Wolfpack speeds it up to fit new coach Dave Doeren's style
It’s clear N.C. State has a lot to work on after its first set of spring drills under coach Dave Doeren.
Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker both directed touchdown drives in the second half of the Wolfpack’s spring game on Saturday, though neither quarterback managed to get their teams to the end zone before halftime in a turnover-filled game.
For Doeren, who left Northern Illinois to take over for fired coach Tom O’Brien, the spring game was about laying the foundation ahead of training camp this summer.
“You know, we didn’t put a ton on them,” he said. “We did put a lot in but there’s a lot left. And it’s hard because you want to put enough in where you see the guys do all the things we want them to be able to do so that over the summer we can start with, ‘OK, here’s what we’re good at, here’s where we’re not’ and put some things in the right way for the fall.”
The biggest turnover is coming to the offense, where Doeren has installed a multi-formation scheme that often goes without a huddle to speed up the tempo. The concepts are similar to what the players knew under O’Brien, but the pace and the terminology is different.
Then there’s the matter of choosing a passer to replace two-year starter Mike Glennon, who could be an NFL first-round draft pick this month. It’s too early for Doeren to choose a starter between Thomas and Stocker, who had good moments but frequently failed to finish drives.
Thomas had the better statistical day, completing 15 of 26 passes for 168 yards to help the Red squad beat White 20-10. He directed the game’s first touchdown drive late in the third quarter, ending with Milton Hall’s 4-yard scoring run.
“I think every single day and every single meeting, we’re getting better and more comfortable with the terminology, the routes and the protections,” said Thomas, a junior transfer from Colorado State. “The summer’s going to be huge for us. We can’t take any steps back. We need to keep getting more comfortable so when we show up ... for fall camp, we’re not thinking. We’re hopefully out there playing and reacting.”
Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett — who will sit out this season — followed that with a 39-yard scoring pass before Stocker finally got on the board late in the fourth quarter. The sophomore, who saw spot duty behind Glennon last year, squeezed in a 36-yard scoring pass to Bra’Lon Cherry through double coverage on fourth down.
He finished 11-for-20 for 96 yards, though he also threw an interception in the end zone after directing White all the way to the 2-yard line.
“The bad pass I threw, you have to be smarter than that,” Stocker said. “When we did score on the touchdown drive, it was a plus for us and the offense to know we can do it and give us hope for the fall.”
Stocker’s pick was the only interception of the game, though the teams combined for six fumbles, losing five. Running back Shadrach Thornton had three of them for White, losing two.
Of course, Stocker and Thornton were lined up against the Wolfpack’s starting defense, which held White to 136 total yards.
“All throughout the winter, we’ve been working on taking away the ball, ball security and being enthusiastic on defense,” said linebacker M.J. Salahuddin, who had eight tackles and a fumble recovery for Red. “I think we did a good job with that.”