No significant media availability could come and go without head football coach Dave Doeren being asked to give an update of some sort on the quarterback position battle.
Sunday, during NCSU's annual preseason media day, Doeren reiterated he is willing to be patient as up to five quarterbacks, highlighted by fifth-year senior Brandon Mitchell and redshirt junior Pete Thomas, try to stake claim to the job.
"I don't think there is a right way to do it," Doeren said. "When you know, you know. It's their job to show us. We got to get through a bunch of camp before we know. We don't even have our whole offense installed yet. We haven't had a scrimmage. In a perfect world, I would have known already but I don't, so I am going to let it go until I can go to bed and wake up a couple of times and know that's my guy. If that means waiting till game week, then it's during game week.
"That's an important decision. It's a decision that may change over time. You may make one and then gameday comes around and it's not what you thought it was. That's why you have depth. That's the one thing I do feel good about. In the spring we didn't have any, now there's competition. At least there's five guys competing as opposed to two."
Doeren did allow that if Thomas were the starting quarterback, NCSU's offense may closer resemble Wisconsin's, whereas if Mitchell wins the job State's attack would likely be closer to what the previous staff ran at Northern Illinois.
"If we end up playing both, you might see both," Doeren said. "That's the thing I like about Coach [Matt] Canada's system. It's very flexible, and he can fit it with what he has skill-wise very easily."
Doeren added that he has not seen enough of the two freshmen quarterbacks, signee Bryant Shirreffs and preferred walk-on Josh Taylor, to gauge their throwing abilities yet.
"[Shirreffs is] a really strong kid, Doeren noted. "He's 230 pounds and benching over 350. He's put together. Josh Taylor, he's a smallish guy but he's really quick. He can really run. He has that in him. Neither one of them has had enough reps to show how well they throw it yet."
Practice in pads begin Monday
Doeren said that after the first two practices that the coaching staff "have a decent idea of how guys run around." The true test will begin Monday when they put pads on for the first time. The final exams of the second session of summer school end Tuesday, and then fall camp will truly be in earnest.
"As soon as Tuesday's last final ends there will be two solid weeks of building the team from a football standpoint," Doeren said. "For me, it's my favorite time of the year. I actually get all their attention with no distractions for how many days that it is. It's the best time to build your team. I think all of our staff is looking forward to that window we'll get."
Defensively, Doeren said that there is "very little for them to learn now" other than a few substitution packages like goal line defense and some blitz packages in the nickel and dime formations. Offensively however, Doeren estimated that they were able to get in about half of it during the spring.
One of the first tests of the summer conditioning will come when the offensive linemen put on pads for the first time, which Doeren likened to heat jackets. Redshirt junior tackle Tyson Chandler has lost about 40 pounds during the offseason, while junior Ali Kassem, a junior college import that checked in at 380 pounds on his official visit in January, is now weighing 341 pounds.
"There are some guys that have done the right thing over the summer that look totally different," Doeren said. "Hopefully it'll pay off. We'll find out in the next week or so what their conditioning level is."
Depth should also be better in the fall than it was in the spring, thanks to 10 newcomers at receiver and defensive back and three more tailbacks into the equation. One component that will have to be figured out this fall will be kickoff returner.
Doeren praised fifth-year senior receiver Rashard Smith's punt returning abilities, and said that Smith is in the mix to return kicks as well.
New rule worries Doeren
One of the most talked about subjects in the offseason was the NCAA's new rule that would eject players for targeting hits to the upper chest or higher, helmet-to-helmet hits or leading with the crown of the helmet. Adding the ejection component to the rule scares Doeren, especially if a player gets tossed for a questionable hit.
"The rule reads that when in question, call the foul," Doeren said. "To me that's the problem with the rule. It should be the other way around and let the guy in the box or let the commissioner after the game rule it and then eject them, like it used to be. It made more sense to me."
Doeren added that not every school has the depth that national powers Alabama and LSU have, and when you are trying to build a program, like he is at NC State, "those are huge rules."
"You are talking about great players being taken out on a questionable call," Doeren said. "I just hope that it gets officiated and handled the right way."
Doeren learns about the rivalry
Doeren is well aware that "across town they count it down." He is referring to UNC and their approach to the NC State game. Doeren though is more worried about the present.
"We won't beat anybody if we don't worry about getting better today," Doeren said. "That's just how I approach things.
"It's important to us, don't get me wrong. The way I approach the season is day-by-day and try to win that day and look back at the 365 days with a bunch of wins. That's the mindset we have over here."
Still, Doeren appreciates the uniqueness of coaching in Tobacco Road.
"How close these schools are to each other and how much you actually have to interact with them, that's unique," Doeren said. "I can't remember a time other when you are out recruiting and trying to beat a coach for a kid that you'd ever see the opposing coaches as much as we do here."