There is no fast-forward button for college football’s offseason.
If there was, Dave Doeren would have clicked it back in December. Doeren’s first season at N.C. State was his 19th in college football as a head coach or assistant. Only four of those seasons ended with a losing record.
So a 3-9 start with the Wolfpack, and 0-8 in the ACC, didn’t exactly make for a comfortable offseason.
“You do a lot of soul-searching, a lot of evaluation,” Doeren said. “You go through everything.”
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Sitting at home during bowl season, missing the extra practice, missing the extra exposure, was the worst part.
“None of us want to be home in December,” Doeren said. “I’m not used to it.”
Doeren’s last team at Northern Illinois in 2012 won 12 games and went to the Orange Bowl. His last year as an assistant at Wisconsin in 2010, the Badgers won 11 games and went to the Rose Bowl. His last year as an assistant at Montana in 2001, the Grizzlies won 15 games and the Division I-AA national title.
In between the stops at Montana and Wisconsin, Doeren was at Kansas from 2002-05. That was the last time Doeren experienced anything like the 2013 season with N.C. State. The Jayhawks went 2-10, 6-7 (with a loss to N.C. State in the Tangerine Bowl) and 4-7 in Doeren’s first three seasons as an assistant to Mark Mangino. Two years after Doeren, who was the recruiting coordinator for Mangino, left for Wisconsin, the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl.
So Doeren understands the process, and that it requires some patience. He also understands the only way to get better – and not just “7-5, 8-4 Belk Bowl better” but to be a consistent top-25 program, which is what he was hired to do – is to recruit better talent.
The only advantage to going 3-9 and missing out on a bowl is you can get on the road more and recruit.
“We recruited hard last year,” said Doeren, whose first full class was ranked No. 26 nationally by Scout and No. 30 by Rivals.
Three true freshmen – receiver Bo Hines, left guard Tony Adams and defensive tackle B.J. Hill – from the oversized class of 33 will start against Georgia Southern on Saturday afternoon.
There are 11 more true freshmen listed in the depth chart. They will cut their teeth against Georgia Southern and play more throughout the season.
If Doeren is able to turn the Wolfpack into a top 25 program, it will be on the talent and the backs of this class and the next one.
That’s how David Cutcliffe turned Duke into a winner. Recruit better talent, let them play young, develop them and then wait for the reward.
Cutcliffe didn’t get to a bowl game until his fifth season and didn’t have a winning record, albeit with a school-record 10 wins, until his sixth season.
Doeren, in Year 2, is in a better position at N.C. State than Cutcliffe was at Duke. Larry Fedora inherited a better foundation at North Carolina than either but he has made short work on the recruiting trail, adding high-end skill players in receivers Quinshad Davis and Ryan Switzer and running backs T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood.
In Year 3, Fedora begins the season ranked in the top 25 with the hopes that his additions on the offensive and defensive lines can play beyond their years and deliver the Tar Heels’ first double-digit win season since Mack Brown left for Texas in 1997.
Doeren might look for the fast-forward button to get through the growing pains of this season, and maybe even 2015, but the payoff to the process is at least about to begin after a long wait in the offseason.