Aug. 10, 2014
RALEIGH, N.C. - The NC State football team held its annual Media Day on Saturday, with Coach Doeren and the players meeting with the media before Meet the Pack Day.
“We’re through one week of camp and had our first big scrimmage with about 150 snaps with our three different groups. We also had some good special teams work as well.
“It has been a much different camp from last year in a lot of ways. We have a lot more depth and more competition at certain position groups, such as the DB’s, D-line, tight ends, running backs. I’m excited about the depth and competition and the quality of competition at some of those positions.
“As has been documented, there are some really good young players here. I’m still concerned about our depth, as I probably always will be, at quarterback. Offensive line, if we can keep the guys together that we have, we probably ran the ball consistently as good as I’ve seen in the 18 months that I’ve been here on Saturday.
“The linebacking core had some injuries going into camp with Ty Linton and Artemis [Robinson], as they both had offseason type things. We were thin there to begin with and unfortunately M.J. [Salahuddin] had a knee injury four or five days ago that will keep him out for a while. He’ll have surgery on it and whether he’s out for the season or not we’ll see. He hasn’t used his redshirt year, so that is the silver lining for him. It’s not something that will keep him from the team for good, but as we all know in sports injuries do happen and it’s always been my philosophy to use the next man up approach. That’s why you recruit, that’s why you develop and that’s why you have competition. I know that Jerod Fernandez, [Brandon] Pittman, Rodman Noel, Ernie Robinson. Two freshmen we have there are playing really well. So excited what Bradley Chubb has done at linebacker and Airius Moore. Those two guys are going to be really good linebackers here. I still feel good about our depth there, but I hate to see it for M.J. He may be one of the better workers on our team.
“The talent we have in the freshmen class is very evident. Several of them are going to have the chance to play. Tony Adams is playing at a high level on the offensive line. He’s playing both guard and center. Cole Cook is probably ahead of the core for his group of tight ends for the freshmen class. I could see Cole having a chance to play early for us.
“At receiver, all of the receivers that we signed will play for the exception of Maurice Trowell. We don’t know yet on him. He’s been out with a hip flexor and will come back this week. I’d like to play him if we can. I feel good about the depth at receiver and both Stephen Louis and Bo Hines will play as freshmen.
“At tailback, Dakwa Nichols, the redshirt from last year, had a really good scrimmage yesterday. I feel good about his addition into the backfield we already have. That’s kind of where we’re at on offense. On defense, at corners, Mike Stevens and Troy Vincent, Jr. are both playing well and Elliott Davis made a phenomenal play on a deep ball Saturday. I really like the three corners we brought in. Germaine Pratt will play. You’ll see him out there with the special teams and he may have a role with the defense. We still need to see how he progresses.”
“On the defensive line, Kentavius Street and Justin Jones are probably ahead of the curb physically. I can see those guys contributing as soon as game one. The specialists are where we thought they’d be. Bo Hines, Matt Dayes and Bra’Lon Cherry are handling the duties for the return game and have all three done a nice job.
“This class, this camp, the leadership, I’m really proud of the way the guys worked since the end of last season to get themselves in the best shape they can. The strength staff did a great job evaluating what they need to do to get better and putting our guys in position to be ready for camp. We haven’t had a single muscular injury and you can’t prevent bones from unfortunately having things happen to them in any sport, but you can muscle pulls in how you train. I really appreciate what those guys did and how our guys took to it. No matter what happens, I’m not going to make excuses for anything with our football team. We look forward to the depth and competition that comes out of camp. I’m excited to have another week. These two weeks are the only two weeks that we won’t have academics going on at the same time. We can really dig into football, team building and leadership.”
On the M.J. Salahuddin injury:
“He’s doing great. It was really just a routine play. Their was really nothing crazy about it. He’s done it a thousand times, just taking on a block and for whatever reason his knee didn’t act the way it normally does. I’m not going to get into specifics of what happened to him. It’s an injury that requires surgery and he’ll be back.”
On the point of emphasis in camp:
“I think finish. We got into a lot of situations where we were a play or two plays away from finishing a game. We only won one game we played in the fourth quarter and that was Richmond, obviously, with a field goal. I think the biggest thing we’ve been talking about is finishing drives, finishing in the red zone, finishing on third down, finishing the quarter, finishing the half, finishing games.”
On the importance of having a young player step forward with a playmaking ability:
“I’ve said from the start that it’s nice to have a guy like Jacoby [Brissett] back there, but it’s not his job to make all of the plays. The linemen have to protect him and it’s the quarterback’s job to distribute the football and it’s those players jobs to make plays. Being seven strong at receiver, which I think we are now, we have seven guys that we think can make plays. Having three tight ends, having four running backs, I do think that we have better skill and depth. We didn’t have that last year. Each week, a different receiver would go down and by the end of the year, we couldn’t run past anybody. We just didn’t have the speed at those positions, with Bryan [Underwood] being out, Rashard [Smith] hurting his knee and Quinton Patterson being out it was what it was. We feel a lot better just about the depth at those positions to help [Brissett]. He can’t do it by himself and we aren’t going to ask him to. I think that’s the biggest thing that our team understands is that it’s 11 people who have to do their job every single play.”
