barnette to Mike Glennon, the name of the game has been to build a program around the talents of the person calling signals. That won't be and can't be the case this year, because neither Mitchell nor Thomas have ever taken a snap in an NC State uniform and have never executed a play called by offensive coordinator Matt Canada. "This is going to be a team effort this year," said Harvey, who has remained in the Triangle and close to the program since his playing days and has grown close to Doeren in the new coach's brief time with the Wolfpack. "The team identity then was never entirely focused on the quarterback. "There were times, especially under Coach [Dick] Sheridan, that he traded quarterbacks based on the physical characteristics of the player and what the team needed on any given play. And he was successful doing that." During his six-year tenure, Sheridan, who was O'Cain's predecessor, had no qualms about opening up the QB position, prior to and during the season. Sheridan inherited an ACC Player of the Year candidate in Erik Kramer in his inaugural year, but for the next six seasons, no one was truly set under center. F The competition between redshirt junior Pete Thomas (above) and fifth-year senior Brandon Mitchell will go down to the start of the season, and both could still see action this fall. photo by ken martin In 1987, Sheridan used a combination of Preston Poag and Shane Montgomery, albeit during the worst season (4-7) of his coaching career. Poag, Montgomery and freshman Charles Davenport shared the position at times during the 1988 season, when the Wolfpack rebounded with an 8-3-1 record. Montgomery owned the position by himself in 1989, while Poag punted and Davenport redshirted and redshirt freshman Terry Jordan was in reserve. In 1990, Jordan and Davenport shared the position, with newcomer Geoff Bender in reserve. Jordan won the starting job in 1991, but his season ended when he suffered a broken arm in the fourth game. Bender stepped in and was the starter for five games until he separated his shoulder. Harvey, a true freshman, stepped in to finish the regular season. Jordan returned under center for his senior year in 1992. Bender again stepped in when Jordan was injured and the two ended up splitting the quarterback duties throughout the season, while Harvey redshirted. The Pack went to bowl games in six of Sheridan's seven seasons as head coach, even though the only times he had a set starter going into the season were with Kramer in 1986 and Montgomery in 1989. During his days as a coordinator, O'Cain had a wealth of talent at the position he played while at Clemson in the 1970s. He also had the record-setting Barnette in his final four years as the Pack's head coach. Chuck Amato obviously struck gold with Philip Rivers, who started for an NCAArecord 51 straight games over his four-year career, but there was never really a successor. Both Jay Davis and Marcus Stone were recruited to take over the spot, but neither developed into the college quarterback that Amato needed to build on Rivers' foundation. In his last season, Amato turned to Daniel Evans, the son of former Wolfpack signalcaller and punter Johnny Evans. Evans was the starter for Tom O'Brien's first season in 2006, but by the next year O'Brien opened up the position to five different players. Russell Wilson eventually won that battle — beating out eventual successor Glennon — and started for three years until he departed for Wisconsin, when O'Brien opened up the position to get two seasons out of Glennon. One of the first questions presented to Doeren when he was hired last December was about his future quarterback. Thomas had chosen to transfer from Colorado State prior to last season to play in O'Brien's system, and he still has two years remaining. Doeren also inherited little-used sophomore Manny Stocker from last year's team, and recruited two newcomers in February, Florida transfer Jacoby Brissette, who will sit out this year under NCAA transfer guidelines, and Bryant Shirreffs, who will redshirt. After Thomas and Stocker challenged each other throughout the spring in Canada's fast-paced offensive system, Doeren found another option in Mitchell, who had played both quarterback and wide receiver last year at Arkansas. Heading into the opener against Louisiana Tech, Doeren was down to two choices, Thomas and Mitchell, and he vowed not to reveal the winner of the position until game day. But as some of the coaches who came before him proved, you can be successful with multiple players at the most important position on the field. "It's similar to what we had a couple of times when I played in that we don't have much of an idea what we have at the quarterback position because none of us have ever seen these guys play," Harvey said. "But the team doesn't have to be defined by that one position. There will be people who raise their heads up and stars that will shine, because frankly no one knows a lot about this team yet. "Everyone has everything to prove and nothing to lose." ■ You may contact Tim Peeler at 94  ■  the wolfpacker 94.Pack Perspective.indd 94 8/23/13 12:56 PM

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