How NC State, Dave Doeren turned NFL draft success into Signing Day success

NC State’s Doeren: ‘Why wouldn’t you want to come here?’

NC State head football coach Dave Doeren talks about how success on the football field and in the NFL has lead to success in recruiting during a signing day press conference Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018.
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NC State head football coach Dave Doeren talks about how success on the football field and in the NFL has lead to success in recruiting during a signing day press conference Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018.

Dave Doeren’s most fruitful Signing Day in seven recruiting classes with N.C. State was predictable.

There’s a straight line from the Wolfpack’s NFL draft success last April to Wednesday’s haul of in-state recruits on the defensive line.

“When you have four players drafted on the D-line, and it’s happened three times in NFL history — not just N.C. State like in the history of the NFL draft it has happened three times — and then all of the sudden you see us get the four best defensive linemen in the state?” Doeren said. “There’s a correlation there.”

The Wolfpack’s class, 19 players signed on Wednesday, is heavy on the defensive front and on in-state talent. It ranks No. 26 in the country in 247Sports composite rankings. Fifteen of the players are from North Carolina and eight are in the top 25, according to 247Sports.

Defensive end Savion Jackson (6-3, 260), from Clayton, is the top prize. A year removed from seeing defensive end Bradley Chubb go from the ACC player of the year to the No. 5 pick in the draft, Doeren and his staff were able to strike while the irons were hot. That the other three starters from the 2017 defensive front went in the first four rounds of the draft, all the better. N.C. State had a school-record seven players taken in the 2018 draft.

The on-field success, back-to-back 9-win seasons, has certainly helped as well. So did an assist from one of the top recruits. Linebacker Drake Thomas (6-1, 225), from Heritage in Wake Forest, has been a ringleader for the class.

“I actually thanked him for that last night,” Doeren said of Thomas. “His leadership as a player is so strong. People want to play with him. He has a magnetic personality and people like the way he plays. They like his confidence.

“What he wants us to be able to do here is win a championship. And he wanted players around him that he felt could help him.”

NC State football coach Dave Doeren talks about how Heritage High School's Drake Thomas helped with recruiting during a Signing Day press conference Wednesday, Dec 19, 2018.

On the “need” front, the class includes four defensive backs, including standout cornerback Shyheim Battle (6-2, 175) from Rocky Mount and two quarterbacks. Bailey Hockman (6-2, 210) is a junior-college transfer via Florida State and will be a redshirt sophomore. Hockman and Ty Evans (6-2, 192), a three-star freshman from Colorado, will get a shot to compete with returnees Matt McKay and Devin Leary to replace Ryan Finley at quarterback.

“I’m looking forward to that competition,” Doeren said. “That’s a nice situation to have four really good quarterbacks like we do.”

Sixteen of the signees are planning on enrolling in January, including running back Zonovan Knight (6-0, 190) from Southern Nash high school. Knight will have a “shorter line” to the field in 2019 at running back, with the exits of senior 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Gallaspy and senior backup Brady Bodine.

“He’ll have an easier path to play, obviously, because of the depth chart right there with the injuries we’ve had and Reggie leaving, Brady leaving,” Doeren said. “He has an awesome opportunity to be in the mix there and he has a skill set.”

Doeren he still has two or three scholarships left to fill before the February signing date. Standout running back Jamious Griffin, from Rome, Ga., did not sign on Wednesday and has been pursued by Georgia Tech since his original verbal commitment to the Wolfpack. Offensive lineman Triston Miller, from Charlotte, had decommitted when offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford left for Louisville and signed with North Carolina on Wednesday.

NC State head football coach Dave Doeren talks about the recruits who signed with the Wolfpack on signing day during a press conference Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018.

N.C. State signees (19)

Shyheim Battle, CB (6-2, 175, Rocky Mount)

C.J. Clark, DT (6-3, 280, New London)

Terrell Dawkins, DE (6-4, 240, Cox Mill)

Ikem Ekwonu, DT (6-4, 298, Charlotte)

Ty Evans, QB (6-2, 192, Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Jalen Frazier, CB (5-10, 175, Denver, N.C.)

Jakeen Harris, S (5-11, 185, Savannah, Ga.)

Joshua Harris, DT (6-2, 320, Roxboro)

Bailey Hockman, QB (6-2, 210, Powder Springs, Ga.)

Savion Jackson, DE (6-3, 260, Clayton)

Zonovan Knight, RB (6-0, 190, Bailey)

Keyon Lesane, WR (6-0, 185, Lumberton)

Zovon Lindsay, OL (6-4, 270, Fayetteville)

Khalid Martin, S (6-2, 200, Tobaccoville)

Dylan McMahon, OL (6-3, 290, Savannah, Ga.)

Tim McKay, OL (6-3, 295, Raleigh)

Jaylon Scott, LB (6-1, 230, Shelby)

Drake Thomas, LB (6-1, 225, Wake Forest)

Chris Toudle, WR (6-3, 215, Wilmington)

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