RALEIGH — If Dave Doeren had his way, he’d run the same kind of offense at N.C. State as the one he has utilized during the past two seasons at Northern Illinois – a fast-paced, spread with a quarterback who’s as good throwing as he is running. To make that system work, though, will take some time and some recruiting.
That’s part of the reason why Doeren, whom N.C. State on Sunday formally introduced as the Wolfpack’s head football coach, isn’t committed to any one particular style or scheme. He will arrive at N.C. State with an idea of the kind of offense and defense he wants to run but, above all, Doeren desires to be flexible.
“Our systems will be flexible to fit our players,” Doeren said. “And if we have to be more of a drop back team than we were at Northern until we get an athletic quarterback, then we’ll have to be. But I would prefer to be what I was there offensively.”
First, though, Doeren, who rose through the coaching ranks as a defensive assistant, will have to hire an offensive coordinator. It’s unclear how many members of his staff at Northern Illinois Doeren will bring with him to Raleigh.
Doeren on Sunday didn’t outline a timetable for building his staff, and he said the kind of offense N.C. State will run will depend in part on who he hires to lead it. At Northern Illinois, Doeren has employed both the spread and pro-style, two-back offense.
Defensively, Doeren, who served as the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin before becoming the head coach at Northern Illinois, has utilized a 4-3 scheme. He spoke on Sunday of a desire to be aggressive on both sides, but also the importance of playing with intelligence.
That applies, too, he said, to matching his players with a scheme that fits them instead of forcing them into a system.
“A little bit about what I believe in is using your strengths and hiding your weaknesses as a team,” Doeren said. “… And I think that’s part of what we need to do schematically, too, is we need to try to put our players with what we do, as opposed to just here’s what we’re running and it’s going to take five years of recruiting to make it work.
“I don’t want to go down that path.”
Northern Illinois, which will play Florida State in the Orange Bowl Jan. 1, has ranked among the top teams in the country in several offensive and defensive statistical categories this season. The Huskies are 15th in total offense, ninth in scoring offense, 35th in total defense and 11th in sacks.
Doeren didn’t outline specifics of X’s and O’s preferences on Sunday, but on the Northern Illinois athletic department website, he describes his offensive philosophy as “very simple – be in attack mode all the time.”
“We are constantly looking for a matchup advantage for our players to take advantage of in the both the run and pass game,” Doeren wrote on the Northern Illinois website. “We do not run a ton of plays but we do believe in running them from a variety of looks. The end result is our players playing extremely fast and physical football.”
At Northern Illinois, Doeren’s offensive style varied from week to week and, sometimes, from play to play. The Huskies could be up-tempo in some moments, and slower-paced the next. They might use a five-receiver set one play, and one with three tight ends the next.
During the interview process, Debbie Yow, the N.C. State athletic director, didn’t talk much with Doeren about his style of play. Doeren’s offensive and defensive schemes didn’t play a role in the hiring process, Yow said.
Still, she said she was impressed by Doeren’s adaptability.
“He is a smart guy – smart, creative,” Yow said. “He’s not wed to a system. He’s going to do what he has to do to match up what talent we have with whatever it is he’s trying to do. That’s what I mean by smart. That’s a really important trait for any coach. Some coaches don’t do that.”
During his introductory press conference, Doeren spoke of his rise through his profession. He talked about serving as a graduate assistant, twice, and of driving buses and paying dues. He also spoke of how he went to college with hopes of becoming a doctor.
The analytical part of Doeren’s mind has served him well in the coaching profession.
“That’s one thing I love about the game, is learning the other team’s rules,” he said. “As I watch the film, hey, this formation makes them do this and this formation makes them do that. And if we do this, then they’ll check into this. And I love that part of what I do.”
Jordan Lynch, the Huskies quarterback, made Doeren’s job easier, too. Lynch has run for 1,771 yards this season, and passed for 2,962 more. Those gaudy numbers might excite Wolfpack supporters who hope Doeren brings a system that allows players to have similar success at N.C. State.
Doeren, though, said he won’t force an offensive system on players who might not be best-suited to run it. And about Lynch, his quarterback for the past two seasons, Doeren said, “(We’ve) got to find a guy like that.”