RALEIGH — N.C. State coach Dave Doeren wore a rubber bracelet to the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro last week. Both Wolfpack players at the event, seniors Dontae Johnson and Rashard Smith, did too.
There was a question printed on the bracelets Whos got it better than us? a lesson in perspective Doeren wants to ingrain upon his new team as the countdown toward his debut begins Friday with the first practice of the season.
We say it all the time, how lucky we are to have what we have when there are people across the country and around the world who dont have anything close to what weve got, Doeren said of the slogan, used by San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
We tell them if they sit back and take inventory, their problems really arent big problems compared to most.
Positive thinking aside, N.C. State will have on-field problems and issues to address in the 29 days before Louisiana Tech comes to Raleigh on Aug. 31 for the opener.
The three primary concerns as camp begins:
Whos the quarterback?
Junior Pete Thomas ended spring practice ahead of sophomore Manny Stocker, but Doeren has since added three new contenders to replace Mike Glennon.
Doeren branded Brandon Mitchell, a graduate transfer from Arkansas, and Thomas, who sat out last season after transfering from Colorado State, as the frontrunners, but said Stocker and freshmen Bryant Shirreffs and Josh Taylor would get chances to win the job in camp.
All five guys will get reps and the older two guys will get more earlier on, Doeren said, referring to Mitchell and Thomas. If we can name one (starter), we will. If we cant, well compete a little bit and let a guy win it in the game.
Mitchell played receiver at Arkansas last season, where he started three games and caught 17 passes for 272 yards. He graduated from the SEC school and was allowed under NCAA rules to transfer to N.C. State and play right away.
Mitchell has been left to his own devices with the playbook but in his limited time with Doeren, he has impressed his new coach.
We added Brandon Mitchell because we didnt feel like we were in a position yet to name a starter and thought we needed more competition for Pete, Doeren said.
Doeren also praised the athletic ability and smarts of Shirreffs and Taylor, a walk-on from New Bern, who are more in the mold of the versatile, running quarterbacks Doeren had at Northern Illinois.
I wouldnt count out the competition of seeing what our freshmen can do, Doeren said.
Reduce the mistakes
N.C. State was like two teams last season, and in 2011, with the good version capable of beating any ACC team and vice versa for the bad version.
The Wolfpack, 7-6 a year ago, made too many correctable mistakes during its six losses. N.C. State led the ACC with 33 giveaways and only five teams had more nationally. Glennons 17 interceptions were the most in the ACC.
When N.C. State wasnt giving the ball away, it was dropping passes. In a key three-game stretch a win at Maryland, a loss at North Carolina and a home loss to Virginia Glennon threw 70 incompletions. Unofficially, half were dropped passes.
Id like to think that its an easy (fix), but its not, Doeren said. Its a break down in focus.
The Wolfpack remained sloppy with turnovers and dropped passes during spring practice and the Kay Yow Spring Game, but Doeren said depth was an issue.
We had pathetic depth on offense this spring, Doeren said. It was hard on those guys and the depth will help them focus better.
Doeren has added six receivers, three running backs and three quarterbacks since spring practice ended. He also said that all of the Wolfpacks freshmen have been academically cleared for practice.
Where are the ballers?
Drew Hughes, the new director of player personnel, caused an Internet ripple when recruiting target C.J. Reavis posted a hand-written letter from Hughes on Instagram in March.
NC STATE NEEDS = BALLERS and YOU = BALLER, Hughes wrote.
N.C. State has to replace seven regular starters on offense, but it returns its top receiver (Quintin Payton) and rusher (Shadrach Thornton).
Payton, a big, downfield target, doesnt fit as well in Doerens spread principles as Smith, who came on at the end of the 2012 season and stood out in the spring game. Receiver Bryan Underwood, second in the ACC with 10 touchdown catches last season, also will be an asset.
Newcomers Travares Copeland, a sophomore transfer from West Virginia at receiver, and running back Matt Dayes, a freshman, might also fit into the baller category in coordinator Matt Canadas offense.