Dave Doeren, NC State open spring hoping to build off last season

After a successful 2017 season, Dave Doeren has set a new standard for excellence at NC State. Ivan Pierre Aguirre/USA TODAY Sports

Dave Doeren is about to enter his sixth season at NC State, and though his team has plenty to prove this spring, the questions about Doeren should finally stop.

Doeren has been on a wild ride between last offseason and this one. A year ago, he faced questions about his job security after a disappointing 7-6 season in 2016. But after the Wolfpack went 9-4 and finished in the Top 25 in 2017, Doeren went from the hot seat to hot commodity.

Tennessee came after him hard to replace Butch Jones. Doeren said the discussions between the two sides were serious, but ultimately he decided it best to stay at NC State. As a result, Doeren was able to work out a new five-year contract with the Wolfpack and got extensions and raises for his assistants as well, something he wanted done during negotiations that began even before Tennessee came calling.

“We were trying to get the stability we wanted here,” Doeren said. “If you look at programs that have had sustained success, they’ve been able to have continuity on their staffs and so being able to increase our salary pool for assistant coaches was key, offering them multi-year contracts, and I was able to get that done. That was the biggest thing. I wanted to have a contract here that would give me the security to continue to build and recruit.

“This is where I wanted to be, this is where my family wanted to be. It just took time and sometimes you have to go through what you go through to get what you want. I feel blessed it ended up the way it did.”

Now, six years in, Doeren believes he and his staff have established a standard and culture players can believe in at NC State. A big reason is not just the progress they have made, or the 6-2 ACC record they posted last year, their best since 1994. It’s working alongside future NFL draft picks like Bradley Chubb, Jaylen Samuels and others that provided an invaluable example for the players set to replace them.

“You build players up and tell them, ‘Hey, we’re going to be able to do this,’” Doeren said. “You’re talking about it, but you’re not really able to do those things so it’s more of you’re showing a blueprint but there isn’t a house to point to. Now to have the success, not only on the field, but you see some of these guys that worked themselves from an unknown into a high commodity, you can now show, ‘Hey, this is what we were talking about if you stay the course.’

“Those players that watched those things happen now, it’s a picture that you’re not pointing at anymore it’s a person they know and trained with and you have visual proof of what the system can bring. That’s where the buy in comes in where it’s absolute, because it’s real, it’s not just talked about.”

Building on what NC State accomplished last season is the obvious goal, and getting quarterback Ryan Finley back for his senior season is obviously huge in that endeavor. Doeren said Finley didn’t get a first- or second-round grade from the NFL, so he opted to return. That should make the Wolfpack one of the best passing offenses in the ACC this season.

“Ryan wants to be the best player in the country at his position. He wants to be a first-round draft pick and felt like coming back gave him a better chance to do that,” Doeren said.

More questions face the defense, where all four starters on the line must be replaced. But Doeren has high hopes for the group primed to start: Darian Roseboro, Eurndraus Bryant, Shug Frazier and James Smith-Williams, who all played valuable snaps last season.

“There’s a lot of guys who have been waiting for their opportunity behind these four really good players,” Doeren said. “We’re excited to see where they’re at and what we need to work on this summer.”