On if the squad is ahead of where it was at this point last year:
“We’re way ahead of where we were last year. We entered day one of camp with our entire offense and defense installed, except our goalline packages. We had everything in. That’s the advantage with the new NCAA legislation that we were provided is that we can now meet with the players for two hours a week during the summer. We basically had everything installed and were able to watch some of our spring film all summer long. Even our freshmen, we didn’t have a single procedural penalty in the scrimmage Saturday. For the guys to know the offense that well to line up and go play, compared to last year there were probably 15. The receivers just didn’t know where to go and it’s a lot better from that standpoint.”
On the senior specialists and developing talent behind them:
“We feel good the starters. It’s not a position you rotate, but we do have Will Stephenson. He’s back with us as a punter and a kicker. He’s improved himself and done a nice job. For a freshman, Jackson Mapels has a really strong leg that can help us on kick-offs. I can’t talk about the recruiting aspect and we do have a great in place for when they’re gone.”
On the freshmen that enrolled early and how far along they have come:
“B.J. Hill has gained 60 pounds. Germaine Pratt is over 230. Mentally, they walked into an offseason program that was designed to make a 3-9 team a lot tougher and a lot better athletes. It wasn’t easy, but they jumped right into it. It made them mentally tougher. Their were nine games that came in early and most of those guys will play right away, because we need them to and they’ve gotten a lot of good, valuable experience in practice."
On Bryan Underwood offseason and working his way back:
“Bryan is a lot stronger. He squatted 500 pounds earlier this summer, so for a little guy his lower body strength is really impressive. He’s playing a lot harder in practice. Last year, he was a little inconsistent in practice. For [Brissett], those two guys have done a good job of building a relationship. He knows where [Underwood] is and he has very good speed. To have a guy who has consistent speed and I think he’ll be more durable, because of the offseason he’s put out there.”
On the camp competition for backup quarterback:
“Jalen [McClendon] has come a long way in a week. Garrett [Leatham] is more familiar right now, so I think if we had to play today I think that [Leatham] would be the backup. Between now and game day, I’m hoping that [McClendon] can continue to push. His arm is better than maybe anybody on our team. He has a tremendously strong arm. He threw a ball yesterday 65 yards on the run. It’s just getting him comfortable. We’ll see where we are a week from now, but [Leatham] is ahead of him mentally.”
On the improvements of the sophomore receivers have made in the offseason:
“[Bra’Lon] Cherry is probably the most improved, really had a good seven days. [Marquez] Valdez-Scantling is way more consistent, which I think is the way he’s taken care of himself off the field. He’s done a good job nutritionally. He’s gained some weight and he had a lot of cramping issues last year. He couldn’t sustain throughout a practice or a game, so I’m happy with the changes he’s made to be able to handle the volume the receivers have. [Jumichael] Ramos is pretty similar to what he was last year and continues to make plays. He hasn’t done a whole lot except change his body, but he’s still making plays that he made last year. Johnathan Alston has had a really good camp. He and Bo Hines have been rotating, both of those guys are productive day-in and day-out.”
On rebounding from last year’s 3-9 campaign:
“I think it’s been great for the mental toughness for our players. None of them want to relive it. So, when you see things go a different way than you want, you can snap them back into it by telling them this is what’s going to happen if you want to live like that. I think it’s always there and it’s not something we want to talk about or need to talk about a lot. It’s in the back of their minds. The only thing you can do when you have adversity is face it. That’s what we’ve tried to do and be real with our guys and building the program the right way. I feel like we’ve been able to do that so far.”
On Rob Crisp recovering from last season’s injury:
“He’s had a great camp. Rob [Crisp] will probably tell you he hasn’t, because he’s hard on himself. He wants to be really good. He is a different guy than he was last year. His health, obviously any starters health is critical. When he’s on, he’s a really good football player. He’s long, athletic and has a good command when he’s talking to guys on the team. He’s been a good leader and he just has to continue down that path.
“I think when he lost football last year, it changes you as a player. It makes it a lot more important to you, because you miss being out there. Experiencing the way we’ve worked together to get him to where he needs to be, to get his trust of how much we care about him has helped. I’m excited for Rob. He just needs to keep going down that path.”
On the advantage of knowing the playbook:
“It hasn’t helped with that, because we were running it in the spring and it was already installed. It’s helped with the younger guys, the freshmen the got here June 22 and didn’t go through spring ball. It gave them a chance to go through fall camp. You’re seeing different type of freshmen on the field, they are able to show you their ability. I would say more than half the guys came into camp with the playbook ready to play and that’s where it helped us the most.”
On Jarvis Byrd:
“Jarvis [Byrd] is still rehabbing. He’s been out there for several practices, but we’re taking it slow with him for obvious with him. With those type of injuries, if you push them too fast, you lose them. Jarvis knows our defense. The days he’s been out there, he made all of the checks and mentally felt good about it. Just got to get it to where he’s running full speed. We just have to be smart with him. Right now, if we were playing Josh Jones, Hakin Jones and Germaine Pratt are our top three at strong safety and free safety. They’re kind of in and out.”