RALEIGH — Dave Doeren needs a quarterback.
The new N.C. State coach has to find a new quarterback, one who has to replace a succession of NFL quarterbacks and one who fits what Doeren wants to do with a new offense.
No pressure there.
The good news, one of Doerens former quarterbacks said, is the Wolfpacks coach was in this situation at Northern Illinois and he knows what hes doing.
You cant force a player to be something theyre not, said former NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish, who led the Huskies to a 11-3 record in 2011, Doerens first season as coach.
He understood what I did well and let me do it. He was awesome at that.
The Wolfpack, which has to replace Mike Glennon, a third-round pick in the NFL draft, will need Doeren to be awesome again. Doeren will have options at quarterback, Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker return from Tom OBriens tenure and Doeren has added two transfers from the SEC and two freshmen.
Who will start against Louisiana Tech in the opener on Aug. 31? Doerens not sure and it might not be just one quarterback.
If theres not clear-cut option, well use a two-quarterback system, Doeren said. Thats not what we would prefer to do, but if we have to, well consider it.
4 or 5 options
Doeren wants numbers at the quarterback position, optimally four or five to choose from, he said. Thomas, a junior, and Stocker, a sophomore, were the only two returning scholarship quarterbacks on the roster when Doeren was hired in December to replace OBrien.
Thomas, a transfer from Colorado State, had the edge on Stocker after spring practice, but both were recruited for a pro-style offense.
Doerens first move on the recruiting trail was to get Jacoby Brissett, who transferred from Florida. Brissett has to sit out this season but will have two years of eligibility. Doeren, who recruited Brissett out of high school, specifically brought in Brissett to run his version of the spread offense at N.C. State.
Brissett, a top-100 recruit nationally out of high school and part-time starter in two seasons at Florida, isnt the only SEC transfer Doeren has added. Brandon Mitchell will graduate from Arkansas and spend his final season of eligibility at N.C. State. Mitchell, who sat behind a pair of NFL quarterbacks at Arkansas in Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson, is eligible to play this season under NCAA rules.
Doeren cant talk about Mitchell, who played receiver last season for the Razorbacks, until he enrolls at N.C. State. Doeren has already made it clear, though, he prefers a quarterback with mobility, which is not the strong suit of either Thomas or Stocker.
Ideally, you want a quarterback who can run and throw, Doeren said. I like a guy with mobility that can get out of trouble and keep a defense honest in the read option.
At 6 feet 4 inches tall and 239 pounds, Mitchell has the size and athleticism to be a threat running the football. Mitchell caught 17 passes for 272 yards at Arkansas last season. In 17 career games for the Razorbacks, he completed 25 of 43 passes for 332 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
ESPN analyst Rod Gilmore, who worked several of Doerens games at NIU, wouldnt be surprised if Mitchell wins the job.
If he can pick up the playbook, my guess is he will be the guy, Gilmore said of Mitchell. You have to understand where Doeren is coming from. His expertise is on defense and he understands what gives a defense problems.
When you have a quarterback that is a threat to run, like he had at Northern Illinois, it puts a lot of pressure on a defense.
Freshmen in mix too
Doeren also added two freshmen to his first recruiting class, both led their respective high school programs to state titles. Bryant Shirreffs (6-3, 218 pounds) threw for 2,404 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for 1,383 yards and 21 touchdowns in 16 games to help Jefferson (Ga.) High win its first state title.
He was nearly perfect in Jeffersons 31-14 2A title win, rushing for three touchdowns and 139 yards and completing 14 of 18 passes for 188 yards. Shirreffs was headed to an Ivy League program before that performance got Doerens attention.
Doeren said Shirreffs runs with a purpose and impressed him with his ability to throw on the run. But that wasnt Shirreffs top attribute, Doeren said.
Hes a smart kid, Doeren said. Plus, that school had never won a state championship and he led them to one.
Josh Taylor (5-11, 185 pound) led New Bern to a 15-0 record and the 4A state title last season. Taylor ran for 1,159 yards and 17 touchdowns his senior season and threw for 2,665 and 25 touchdowns.
Taylor will be a walk-on, but Doeren didnt rule out Taylor or Shirreffs winning the starting job in August practice.
I want to see our freshmen, Doeren said. I want to see how it shakes it out.
Doeren been here before
There will be history to live up to for the Wolfpacks next quarterback.
From 2009-12, Russell Wilson and Glennon posted four consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons, which is unprecedented in ACC history.
Wilson and Glennon are also only the third pair of ACC quarterbacks to be taken in the first four rounds of the NFL draft in consecutive years from the same school.
An ACC quarterback has thrown for at least 3,000 yards 38 times (by 29 different quarterbacks) and Wilson and Glennon did it twice each.
We dont expect them to be Mike or Russell, we just expect them to be the best they can be, Doeren said. Whoever takes that spot next will have a lot of history to live up to, but we wont talk a lot about that with our guys.
There are certain similarities to the situation Doeren already handled at NIU. Doeren inherited Harnish, now a backup with the Indianapolis Colts, for his first season as the Huskies coach in 2011.
Harnish passed for 3,216 yards as a senior and ran for 1,379 more. He accounted for 39 touchdowns and was the Mid-American Conference player of the year.
For Year 2, Doeren had to start over, after Harnish was picked in the seventh round by the Colts. Doeren turned to Jordan Lynch, a first-year starter, who ran for 1,815 yards in 2012 and passed for 3,138 yards, accounted for 44 touchdowns and also won MAC player of the year.
NIU was 11-3 in Harnishs senior season and then went 12-2 under Lynch, and earned a spot in the Orange Bowl.
There was a big transition after I left because we had a very good senior class, Harnish said. To rebound and have an even better season with a ton of replacements, especially on the offensive side says a lot about coach.
Doeren finds himself in transition again at a new program and with a bigger challenge.