The Wolfpacker

January 2014

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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■ pack perspective Despite Disappointing Season, Wolfpack's Football Future Looks Bright By Tim Peeler ave Doeren's first season at NC State didn't go the way anyone had hoped, to say the least. The Wolfpack's season — rife with optimism under a new coaching staff, an eight-game home schedule and a fresh coat of new paint — was defined by lack of stability at quarterback, a weakened offensive line and a need for more experienced, quicker linebackers. All of those questions were pretty well identified by the first-year coaching staff, as well as both avid and casual fans. No one associated with the program, especially after a 3-1 start with a thin-line loss to Clemson at Carter-Finley Stadium, would have expected Doeren's team to go winless in the ACC, which hasn't happened at NC State since 1959. So how do you make lemonade out of all this? For starters, Doeren stood up and said: "It starts with me." He took responsibility for his team's lack of success in his first season and vowed to do all within his power to make things better. That's a good step, considering how easy it is in today's culture to blame predecessors and unforeseen circumstances for every minor and major misstep. The team's future looks much brighter than the dim season that just ended. Doeren has his quarterback, Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett, waiting in the wings. Recruiting, by all accounts, is going well, and Doeren's young coaching staff has been good at it ever since arriving last December and January. Doeren used a lot of his first recruiting class — including cornerback Jack Tocho, wide receivers Marquez ValdesScantling and Jumichael Ramos, and running back Matt Dayes — and even if they weren't totally game-changers this season, they are more prepared for their final three years. Just as Tom O'Brien learned when he had Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon, Doeren knows from his experience at Northern Illinois that you can cover a lot of holes with a future NFL quarterback calling the shots under center. The Wolfpack didn't have that this year. That's not a slight to Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas, who knew they were coming in to a difficult situation this year. Mitchell was a one-year player who seemed to fit Doeren's style, and the staff took a chance on him. Thomas, recruited to be the pocket passer that previous offensive coordinator Dana Bible had success with, was never the D Head coach Dave Doeren took responsibility for his team's lack of success in his first season and vowed to do all within his power to make things better. photo by Ken Martin kind of player the new offensive staff wanted for that position. It just didn't work out. That's how O'Brien felt about his first-year quarterback, Daniel Evans, so he went out and found five other candidates to fight for the position the next year. The winner of the starting job was a redshirt freshman that didn't really fit the style of the coaching staff, but was the most talented player in camp. His name was Russell Wilson. Circumstances change from season to season, and this year's lack of success doesn't mean the program can't recover. It might be easy to point out that Auburn was winless in the Southeastern Conference last year before this season's miracle turnaround. But the situations aren't too similar, given that first-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn came in to remedy last year's disaster within the confines of a $110 million athletics department budget. More locally, the reason Duke reached the ACC Championship Game against Florida State in early December is patience. Knowing he had to overcome the Blue Devils' lack of success in recent years, David Cutcliffe set out to rebuild the way he knew how. His first season, the Blue Devils finished 4-8 overall and 1-7 in the ACC. Duke had five losing seasons in a row under Cutcliffe, an excellent coach, before this year's surprise team won 10 games in the regular season. NC State has many more advantages than Duke, including better facilities, a larger fan base and the capacity for bringing in more athletes that fit into the school's academic model. Doeren's task isn't quite as daunting as Cutcliffe's was. Duke had just three winning seasons in the quarter-century before he arrived and had not beaten an ACC team in three seasons. The Pack went to bowl games four of the previous five years before Doeren's arrival. There are some things that can be pinned on the new, mostly young staff. More experience might have enabled these coaches to make some adjustments to this year's team and won a couple more games, but that would have required a deviation from Doeren's core principles for his program. Would that really have been beneficial in the long-term success of a long-range building effort? A more experienced staff might not have felt it necessary to take as many chances in dire situations that, in hindsight, had little chance of success. But the reason Doeren replaced O'Brien is that athletics director Debbie Yow thought the program needed a shot of energy and vitality that comes from bringing in a new staff. It's been a long time since the Wolfpack had a new young coach who needed to make some mistakes to mature. If you recall, Dick Sheridan had a great debut season in 1986, on the heels of three consecutive 3-8 seasons under Tom Reed. Sheridan's inaugural team went 8-3-1 in his first season, when he inherited a pretty good stable of talent that included a future ACC Offensive Player of the Year and NFL quarterback in Erik Kramer, as well as future NFL standouts Haywood Jeffires, Danny Peebles and Mike Cofer. Remember, though, Sheridan was 4-7 in his second year, when he had to remold his program to fit his style, and it wasn't until his sixth season that the Wolfpack finished ranked in the Associated Press top 25. Sheridan had incremental success until then, taking the Wolfpack to five straight bowl games in his final five seasons and earning the Wolfpack a No. 17 final ranking in 1992, his last season. Doeren's remolding came in his first season. Surely, in the year since he was hired after winning back-to-back Mid-American Conference titles at Northern Illinois, it has been as much a humbling experience for Doeren as it was a learning one. Sometimes you do have to take a few steps backward to get ahead in the game of college football. That's what this year was. But this season alone doesn't mean the program is in retreat. Doeren was hired because he has a bright future, so give him time to realize that potential. ■ You may contact Tim Peeler at 78  ■  the wolfpacker 78.Pack Perspective.indd 78 12/5/13 2:46 PM

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