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July 22, 2016
Charlotte, North Carolina
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by NC State. We'll start with an opening comment by Coach Doeren, then have Q&A with our student-athletes.
COACH DOEREN: Thank you. How is everybody? Fired up, I can tell (laughter).
First, I just want to say how blessed I am to be here and thankful to have these two young men with me, Jack Tocho and Matthew Dayes who have been at NC State the entire time I have.
I've watched them come up as players and develop not just athletically, but to do the things that they're doing as men. To see Jack graduate in three years already, and Matt will be done at the end of this fall with his degree. It's fun to have these guys here.
Really excited about the 2016 season, what it brings programmatically. When you're at a place like we are, landscape like we are, it's important to look at all the things that are going on. I want to take a minute to talk about that.
It's the third year in a row we've improved our APR. On average graduated 10 players per semester since I've been at NC State. We've sold more season tickets for this coming season than they have in a long time. All the season tickets are sold out. I think the only thing they have left are the visitor's tickets.
The opening of the new Close-King indoor facility has had a huge impact in our player development, utilize a building like that in our recruiting and summer camps.
Just finished redoing our locker room, which is unbelievable. Thank to Wolf Pack Club with their help with all of those projects.
Our leadership, these guys will speak on that, is at an all-time high. Had a lot of fun dealing with our leadership council. We meet every Wednesday in the off-season talking about different topics as a team and leadership council. Second year in a row our football team has won the community service award. Pete Roley on our staff helps us with that.
From a recruiting standpoint, when I got to NC State, we were around 50%, being North Carolina kids on the roster, and we're almost to 70% now. Right behind that Georgia and Florida. If you look at our roster, you're going to see those three states dominate.
That's what's going on on the outside.
On the inside, we're a team that has a great schedule in front of us. There's six pre-season teams in the top 25 in the ACC. We're the only team that plays all six. We have a stretch where we play Notre Dame, Clemson and Louisville in a row, which is going to be a great challenge and a great opportunity.
Our football team has a lot of guys that have played. We have meaningful playing time. With that being said, we are still a young football team. There's only 10 seniors on the roster. After this season, we'll go from 10 seniors, the following classes will have 19, 19, 20 and 22 seniors. After this year you'll see an older football team.
There's a lot of guys, including the two up here with me, that have played significant football and significant games, made a lot of plays. So we're going to count on all those youthful moments, all the different experiences they've had as players and as leaders now to help us with the schedule that we have and with our goals.
As always, our goals are to be the best football team we can be. At the end of the year we'll know what that means. But to be able to look back on it and say we did it right, we didn't underachieve in any way, always want to be in the post-season, be in bowl games, beat our rivals, represent NC State as well as we can.
We do have some new things going on systemically on offense. I know That will be asked. Defensively we've gone from 68th to 29th in total defense since we've been here, taken a lot of steps. We played eight new players last year, eight new starters. All those guys are back this year. Look for our defense to be able to improve on that.
Offensively we've taken care of the football. That's probably the best thing that any football team can say, is that they take care of the ball, not hurt their defense. We've done that. I think the up-tempo style we're going to play with is going to help our offensive line.
We're one of the only teams in the country that can say their punt return and kickoff return were both in the top 20. Only two teams in the nation that can say that and both of our returners are back. With Bra'Lon Cherry and Nyheim Hines, all those guys being coached by Coach White and Coach Faulkner, we look forward to having great special teams.
I'll turn it over to these guys. Thank you for your time.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Matthew Dayes.
Q. You were having a great season, then suffered a difficult injury. Talk about the process of recovering from that and how well you feel now for the next season.
MATTHEW DAYES: My strength staff and my training staff, they did an awesome job of getting me to where I'm at right now. I'm forever thankful to them for that.
I'm 100% right now and I'm ready to go.
Q. Coach said that this team is focused on becoming the best team it can be. What is that in your mind and in the team's mind?
MATTHEW DAYES: I mean, just not being ourselves. It's going out every weekend, playing to the best of our abilities. Not worrying about the other team, but just focusing on ourselves.
