LUMBERTON — The North Carolina State football team had its first day of summer conditioning work Monday and head coach Dave Doeren seemingly marked the occassion with a trip to Lumberton to talk about the upcoming season.
Doeren, one of three coaches at Monday’s annual gathering of the Wolfpack Club Caravan, said he likes the direction the program is heading in, but stressed that it is still a very young team.
“This program means the world to me and we’re out there working every day to get it to where you want it to be. But it doesn’t turn around overnight, it’s a process,” Doeren said.
Around 200 people attended the event at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center, which included appearances by Doeren, assistant basketball coach Bobby Lutz and wrestling coach Pat Popolizio. There were also raffles for items including season tickets for basketball and football, an on-field experience during a football game next season and tickets to the ACC basketball tournament.
Once everybody grabbed a plate of barbecue, radio analyst Tony Haynes pulled two chairs to the front of the stage and sat down to conduct question and answer sessions with the coaches. After Haynes asked his questions, it was turned over to the audience.
Following a 3-9 overall record last season with an 0-8 clip in the ACC, Doeren said 71 percent of this year’s team is composed of freshmen and sophomores. Redshirt junior Jacoby Brissett is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Wolfpack in the fall. He had to sit out last season after transferring from the University of Florida.
“He’s a young man that’s very talented, tough and super competitive,” Doeren said.
However, Doeren said fans should be patient with Brissett, who has only played in four games in his collegiate career.
“He just needs time since quarterbacks can’t be hit in practice. Some guys get better when they get to play in games, and some take time to adjust,” Doeren said.
Overall, the head coach said he thinks this year’s team will have better depth, especially along the offensive line, an area where injuries piled on last season. Tony Adams is a freshman who was one of nine players to come to Raleigh in the spring semester. Doeren said the 317-pounder has been playing as the team’s center throughout the spring, and will probably continue in that position when the season begins.
Another player to keep an eye on is Bo Hines, a wide receiver from Charlotte.
“He’s a fast guy and he has a high football IQ which will help him” Doeren said.
Doeren closed out his portion of the night by thanking the fans for their support.
“Only four schools in the ACC can say they sold out season tickets for every game — us, Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech. The recruits notice and it’s definitely something that they talk about,” Doeren said.
Replacing T. J. Warren
Associate basketball head coach Lutz talked with Haynes about the challenge of replacing ACC player-of-the-year T.J. Warren, who left school to enter the NBA Draft. Lutz, who called the way Warren ended last season “amazing,” said this year’s team will be more balanced in terms of scoring.
N.C. State finished last season 22-14, 9-9 ACC, before losing to Saint Louis in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
A player that Lutz told fans to get excited about this season is Trevor Lacey, who will be eligible to play after transferring from Alabama. He averaged 11.3 points per game in the 2012-13 season with the Crimson Tide.
Lutz said if had to make a prediction now, he would guess Lacey would lead the Wolfpack in scoring this year.
“He’s a good leader, a vocal guy, and that’s something we really haven’t had here,” Lutz said.
Lutz said Lacey can play point guard if needed, but he expects Anthony Barber to keep that role, especially since Lacey scores so well off the ball.
Caleb and Cody Martin, twins from Mocksville, will also be playing for the Wolfpack next season. Both players are 6-foot-6-inches, Lutz said.
Finally, Lutz said he liked the new ACC tournament format, which will have the final game played on Saturday. Being done before Selection Sunday will be good for the teams, Lutz said.
Celebrating a champion
Wrestling coach Popolizio was the first coach to speak on Monday, and the conversation was all about national champion wrestler Nick Gwiazdowski, who captured the school’s sixth national championship in the sport in March.
Gwiazdowski got a 4-2 win against two-time defending champion Tony Nelson, of Minnesota, in the 255-pound weight class and finished the season 42-2, a new record for wins in one season for the Wolfpack.
The win provides a great talking point while recruiting, Popolizio said.
“It builds a lot of confidence and it helps recruiting, because it shows that the system is going to work,” he said.