Press Conference: N.C. State at the 2017 #ACCKickoff
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren and players Bradley Chubb and Jaylen Samuels talk with reporters at the 2017 ACC Kickoff.
DAVE DOEREN: First of all, just excited about the year to come and the culture in our program and the chemistry of our team and our staff, and you hear me say it, our players say it, “One Pack, One Goal” is our mission statement. It’s a united mission to win a championship, and it comes — driven through work ethic and blue-collar values and everything we talk about programatically is becoming the best us we can be, outworking ourselves the day before, thinking about who we’re going to play against on the other side of the football, and not taking any of our opportunities for granted, not just as a player or as a coach but in life. I’m proud of our players and our coaches for the journey that we’ve had and the obstacles and the adversities have made us more together, more strong, more tough, and all the challenges that stand in front of you as a person, as a man, as a coach, as a father, they’re there for a reason. They’re there for you to face them, and that’s what we’ve done. And we’ve become harder, we’ve become tougher, we’ve become more together because of all of us, and that’s what we’re all about.
People ask me about our program, the identity of our program is hard, tough, together. That’s us. We want to play hard, and we’re going to be tough, and we’re going to have great love for each other in the room. And I’ve got such a great staff of coaches and strength coaches and trainers and football operations and recruiting and academics and nutrition and sports psychology, you name it. Our player development is as good as it’s ever been. And that’s — my job is to surround these great kids, these great young men, with positive role models, people that help them become great at what they want to be and what they want to do, and it’s a pleasure to see them grow.
And to have Bradley and Jaylen here, two guys that I recruited, our staff recruited, that have worked so hard and bought in and brought tremendous leadership, culture, and now ownership and accountability to what we want; to sit here now in year five with an experienced roster of guys that we’ve battled hard with and to see them get the notoriety that I believe they deserve is just the beginning, and to me, it’s just part of the journey. By no means is it something that satisfies you, it just inspires you, and like I’ve told all of them when I’ve congratulated them, I’m proud of them for the recognition, but let’s hunt it. Let’s go get those goals.
To me the best teams always have the most recognized players, and that’s what we want to have at the end of the season.
To go into this season, just from a program standpoint, last year I stood here and there was a lot of unanswered questions for me going into fall camp. It’s probably the opposite. We’ve got more depth on both line of scrimmages. We’ve got more depth at different positions. We’ve got more proven players in certain areas, and there’s opportunities at other positions. You know, we have great competition and experience back at running back, but we have to replace a great player in Matt Dayes, and I know the guys in that room look forward to that.
Last year we didn’t have anyone at receiver really besides Bra’Lon that had proven himself, and all of a sudden Steph Louis averages 19.9 yards a catch, Kelvin Harmon comes in as a true freshman and breaks the NC State record for touchdowns. So you hope you can have something like that happen in the backfield for you.
Similarly on defense we lost three starters in the secondary, and people worry about that. I’m excited for the opportunity that’s there for these young guys, and Nick McCloud, I think, is going to be a great player for us, and so for him to have an opportunity, Jarius Morehead, Dexter Wright, these guys have worked hard, and that’s what it’s all about is seeing a young player grow up, opportunity presents itself, giving him that chance to be great at it, and him seizing that moment. That’s really what ’17 will be about for our program.
I know I’m supposed to introduce these two young men sitting to my left, so I will do that. Bradley Chubb and Jaylen Samuels, not just great football players, but great human beings from great families and tremendous representation for us on what you want a student-athlete to look like in four years. They’re sitting right there to my left.
Tremendous, tremendous players, people, citizens, future fathers, future husbands, you name it. These guys are the best. I’d like to bring them up to the stage now. Come on up, Jay-Sam.
Q. I mentioned to you last night they basically added a position on the preseason All-ACC team to recognize what you do for the Wolfpack. How does that make you feel?
JAYLEN SAMUELS: It makes me feel very good just to add another position. I mean, that’s crazy just to think about that. But that means something special to me, and I’m going to keep working hard to prove people wrong.
Q. Not just yourself but also Nyheim Hines, both of you offensively and your versatility, how you can play off each other and really become a dangerous offense this year?
JAYLEN SAMUELS: Yeah, me and Nyheim, we have a lot of versatility that we can bring to the table. Me and him, we have a lot of the same kind of skill sets together, being able to move out of the backfield, catch the pass, go in the backfield, run the ball. You know, it’s going to be kind of scary for defenses to prepare for us next year.
Q. Jay-Sam, you probably made big plays from as many different spots in the field as anybody at NC State history, as many different play calls. Do you stay awake at night fantasizing new ways to make your mark, and can you tell us one that you really are thinking about making happen this year?
JAYLEN SAMUELS: Like every night, like, in the off-season, I’m just thinking about the upcoming season and like what I’ve got planned going into my senior season, my last year at NC State. Just trying to leave a mark for myself as a player on and off the field. You know, just at night I think about the plays that I could have made last year, but I don’t try to think about it, I just try to move forward. But just try to work on the little things every day with Coach “Thunder” [Dantonio Burnette], him getting us right in the weight room. We’ve got one of the best weightlifting coaches in the country. Just every day just trying to push myself to be better so I know I can do better than what I did last year.