Q. You spoke on your injury a little bit. What has the adversity of that injury taught you? Being on pace of what you were about to do last season, what was it like to have that taken away and how that makes you hungry this year?
MATTHEW DAYES: The main thing, I was more hurt for the senior offensive linemen. They wanted a thousand-yard runningback. I wanted to get that for them. Not being able to get that, that hurt me mostly out of anything.
But I'm 100% now and I'm going to try to get this group a guys a thousand-yard back.
Q. You're sort of the veteran in the NC State backfield. What kind of knowledge and tips do you have for the younger guys?
MATTHEW DAYES: I mean, just that it's going to get tough, but you got to keep on pushing, being there for whenever they need someone to talk to, teaching them the offense. Just anything, any little thing I can help them with.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Matt. Jack, if you would come on up. We'll take questions for Jack Tocho.
Q. As coach said, you have tremendous experience returning on defense. The three guys that left, they were all guys that made big plays. What has to happen to replace those drive-stopping plays that those guys made?
JACK TOCHO: We have to learn from their experience. We took it upon ourselves to just soak in as much knowledge as they had in the game, the reason behind they were able to make those plays. We can relay those to the guys coming up next, fill in those spots.
Q. Jack, how would you define the secondary going into this season and what can you say about the guys that are around you, what the mission is right now for that position?
JACK TOCHO: Well, our secondary is looking to improve from where we ended last year.
As far as the relationships that we have, we're just a close-knit group, have a lot of camaraderie. Competition level is at an all-time high, but it's brought us closer together. We just bring the best out of each other.
Q. Based on your demeanor and posture, I don't take it that you're a very loud leader in the locker room. Is this just your podium stance or do you turn it up a notch on Saturdays?
JACK TOCHO: I'm not always a rah-rah guy. I don't believe in pointless yelling and stuff like that. When I have something to say, I want it to be meaningful so my teammates know this is important and we need to focus in and lock in on whatever I'm speaking about.
Q. What improvements have you made from last year that you've worked on during the off-season?
JACK TOCHO: Flexibility was something that was very important for me to develop in this off-season. I've been really working on that. Just eye discipline, the fundamentals of my game. Football IQ, things like that. Just becoming more polished and putting the actual experience and veteran in my game.
THE MODERATOR: Jack, thank you. We'll excuse our student-athletes. We'll bring coach back up to the podium for Q&A.
COACH DOEREN: What you got?
Q. What are your thoughts on Dino Babers as a fit in Syracuse? Looking at his offense, what makes it unique?
COACH DOEREN: I had a chance when I was at Northern Illinois, Dino was at Eastern Illinois, we didn't play each other, but we worked camp together. That was my first time being around him.
He's got a great way around him. I think he's good with people. I think he's genuine. His track record as an offensive play caller speaks for itself. He's done a great job.
I think he inherited a good team at Bowling Green and he kept it good. Sometimes that's harder than people think. He did a really nice job there.
I know watching them, Northern, compete. Going to Syracuse, he's got to get the personnel he wants to be able to run his system.
We know he's going to play fast. Watching the different systems that are similar to his that are out there, they score a lot of points. I'm sure that's something the fans in Syracuse are looking forward to.
Q. Everybody wants to talk about the quarterbacks. Your stable of runningbacks rushed for over 1600 yards last season. How important will they be taking the pressure off whoever the starter is?
COACH DOEREN: I think most quarterbacks will tell you, the run game is their best friend. The health of our runningback group is going to be very important. We went into last season, I think last year at this time that was the question I got, What are you going to do with all your backs? Then we had Shad kicked off the team, Matt injured, Reggie injured, Dakwa got injured. We were down to our fifth-string tailback in the bowl game. We were lucky to have Nyheim and Jaylen Samuels playing other positions that we could move into the back field.
Our health in that position is key number one. All these guys are going to be 100% and full go for fall camp. Hopefully all the treatment and all the training and all the recovery has got them ready to play the game. That's the one thing you don't do in rehab, you don't run anybody over, you don't get tackled or take on a blitzing linebacker. All the runningbacks have to kind of play some football now and get themselves ready for the game.
