Doeren hopes new offense, QB help Wolfpack make a leap
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren is hoping a new look can give the Wolfpack a needed lift in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
There's a new offensive coordinator. There's also a quarterback battle for a team seeking a third straight bowl bid.
''It wasn't a change because I didn't like our offense,'' Doeren said. ''I wanted to be different than we were, more than anything. … We've got to be really creative. We've got to do some things some other people don't do and we've got to put our players in positions where they can compete sometimes against guys that are better than them.''
N.C. State (7-6) has lost shootouts with Atlantic Division powers Florida State and Clemson – both ranked No. 1 at the time – over the past two seasons with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. The Wolfpack's wins came against teams that were a combined 30-53 last year.
With Brissett in the NFL, Doeren hired Eli Drinkwitz away from Boise State as the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. N.C. State ran plenty of no-huddle, fast-paced snaps in its April spring game.
The most pressing question now is who will run that attack this fall.
Redshirt sophomore Jalan McClendon and redshirt freshman Jakobi Meyers battled during spring drills. Then N.C. State added graduate transfer Ryan Finley – who had played under Drinkwitz at Boise State – in May.
''We always talk about how we're a unit, we're trying to be the best unit we can be,'' Finley said, ''so we're all in this together.''
Here are some things to know about N.C. State for the 2016 season:
The return of senior Matt Dayes from a toe injury that sidelined him for the final five games is a big boost. Dayes averaged about 108 yards rushing per game to go with 12 touchdowns on the ground. He was limited in spring drills but is back to headline a potentially strong depth chart includes talented youngsters Reggie Gallaspy II and Johnny Frasier. And don't forget all-ACC do-everything threat Jaylen Samuels, who can line up in the backfield or out wide to create matchup problems.
N.C. State must solve its kicking woes from last year. Kyle Bambard struggled throughout his freshman year, making 7 of 14 field goals with none longer than 37 yards. Bambard is battling UNC Pembroke graduate transfer Connor Haskins for the job in training camp.
The Wolfpack will look to stay unbeaten in openers under Doeren when William & Mary visits on Sept. 1. The Championship Subdivision program was picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association behind five all-conference picks. Considering what's ahead on the schedule, the Wolfpack can't afford to start with a loss.
The Wolfpack's schedule looks daunting. Notre Dame (Oct. 8) and Florida State (Nov. 5) loom as the big home games, while trips to reigning ACC champion Clemson (Oct. 15) and Coastal Division champion North Carolina (Nov. 25) don't look inviting, either.
''It just gives us more of an opportunity to show everyone that we can be a top contender,'' Dayes said.
N.C. State's improvement from an 0-8 ACC season in Doeren's first year has come through developing young talent thrust into the lineup early. There is more experience and depth here after 15 wins the past two seasons, including a defense that could be a strength with eight returning starters. But that tough schedule could cap the Wolfpack at six or seven wins.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP's college football site at http://collegefootball.ap.org