March 31, 2014

Notebook: Early enrollees shine in scrimmage

NC State held its second scrimmage of the spring on Monday morning. Head coach Dave Doeren was pleased with the results and, most importantly, he noted that the team ran about 120 live plays and got out of it with no new injuries.

"That was our eighth practice and a lot of things got done today," Doeren noted. "I saw some good runs, some excellent catches - Bo Hines made a big-time catch at the end.

"I thought defensively we did some good things - there weren't many big plays; on the sudden change we stopped them both times. Defensively in the red zone, we held them to two field goals, one touchdown and one stop, which is pretty good in the red zone. When backed up, our offense did a good job getting it out of there.

"Probably the biggest complaint would be the number of penalties that were out there. It will be a good film to clean up and it was the first time we had officials here, so that will be good for our guys to see. I liked the way they came out, it was much better than our first one on that one Saturday."

Doeren had noted after the first intersquad contest that the offense was ahead of the defense, but he was much happier with the defensive play on Monday. He noted tackling was probably the most improved aspect.

"I thought there were more just hit tackles where guys thudded guys up and brought them down," he said. "There were fewer busts - we just didn't see guys not knowing what to do and there are a lot of young guys playing, that was the biggest thing I saw."

The coach spoke highly of several of those youngsters who are seeing the field, and the group of early enrollees has continued to draw the coaching staff's praise this spring. In addition to Hines, safety Germaine Pratt, "is a guy that has been playing really well on defense," according to Doeren.

He added that the group as a whole has made the adjustment to college very well, and others shined on Monday.

"[Defensive tackle] B.J. Hill was making some plays today," Doeren said. "Tony Adams had a couple of penalties, but he's playing with the ones, so he's doing some pretty good things. They're not playing like you would guys to be playing, I think they're really competitive right now and it's fun to watch.

"[Starting center Quinton] Schooley has been out, so Tony moved up. It's good for him to be out there doing it."

Leaders stepping up

Doeren has been consistent in his praise of redshirt junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett and his leadership abilities since the Florida transfer stepped on campus, while fifth-year senior running back Tony Creecy has always been one of the team's most respected leaders.

It was largely unknown who would step forward to lead the way on defense, but Doeren said that is beginning to change.

"[Redshirt junior safety] Hakim Jones has been a lot more vocal in the secondary and [redshirt junior defensive end] Mike Rose has been a lot more vocal on the defensive line," he said. "I'm proud of what those two guys have done in that way."

Doeren also revealed that while senior linebacker Brandon Pittman has missed some time dealing with an injury, junior M.J. Salahuddin has stepped up and led the group with his play.

"M.J. has been really consistent," he said. "With Pittman being out still, we're still trying to get that other position. [Senior] Rodman [Noel] knows exactly what to do and has gotten a lot better; I just want to see him continue to be more physical in that spot.

"[Redshirt freshman] Jerod Fernandez flies around; he still makes some mistakes and he kind of gets out of it every now and then, but he's doing some really good things."

In addition to the aforementioned Jones leading the way on the back line, Doeren has been impressed by another safety with the same surname - converted linebacker Josh Jones, another redshirt freshman.

"At safety, he's doing well," Doeren explained. "He had a much better day today, he was bad in the first scrimmage; I thought he was much better today. He did miss one open field tackle, he had another one that he made and an interception."

Josh Jones, who checks in at 6-2 and 210 pounds, combines with the 6-3, 195-pound Pratt to give the squad an intriguing pair of plus-size youngsters competing for time on the back line.

"Length helps you get to more balls obviously," Doeren said. "But then the tackling aspect of it - it helps you be able to not just get people down, but knock them back."

The two goals for the defense this spring are pretty simple, although accomplishing it may not be.

"Our number one goal defensively is to play more sound and create more takeaways," the coach noted. "Those are the two things that we've got to do better."

Offensive notes

Redshirt junior tight end Benson Browne enters the season with no career catches, but Doeren noted that the 6-5, 267-pounder has turned heads this spring.

"Benson Browne has probably been the most pleasant surprise on offense," he said. "I think he's had a really good spring."

He also noted that the offensive line is coming together with redshirt junior Joe Thuney back at his natural position inside after he had to step in at left tackle last season. Doeren also complimented fifth-year senior right tackle Tyson Chandler for improved play and the return of his classmate, Rob Crisp will help solidify the other side.

"Tyson is playing better than he did last year," the coach said. "Obviously with Rob coming back at left tackle, that will make that position a lot stronger. Right now, we're kind of rotating [Andy] Jomantas, [Pat] Roane and [Tylar] Reagan over there, but to get a guy like Rob back into the left tackle spot really solidifies our OL."

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