Is it time for NC State to panic?
Dave Doeren will have to wait one more week to have the lineup he expected to have this season.
The N.C. State football coach has already dealt with an unusual amount of roster issues, between suspensions, injuries and transfers, and the season is only one week old.
The Wolfpack (0-1) faces Marshall (1-0) on Saturday in its home opener and will be without right tackle Will Richardson, who is serving a two-game suspension, and cornerback Mike Stevens, who suffered a knee injury in August.
Both Richardson and Stevens, regulars in the 2016 lineup, are expected to play in next week’s home game with Furman.
“Next week we’ll be adding guys in,” Doeren said. “This week, we’re still without them. We know where we’re at, we know what we have.”
The roster has been in flux since early August. Two players (offensive lineman Bryce Folsom and defensive tackle Quentez Johnson) have transferred out of the program. A third, safety Trae Meadows, has taken a temporary leave from the program to deal with a personal matter. Safety Freddie Phillips tore an Achilles tendon in the loss to South Carolina and will miss the rest of the season.
That’s relatively normal roster turnover. The disciplinary actions have been more problematic for Doeren, who has not had to deal with many off-field problems in his five-year tenure.
Doeren kicked two players off the team, freshman receiver Antoine Thompson and freshman defensive end Kevince Brown, for their role in an on-campus party on July 21 which ended with two female N.C. State students reporting to campus police they were raped and a third alleging she was a victim of sexual battery.
Running back Erin Collins, defensive end Xavier Lyas and linebacker Isaiah Moore – all freshmen – were also identified by campus police to have been at the party and were suspended from competition. Collins, Lyas and Moore are still practicing with the team.
New details into the on-going investigation were released in search warrants made public by the Raleigh Police Department on Friday. None of the five players, or former players, have been formally charged.
Doeren does not think the incident played any part in N.C. State’s season-opening loss to South Carolina.
“It has taken a lot of my time, but it hasn’t distracted our football team,” Doeren said. “The fact that they were freshmen and weren’t going to play anyway, didn’t disrupt our depth. From a locker room standpoint, it was not a disruption.”
But the absence of Richardson, who has started 21 games the past two years on the offensive line, did have an affect.
“It hurt us,” Doeren said.
Richardson has been suspended for violating an unspecified team rule. This is the second time in his career the fourth-year junior has missed at least one game due to a suspension.
He was suspended for the Boston College game in November 2015 after a driving while impaired arrest. He also served a school suspension, the entire spring semester of the 2015-16 academic year, as related punishment to the DWI charge.
Doeren has not gone into detail about any of the suspensions or dismissals. Doeren said not all of the disciplinary decisions are at his discretion.
There are certain rules that trigger specific punishments. Any felony charge is an immediate suspension, under the school’s Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.
Violations of the school’s drug-testing policy also have automatic suspensions.
▪ The suspension for the first positive test for a performance-enhancing drug is 50 percent of the season. For a football season, that’s calculated at six games.
A second failed PED test equals dismissal from the program.
▪ The first positive test for a banned substance, such as marijuana or any drug that is not classified a PED, does not carry an automatic suspension.
The second positive test carries a suspension of 20 percent of the season, or two games of the football season.
A third positive test triggers an automatic indefinite suspension and possible loss of scholarship.
Doeren said, other than the specific punishments outlined by the school policy, he treats every player, and case, differently.
“I wish it was an easier answer than that, but it’s not,” Doeren said. “There’s never a ‘if this, then that’ for everything.”
Thompson and Brown, who never played a down, were dismissed after the one public incident. Former running back Shadrach Thornton was suspended twice – once for a domestic violence incident and another related to a marijuana charge – before ultimately being dismissed from the team in October 2015 for a minor traffic incident.
“Sometimes, you’ll sit down with a person that makes a mistake and you can tell he’s going to make excuses,” Doeren said. “There’s no remorse: He’s going to do it again. That’s where you cut ties.
“Sometimes it’s just a situation where I’ll ask myself, or my staff: Is this someone we want around our children now? Somebody we want around our team now? Is this someone we can trust?
“If everyone says no, it’s pretty cut and dry.”
As he did with Thornton, Doeren has been more willing to give extra chances to Richardson.
“In Will’s situation, if he makes a mistake, and I feel like it’s a mistake, he can learn from and become better for it – and there’s remorse there and that he still has the respect of his coaches and his teammates – then that’s something I’m willing to sit down and listen to,” Doeren said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
Marshall at N.C. State
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh
TV: ACC Network Extra