N.C. State has a new offense, new offensive coordinator and a new set of quarterbacks.
With everything new, more than a few unpolished edges will be on display in Saturday’s Kay Yow Spring Game at Carter-Finley Stadium.
But there has also been progress, which new coordinator Eli Drinkwitz actually can measure by the mistakes made by new quarterback Jalan McClendon.
“It’s now to the point where he understands his mistakes before I start yelling at him, which is good,” Drinkwitz said.
All eyes will be on McClendon, a third-year sophomore, and redshirt freshman Jakobi Meyers in the annual spring game. They will be on opposite teams on Saturday. Eventually one, likely McClendon, a West Mecklenburg product, will step into the void left by Jacoby Brissett, who was the Wolfpack’s starting quarterback the past two seasons.
But the spring was just the latest step in the overhaul of the Wolfpack offense. Coach Dave Doeren decided to replace former coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada after Brissett stagnated in his senior season, which the Wolfpack finished with a 7-6 record.
With a new starter on deck, and Doeren hitting a critical stretch in his tenure, the fourth-year coach hired Drinkwitz from Boise State for a reboot.
Drinkwitz, who’s 32, had success in one particular area last season with the Broncos: breaking in a first-year starting quarterback.
As a freshman, Brett Rypien threw for 3,353 yards and 20 touchdowns and was named all conference. He also helped the Broncos rank in the top 15 in the country in both scoring and total offense.
“Brett was unique,” Drinkwitz said. “He was very smart, very intelligent and had a lot of great quarterback qualities, but you look back on those experiences and you try to apply a lot of it because obviously it worked in a successful way for us.”
Drinkwitz’s offense won’t be a dramatic departure from the previous three seasons under Doeren but there’s new terminology and Doeren would like to be more up tempo. Drinkwitz cut his teeth as a graduate assistant under the spread/tempo master Gus Malzahn at Auburn.
You probably won’t get an expanded look at the playbook in the spring game but Doeren is more interested in how McClendon and Meyers handle the huddle and the decisions they make with the ball.
Doeren said he wants to see his quarterbacks “make the smart choices and not try to do too much.”
McClendon, who was Brissett’s backup last year and appeared sparingly in seven games, is on the same page as his coach.
“I just want to go out there and show everybody what I can do,” McClendon said. “The coaches trust me, that’s all I really need.”
McClendon (6-2, 212 pounds) has impressed everyone from Drinkwitz to former N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon with his arm strength. He threw for 144 yards in last year’s spring game.
This will be Meyers’ first action at Carter-Finley Stadium. A standout baseball prospect in high school in Lithonia, Ga., Meyers got a late start on his football career. His development was slowed last year by two different knee injuries, so he wasn’t able to run the scout team during the season.
He has been healthy this spring and has impressed Doeren as a playmaker. “Super athletic” is how the coach describes the 6-2, 188-pound freshman.
Meyers will have to take the starting job away from McClendon but regardless of what happens on Saturday, the competition will continue into fall camp.
“The spring is not about who’s trying to win and lose the job,” Drinkwitz said. “It’s about who’s understanding the offense and can play within the system. And then we’ll make determinations from there.”
Doeren said there’s a chance both could play come the start of the season.
“They’re both good players and we need to get our good players on the field,” Doeren said.
NOTE: Redshirt freshman receiver Freddie Simmons and freshman tight end Bryce Dixon are no longer on the team, Doeren said.
Simmons and Dixon, who is from Green Hope High and enrolled in January, violated team rules. Neither has any legal charges pending in the state of North Carolina.
“There’s rules that you have to live by,” Doeren said. “When you don’t, sometimes you don’t get to stay, sometimes you do. It’s unfortunate.”
Kay Yow Spring Game
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium
Time: 1 p.m.
The format: Assistants Des Kitchings and George Barlow drafted teams, with quarterbacks Jalan McClendon and Jakobi Meyers split up. Other than special teams, it will be set up like a regular game.
“We’ll see how much football we can play,” coach Dave Doeren said. “We don’t have a lot of depth at some spots, so hopefully we’ll be able to play four quarters.”
Before the current players take the field, there will be an alumni flag football game at 10:45 a.m. One highlight is former Wolfpack and NFL great Torry Holt will play in that game.
The parking lots open at 8 a.m. Admission is free but a minimum $1 donation to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund is suggested.