But we do have good players there. Matthew Dayes is first and foremost as talented a runningback as I've been around when it comes to all the things that a back can do, from running inside, running outside, having vision, having finishing speed, to catching the ball, running routes, playing in space. He can do a lot of things.
Having a healthy Matthew Dayes for our quarterbacks is very important.
Q. You committed fewer turnovers than anybody in the league. Looking at this offense with Eli Drinkwitz onboard, what will people in the stands notice differently?
COACH DOEREN: They'll see the tempo is going to be drastically different. We were a huddle football team last year, ball-control team. We had a veteran offensive line. That was something we thought was to our benefit.
Jakobi was somebody we felt in the huddle had a good presence. We wanted him talking to the players.
We're different. We're younger on the offensive line. We're playing against, everybody knows, the hardest schedule in the ACC. We're playing some veteran D lines. To give my offensive line the best chance they had, playing up-tempo would help them.
With coach's system, back to that part of the question, he does put the ball in the quick game part of what we do, the screens. Perimeter passing game will look a lot different.
Formationally, there's not a lot he does that's different than what we did before. I think it's just how fast it's happening. Some of the play selection is different.
Q. You mentioned the success of your special teams. You have a legitimate track-and-field star returning kickoffs for you. The Big 12 commissioner said the other day that kickoffs are the most dangerous play in all of college athletics. What are your thoughts on the NCAA potentially eliminating those down the line?
COACH DOEREN: I'd like to see the study on that before I tell you that I would agree with it. We didn't have injuries on our kickoff team last year. I think that it's a very exciting play in football. I think they've moved the kickoff line forward and become wards. They're playing around with all that. There's a lot more touchbacks than there ever were.
I think it's a play, go to the national championship game last year, Alabama doesn't win if that play is not part of college football. They returned a kickoff for a touchdown and they had an on-side kick.
I just would hate to see what football would look like without it personally.
I think if the intent is to prevent injury, I'm all for that. Let's look at the different reasons of why they're happening, make sure we understand why we're making a rule change so drastic because that would change the game quite a bit from a field position standpoint.
Personally, I enjoy that part of the game a lot. I think every kid that signs up to play football understands what it is. All games start with a kick one way or the other. That would change the game quite a bit.
Q. When you look at what you've seen, you talked about the runningbacks, the quarterback situation, without Jakobi, what did you see through the spring? What can you say about Jalan and the rest of the guys you have at that position?
COACH DOEREN: We have three options. I'm excited to have three options, first of all, because we haven't had that yet. Going back to the spring, Jalan McClendon has the most experience. Jakobi Meyers redshirted last year and got better as the spring went on. He can do some things with his feet that are really special.
Jalan redshirted, sat behind Jakobi and learned, last year played some games for us. Was ready to play in every game. So I know he's chomping at the bit. I'm sure he feels like he's waited his turn.
I believe when you have a new system, you need to let the system not just get taught, but get taught a couple times before you see what the guys have. Sometimes they're thinking things through still. It's not natural for them yet.
I didn't want to make any choices at the end of the spring because of that. I wanted the summer to be a time when they could relearn the system. When we go into the fall camp, see where we're at. There may be a lot of separation when we come into camp, there may not.
Bringing Ryan Finley in from Boise, he knows the offense, he doesn't have to learn it. He's played in a game.
What I didn't want, having the schedule we have, is to walk into the hotel on a Friday night, get ready to go to bed, if one of those two guys we had was injured, feel like we don't have an option if this guy goes down in the game. Having three guys I think is really important, especially when you're playing the type of defenses that we are.
Q. You came to Old Dominion last year, you play them again this year. You play William & Mary as well. Two 757 teams.
COACH DOEREN: For us, playing those teams is great because we recruit in Virginia. Our fans can get there if we're playing there, and their fans can get to Raleigh if they're playing at our place.
For me any time I'm looking at a non-conference game, if we can play somebody in a driving area, I think that's important for our fans. I think they deserve that. Our players' parents, allowing them not to have to get on an airplane to fly and watch their sons play.
Going back to recruit, for us to play in Utah doesn't help us in recruiting. But being able to play a non-conference game in the state of Virginia or have a Virginia team play us, or a Maryland team, makes sense. I think that's a smart thing to do.
