N.C. State’s football team will be different in 2016, with a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback, but that won’t change Dave Doeren’s approach to spring practice, which starts on Tuesday.
After a disappointing finish to a 7-6 season in 2015, Doeren has made some changes to his staff and will have to replace some key players. But Doeren said there’s a simple message for his players: “worry about us.”
“For us to beat Clemson, Florida State, UNC and the teams that won 10 or more games last year, we have to be the best version of us,” Doeren said. “We have to figure out, ‘Here’s what I’m great at and here’s what I’m not.’
“Then we have to own what we’re not and work our butt off to get better at it this offseason.”
The Wolfpack will have 15 practices, including the spring game on April 9, to make progress. Tuesday’s practice will be the first for offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz, who was hired from Boise State in January.
Dwayne Ledford, hired from Appalachian State, also joins the staff as the offensive line coach and Dantonio Burnette was promoted to replace Jason Veltkamp as the head strength and conditioning coach.
Tops on Drinkwitz’s to-do list is finding a replacement for quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who started the past two years and is expected to be a late-round pick in the NFL draft next month.
I’m big on earning what you get.
NC State coach Dave Doeren
Redshirt sophomore Jalan McClendon, who has only played in mop-up duty, and redshirt freshman Jakobi Meyers will compete for the job, Doeren said.
McClendon was Brissett’s backup last season and has been in the program for a year longer than Meyers but he’s not going to be handed the starting job.
“I’m big on earning what you get,” Doeren said. “For Jalan, obviously he’s the older guy and he was our backup last year, so naturally everyone thinks he will be the starter. It’s really his job to lose but I do think Jakobi has a great skill set and everyone loves being around both of those guys.”
McClendon is a bigger quarterback (6-5, 212 pounds), built more like Brissett, who threw for 2,662 yards and ran for 370 last season.
Meyers, at 6-2 and 188 pounds, is smaller in stature but a better runner, Doeren said.
“I think Jakobi is excited to compete with him and with both having a fresh start with Eli, I think that’s the right approach,” Doeren said.
Drinkwitz, who will coach the quarterbacks and call the plays, will also be busy refining the Wolfpack’s offensive philosophy.
Doeren fired coordinator Matt Canada after three seasons despite a strong running game (202.1 yards per game) and scoring a respectable 33.2 points per game.
Doeren has declined to go into detail about the decision to split with Canada, who has since been hired for the same job by ACC foe Pittsburgh.
But there are certain areas Doeren wants to see improvement in the offense, specifically with tempo, making plays in space and using more audibles.
“We’ve been a team that can run the ball really well and get some play-action stuff off of it,” Doeren said. “But we also have to be able to get in space and play with some tempo and adjust. It’s just a matter of wanting to be a little different. I think Eli gives us a great opportunity to do that.”
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