NC STATE FOOTBALL
Joe Giglio (N&O)
Pack QB competition begins for Thomas, Mitchell
The Arkansas graduate is competing against junior Pete Thomas, who worked with the first-team offense in practice on Friday in the drills open to the media. Mitchell worked with the second-team offense.
Mitchell, who played receiver at Arkansas last season, made an early impression on first-year coach Dave Doeren with his arm strength.
“He’s got a really live arm,” Doeren said. “He threw the ball pretty well today for a guying playing wideout last year.”
But the Pack’s newest quarterback, who went through spring practice at Arkansas, was hoping to do more on his first day.
AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer
Wolfpack searching for new QB, faster tempo
The most pressing question is who will take the snap in Doeren’s first game in Raleigh. Colorado State junior transfer Pete Thomas appeared to hold an edge over sophomore Manny Stocker following spring workouts, but N.C. State has added two freshmen and graduate transfer Brandon Mitchell from Arkansas â€” who played receiver for the Razorbacks last year.
Doeren said he’d keep the competition open as long as it takes to find his starter.
“I think when you know, you know,” he said. “It’s their job to show me.”
Thomas said the quarterbacks know the coaching staff is watching closely on everything they do through preseason camp.
“You don’t win it every day. You’ve really got to win it with every rep,” Thomas said. “Coaches are watching every single thing you do. Every little step, every little throw, even if it’s just warming up â€” every route on air, every meeting you’re in and every question you’re asked. They’re evaluating everything.”
To listen to the players, Doeren has made it easy for them to embrace the changes. He’s preached to them about appreciating the opportunity to play major college football. He’s tried to keep things fun amid all the work, including holding a mud-sliding contest â€” won by defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen â€” after a cold and rainy practice back in the spring.
“He basically came in and stated that he wanted to win the ACC championship, so that’s all we’ve been talking about over the course of the offseason,” linebacker M.J. Salahuddin said. “He’s a worker. That’s what I like about him. He never stops working. That’s what he expects from his players. That’s what we’re going to give him in return. He works for us and we work for him.”
Matt Carter (TheWolfpacker.com)
Football camp is still young for Doeren
Practice in pads begin Monday
Doeren said that after the first two practices that the coaching staff “have a decent idea of how guys run around.”? The true test will begin Monday when they put pads on for the first time. The final exams of the second session of summer school end Tuesday, and then fall camp will truly be in earnest.
“As soon as Tuesday’s last final ends there will be two solid weeks of building the team from a football standpoint,”? Doeren said. “For me, it’s my favorite time of the year. I actually get all their attention with no distractions for how many days that it is. It’s the best time to build your team. I think all of our staff is looking forward to that window we’ll get.”
Defensively, Doeren said that there is “?very little for them to learn now” other than a few substitution packages like goal line defense and some blitz packages in the nickel and dime formations. Offensively however, Doeren estimated that they were able to get in about half of it during the spring.
One of the first tests of the summer conditioning will come when the offensive linemen put on pads for the first time, which Doeren likened to heat jackets. Redshirt junior tackle Tyson Chandler has lost about 40 pounds during the offseason, while junior Ali Kassem, a junior college import that checked in at 380 pounds on his official visit in January, is now weighing 341 pounds.
“There are some guys that have done the right thing over the summer that look totally different,”? Doeren said. “Hopefully it’ll pay off. We’ll find out in the next week or so what their conditioning level is.”
Depth should also be better in the fall than it was in the spring, thanks to 10 newcomers at receiver and defensive back and three more tailbacks into the equation. One component that will have to be figured out this fall will be kickoff returner.
Doeren praised fifth-year senior receiver Rashard Smith’s punt returning abilities, and said that Smith is in the mix to return kicks as well.
Doeren learns about the rivalry
Doeren is well aware that “across town they count it down.”? He is referring to UNC and their approach to the NC State game. Doeren though is more worried about the present.
“We won’t beat anybody if we don’t worry about getting better today,” Doeren said. “That’s just how I approach things.
“It’s important to us, don’t get me wrong. The way I approach the season is day-by-day and try to win that day and look back at the 365 days with a bunch of wins. That’s the mindset we have over here.”
Still, Doeren appreciates the uniqueness of coaching in Tobacco Road.
“How close these schools are to each other and how much you actually have to interact with them, that’s unique,”? Doeren said. “I can’t remember a time other when you are out recruiting and trying to beat a coach for a kid that you’d ever see the opposing coaches as much as we do here.”
Joe Giglio (N&O)
Wolfpack running back faces legal trouble in Wake County
Sophomore running back Shadrach Thornton has a Wake County court date on Aug. 22 for a misdemeanor charge of assault on a female.
Thornton, the team’s leading rusher a year ago, has participated in N.C. State’s first two practices and was at the team’s “Meet the Pack” Day on Sunday. Thornton, 20, was originally charged in Wake County on June 6.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren issued a statement on Sunday and said Thornton had been suspended after the arrest but has worked his way back onto the team.
“We were made aware of the situation in June and Shadrach was suspended immediately,” Doeren said in a statement released by the school on Sunday. “We have certain standards that we want our players to live by, on and off the field, and he did not live up to those standards.
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
Joe Thuney poised to take over center spot
NC State redshirt sophomore Joe Thuney is looking forward to showing what he has learned the last two years.
Thuney watched and took mental notes from former center Camden Wentz, which he hopes has prepared him to take over this upcoming season.
“The biggest thing Camden taught me was to have a good work ethic,” Thuney said. “At the collegiate level, nothing is given to you, and you have to work at everything. You have to come in every day prepared to work.”
The 6-foot-5, 276-pounder from Centerville, Ohio, managed to log significant snaps against both Miami and Florida State last year, when the line got reshuffled due to injuries. He has played 169 snaps in eight contests.
Thuney hopes his progression will lead to starting against Louisiana Tech in the season and home opener Aug. 31 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“It would mean a whole lot after working two and a half years for this,” Thuney said. “I’m put in the time, but it’s whatever is best for the team.”
Thuney got a crash course on the Wolfpack’s new offense under offensive coordinator Matt Canada and offensive line coach Mike Uremovich.
“We just wanted to improve as a unit and be an efficient offensive line,” Thuney said. “We just want to be dominant I guess.”
R. Cory Smith (N&O)
Transfer Travares Copeland fitting in with Wolfpack
Travares Copeland remembers the moment he found out he had been cleared to play football at N.C. State during the 2013 season.
“I was so excited,â€ Copeland said. â€œTransferring from D-I to D-I and having the chance to play again is like a one-in-a-million chance. The whole time I had faith because (the NCAA) knew I was telling the truth about my situation.”
The situation Copeland referred to was his grandmother, Margaret King, coming down with an illness midway through his freshman season at West Virginia.
â€œBoth of my grandmas raised me since I was (very young.) So when she started to get sick, it started to affect me on and off the field. Being so far away was taking a toll on me â€“ on and off the field.â€
So following his most productive game of the season against TCU, in which he had six receptions for 40 yards, Copeland decided that he wanted to be closer to his grandmother back home in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Shortly after Copeland returned home, King passed away at 104 years old. Though it affected the young receiver, it allowed him to look at other schools outside of Florida, which led him to N.C. State.
â€œIâ€™m not sad now because sheâ€™s in a better place â€¦ and it made me appreciate things a lot more,â€ Copeland said. â€œNow Iâ€™ve got a chance to play in the ACC. It made me work hard, Iâ€™m asking more questions in meetings, Iâ€™m learning the playbook and Iâ€™m more focused now.
â€œIâ€™m not taking things for granted anymore.â€
As for his decision to join the Wolfpack, Copeland said coach Dave Doeren sold him on the program immediately.
â€œHe won me over from the jump,â€ he said. â€œI had a lot of junior college and D-I schools in Florida after me. But after I spoke to coach Doeren on the phone, the next day he was in my living room. That won me over.
â€œThe things he was telling me, I knew he wasnâ€™t lying â€¦ and I knew he had a great future for us.â€
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
Offseason training has prepared players well
NC State has emphasized the up-tempo offense and the players have responded with their strength and conditioning efforts. Doeren said the team isn’t where they want them to be, but are a lot better than last March and April.