Going back to Old Dominion and William & Mary, we respect those teams quite a bit. I think their coaching staffs have done a great job. Two years ago we had a heck of a game with Old Dominion. Last year they were replacing the best quarterback in program history. That guy going into his second year will have a lot more confidence heading into the season than he did a year ago.
Q. What attributes and skills do you believe led the leadership council to give Jaylen the No. 1 jersey?
COACH DOEREN: What I heard is he shows up to work every day with the same mentality, same attitude, every practice gives the same effort, every game shows up to play and to win. Just very steady, super competitive guy that they all respect as a worker.
That's what I told them when I tasked them with it. The last two years I've selected who I thought was deserving of it. I'd like to hear who you guys think deserves it and why. That's who they came back to me with. I totally agree with them. I think Jaylen is deserving and I think he'll represent it well.
Q. You referenced the season ticket sales earlier. NC State's marketing and ticket team got to a sellout just about as quick as anybody in the country, if not quicker. What does the game day experience mean for you and your staff and players on the field when you have those stands as full as they are?
COACH DOEREN: The home-field advantage is real at Carter Finley, I can tell you that. I quality of opponent we're bringing in I know had something to do with that. I think the relationship, we've gone out and done everything we can, our Wolf Pack Club and marketing staffs have done a great job. Our coaches, we get out in the community and talk to people.
I think they're starting to understand me better. Going into year four, they know how personal it is. They know my family. They know how invested we are. It means a lot to us as coaches and players to have that stadium full.
It's a unique place. If you haven't been on our field during a game, some of you have been in the stadium, but if you haven't been on our field, it's the tightest sideline I've been in. The fans are right on top of you. It's unique that way. The more red and white we can get in there, the better it's going to be for us.
Q. It was announced on Wednesday that Jumichael Ramos would miss the 2016 season. Talk about what your message was to him and how much you had an influence on the decision for him to get surgery.
COACH DOEREN: Jumichael Ramos was the question. At the end of the season last year, he was playing with a particle I guess you'd say floating in his knee, meniscus. They went in and cleaned it out. That's supposed to be a pretty routine deal. It just never healed the right way.
The doctors basically slowed him down, started him back up, kept doing all the different things in rehab that you do. He feels great walking around, but as soon as he started to play, he couldn't be who he wanted to be without having swelling.
Jumichael has really good hands. He runs good routes. He cares a lot about our football team. But he's not a 4-5 guy. He relies on his technique. He's a guy that needs to be able to get in and out of his breaks.
He said, Coach, I can't be the best me the way this thing is. He said, I can't practice the way I want to practice. I'm not going to be able to practice enough.
I said, Let's look at redshirting you then. You deserve to have a great senior year. If they can do something else to your knee that can make you healthier for that season, you deserve to have that.
So he went home and thought about it, talked to his family, talked to the trainers, decided that was the best thing for him and really for our team.
So if you look at how we're going to recover that, Steph Louis redshirted a year ago because he had a shoulder. Steph now kind of swaps spots with him. Steph had a great spring. They played the same position. So you're kind of taking one guy who is now a redshirt sophomore, one of our probably better leaders in that room, to replace Jumichael.
It will be a good year of rehab for Jumichael. I know he'll do a good job of helping his teammates from the meeting room.
Q. I'm sure you would be of the mind there's talent all over this conference. When you look at the schedule, you have to prepare for Clemson, how daunting is it to have two players on their teams that people compare to being the best among their position in the nation?
COACH DOEREN: It's a great challenge, but I love that. That's why you coach. You coach to coach against great coaches. You recruit players to play against great players.
There's nothing more rewarding, in my opinion. I don't care what you do for a living, but if you can do something that somebody says you can't do, that's a pretty good day.
For us, we have two teams that have two players that arguably are the best players in the country. If they're both healthy, I assume both of them can be in the Heisman talks. They're both that good. We're going to have a tremendous challenge. Our coaches on that side of the ball, our players, they'll be really excited about that challenge.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you. Good luck this season.
COACH DOEREN: Thank you. Appreciate it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports