RALEIGH — A coaching change means several things for holdover players. In the case of N.C. State, players have to adapt to not only a new style of coaching, but a different person entirely with Dave Doeren at the helm.
Freshman running back Shadrach Thornton has been impressed by what he’s seen.
“Coach Doeren told us that his door is always open,” Thornton said. “That’s kind of big right there. It’s not every day that you can come and just go up and talk to the head coach about anything and build a relationship with him personally.
“Some coaches try to keep their distance, but he’s a player’s coach and that’s something that I like.”
Doeren’s open-door policy is one of the things that Thornton said set him apart from former coach Tom O’Brien
“It’s pretty different,” Thornton said with a little bit of hesitation. “You didn’t really get that from coach O’Brien. If you wanted to talk to him, you could. But guys just didn’t. But coach Doeren is kind of like a position coach, but as the head coach.”
Thornton is one of many players who will be faced with the decision of whether to stay or go. While most players have not announced their decision, junior cornerback Dontae Johnson has made his choice to stay abundantly clear.
The primary boundary corner who finished the season with five pass deflections in 10 games said his decision was a lot easier when he found out coach Doeren would take over for the Pack.
“Coach Doeren is a great guy and the vision that he has for this program is great,” Johnson said. “I can’t wait to see it happen. I’m excited to see what happens with our team.”
In Doeren’s first stint as a head coach, he took over a Northern Illinois program that had recent success under Jerry Kill, appearing in three straight bowl games, but had not won a conference championship since 1983.
Doeren not only won the MAC Championship in his first year, but repeated the following season along with earning a bid to the Orange Bowl. Most of the success his NIU teams had was due to Doeren’s spread offense and, more importantly, the team’s quarterback play.
As the quarterback for the Huskies, Jordan Lynch compiled 2,962 passing yards and 1,771 rushing yards en route to finishing seventh in Heisman voting.
Freshman quarterback Manny Stocker, who figures to be a candidate to help run Doeren’s offense in the coming years, believes he is well suited to run the spread system.
“I feel like I can run the ball and pass the ball,” Stocker said. “I came here to play the pro-style offense, but I feel like I have the ability to run, too.
“I can fit into whatever system he brings in.”
Just before meeting with the media for the first time and announcing that he would officially be leaving NIU to move to Raleigh and coach the Wolfpack, Doeren met with the players for the first time.
Doeren knew his new players had a decision to make, and Thornton said Doeren’s energy sold him.
“He’s a pretty good guy with words,” Thornton said. “He knows how to amp everybody up. The first time we all met him … he was just saying a few words and everybody was getting pumped. I said, ‘Dang! I feel like we need to go out there and play right now!’ ”
The Wolfpack takes on Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31 at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. Dana Bible, who was offensive coordinator under O’Brien, will coach N.C. State in the bowl game.