CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Surrounded by reporters on the second day of this year’s ACC Football Kickoff, NC State head football coach Dave Doeren answered questions in the same genuine, direct manner that he has over the last four years with the Wolfpack.
The 44-year-old doesn’t hesitate to say what he really means. Yes, he believes the road to league titles is tougher in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, where annual matchups against Clemson and Florida State make it nearly impossible to break through. And yes, he believes the Pack has one of the toughest schedules in the conference this season.
He also believes in his program.
Doeren was hired in December 2012 because athletic director Debbie Yow viewed him as a coach who could bring championships to Raleigh. The last few years have marked a rebuilding period, but the coach stated on Friday that NC State is right where he envisioned it would be at this point when he first took the job.
“Would I like to be a 10-win team already? Yeah, I’d love to be a 10-win team,” Doeren said. “But I think everything is trending in the right direction. There’s a lot of positive traction right now in every different phase of our program.”
Ever since Doeren’s first season, which resulted in a 3-9 finish, there have been signs that the Wolfpack is gaining positive momentum. The team had three players selected in the first four rounds of April’s NFL Draft, good for second-most in the ACC. Out are many of the players recruited by Tom O’Brien, who was known more for player development than elite recruiting. In are the prospects hand-picked by the new staff.
The signees from NC State’s 2015 recruiting class (which, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, included four of the top seven recruits in the state of North Carolina) are now entering their second years and ready to make an impact. Among those players are all-purpose back Nyheim Hines and defensive end Darian Roseboro, who were key contributors as true freshmen last fall.
There are All-ACC candidates on both sides of the ball. Junior tight end Jaylen Samuels scored 16 touchdowns in 2015. Defensive linemen Bradley Chubb (end) and B.J. Hill (tackle) are two of the better players in the ACC at their respective positions.
Potentially the greatest factor working in the team’s favor, however, is that a foundation has been put in place.
“I’m excited about walking in there and looking in the eyes of these guys and how they’re acting, how they’re interacting with each other,” Doeren said. “What I hear from our staffs — the auxiliary staffs that work with them, the strength staff, the academic staff, our operations staff. Everybody feels the same way. The chemistry of this team is special.”
This season, the Pack will have plenty of opportunities to show that it has made progress under Doeren. Matchups with Notre Dame, Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, Miami and North Carolina make this year a measuring stick for the program.
Doeren believes his group is ready for the challenge.
“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.”