“I think we have good spring in our legs and our bodies look better,” Doeren said. “When you are going to a huddle to a no-huddle system, they have never been through a training camp with a no-huddle offense yet. They went through it in spring ball, but it was 40 or 50 degrees out here, so that’s different.”
NC State strength and conditioning coach Jason Veltkamp noted that fifth-year senior defensive end Forrest West has flourished in his offseason training. Doeren also praised the former Colorado transfer, and sophomore middle linebacker M.J. Salahuddin.
“Forrest changed his body by going from a pudgy 260-pound guy to a rocked-up 245-pound guy,” Doeren said. “He lost a lot of body fat. He dedicated himself to the offseason program. I’m looking for good things when he puts the pads on.”
NC State is littered with newcomers at quarterback, wide receiver and running back, especially on the second- or- third-string.
“We’ll be playing some of these guys for sure,” Doeren said. “The receivers and DBs, you can see in two days that the skill sets are there. It’s just a matter of accumulation of install hitting them, can they keep performing at the level they did today? Obviously, when they get banged around, that will change some things too.”
The addition of West Virginia transfer Travares Copeland, a sophomore wide receiver, could be an immediate impact player for the Wolfpack.
“He and Rashard [Smith] and [Bryan] Underwood are all similar size, but different skills,” Doeren said. “He [Copeland] brings a good skill-set after the catch and is a good route runner. He is a competitor and has learned the offense quickly. You can tell he played last year [at WVU]. He is definitely not phased by being in college.”
Joe Giglio (N&O)
Home-heavy schedule O’Brien’s parting gift to Pack
Nothing says more about how a coach feels about his team than the schedule.
N.C. State’s four-game nonconference schedule against a Conference USA team, a MAC team, a Division I-AA team and East Carolina screams “let’s just get to a bowl.”
That’s how Tom O’Brien set it up for 2013, with eight home games â€” including all four outside of the ACC â€” when he knew he would have to replace quarterback Mike Glennon. The schedule stands as O’Brien’s biggest parting gift to State fans and new coach Dave Doeren.
Big games don’t happen by accident, especially in college football, where nonconference schedules are set three to five years out. When a coach has a team loaded for bear, he’ll go away from home and play a name-brand team (see Tennessee or Connecticut last year) or even face a good team from a lower-profile conference (see Central Florida in 2010) on the road.
But when a coach knows there could be trouble, the schedule has to be set up to equal six (as in the number of wins to qualify for a bowl game).
The games on State’s schedule can be sorted into three categories:
Games: Clemson, @ FSU
Keep in mind, N.C. State went 16-3 at home the last three seasons under O’Brien and beat both Clemson and FSU on their last trips to Carter-Finley Stadium (and both as top 10 teams).
But the odds of a repeat win over either the Tigers or Seminoles (especially at FSU) are long.
2) Must have
Games: Louisiana Tech, Richmond, Central Michigan
If there’s any team in a bigger transition than N.C. State it’s Louisiana Tech, which lost coach Sonny Dykes to Cal and replaced him with Skip Holtz.
Games: @ Wake Forest, Syracuse, UNC, @ Duke, @ Boston College, ECU, Maryland
If those five games go chalk, State’s 3-2 and needs to win three of these seven games to qualify for a bowl.
Keep in mind, while State was 16-3 the past three seasons at home, it was 6-10 on the road. Also keep in mind, going back to Chuck Amato’s last season, State’s 2-18 in division road games.
There’s also the matter of State typically winning a game it shouldn’t and losing one (at least) it shouldn’t.
There are not three obvious wins on this list, although I’m inclined to go with Wake, Duke and Syracuse which would put Doeren’s first team in a bowl.
Watson: On day one, we’ll have the right guy for the job
Fielding a slew of questions about the quarterbacks at N.C. State media day, tight end Asa Watson says whomever wins the job will do just fine.
Mitchell: We don’t want to rebuild, we want to be great
North Carolina State quarterback Brandon Mitchell says despite it being the first year under new head coach Dave Doeren, the Wolfpack plan on shooting for the stars.
Thornton: Success is impossible to obtain without competition
North Carolina State running back Shadrach Thornton discusses the less-talked about competition in Wolfpack camp, the battle in the backfield.