Q. You’ve got a former Syracuse offensive coordinator now in the staff, George McDonald who works with the offense. I wondered how much interaction you’ve had with him and if you can speak to what he’s been like.
JAYLEN SAMUELS: Can you repeat that?
Q. Yeah, George McDonald is now one of the assistants at NC State, used to be at Syracuse. I wonder what your thoughts are.
JAYLEN SAMUELS: Oh, Coach McDonald, he’s a great coach. He stays on me a lot. He’s one of them type coaches he likes to joke around. He’s joking with you, but he’s really telling the truth. He’s a great coach. He pushes me to the limit. He knows what I can do, and he just wants to see me be successful, and I thank him for so much, for all he has done, and I’m looking forward to spending my last senior season with him.
Q. Bradley, you had the close calls against Clemson, a game you probably clearly should have won, Florida State, also. What is a fair expectation for you guys this year, and how much of it is based off what you were close to being able to do last year?
BRADLEY CHUBB: Like Jaylen said, we try not to think about last year. It’s a new year. We’re striving to be the best that we can possibly be, on and off the field, and when you’ve got guys that are going to go out there and play their hearts out for each other and for one another, I just never know what’s going to happen. I feel like if we all just continue to play for each other, like I said, then the sky’s the limit for this team, and those close calls won’t be close anymore, and those games that y’all say we should have won, I feel like those games are going to be won.
Q. A lot of depth on your defensive line. Talk about the other guys. Talk about how you guys make it work as a group.
BRADLEY CHUBB: The guys we have in the defensive line room are just phenomenal, B.J. Hill, Justin Jones, Kentavius Street, Tyrone Riley, Darian Roseboro, Eurndraus Bryant; the list could go on. Those guys are like my brothers. I talk to them every day. I see them every day. We hang out even when we’re not supposed to — even when we’re not together, we’re always talking, hanging out, we’ve got a group message, we’re always joking around, and I feel like just that brotherhood that we have with each other, it just helps us to rely on one another because we don’t want to let somebody down. Because if I let Justin down, if I let B.J. down — I’ve known Justin since I was in eighth grade, and if I let him down, I know it’s going to hurt me more than it hurts anybody else. And so I feel like that’s what makes us so good. We just love each other so much and we care about each other so much that whatever we do, we’re just trying to do it for one another.
Q. Speaking of the decision to come back to NC State, why that was the right thing for you to do at this point in your career and what it means to play for the Wolfpack.
BRADLEY CHUBB: It means everything. This University means everything to me. Coach Doeren, I met him when I was 17 years old at a time where I didn’t think I was going to play college football because I was — off an injury that happened to me previously. But this University has made me into the man I am today, and I’m thankful for it every day. When you talk about the decision, I just prayed to God. I just talked to my family the most. I just felt like it was the best thing for me at the time, and I still — 100 percent behind that decision. Nobody could sway my head one way or another because I feel like when I prayed to God that he put me in this position right now, and I feel like I can’t doubt God. Just coming back here, I’m just excited to see what we can do as a team and just excited for the season.
Q. They say every team every year has a different personality. What do you want the personality of this year’s team to be?
BRADLEY CHUBB: We just want to be that team that you don’t want to play because you know we’re going to hit you hard in the mouth. We’re going to try to — the offense is going to run the ball down your throat. They’re going to pass it over your head. We just want to be that team that you don’t want to play because you know we’re going to play as hard as we possibly can, and you’re going to get the best from us every week.
Q. Running back is one of the very few positions on offense where you don’t return the starter. You have recruited very well at that position. How do you see the competition to replace the great Matt Dayes unfolding?
DAVE DOEREN: I’m excited to see it. I think it’s opportunity for Dakwa Nichols, for Reggie Gallaspy, for Nyheim Hines, for Jaylen Samuels. Those four guys are all very skilled players that deserve chances at the football, and that’s what fall camp will be about. I think the positive of the unknown is that there’s options in it, and so I’m looking forward to seeing that room compete because I’m going to tell you, Coach Kitchings, he’s a hard coach. He gets on those guys and coaches them tough. It’s going to be demanding in fall camp to see who can do the best job, and it may be a deal where we’re rotating guys. We’ll just see how it plays out.
Q. I asked Jaylen this, I’d ask you the same thing about George McDonald and why you thought he’d be a good guy to bring in.
DAVE DOEREN: Yeah, George McDonald is a tremendous coach. He’s a great man. He’s a great father, a great husband. He’s a really good mentor. He’s recruited his butt off for us and developed players in that room. He’s earned tremendous respect, not just from a player standpoint but from a coaching standpoint and in our staff room. He’s well-liked, and I’m very blessed to have him on our staff.
Q. Just speak a little bit further on Jaylen Samuels, and because he’s so versatile what he can do for this offense without Matt Dayes.
DAVE DOEREN: Yeah, I think there was 271 touches Matt Dayes had last year and 40 some through the air, the rest on the ground, so that’s a lot of opportunity right there for Jay-Sam and the other guys that I just mentioned and for Coach Drinkwitz and his staff to figure out where the ball goes. Obviously for Jay-Sam, you’d love to see him having the ball in his hands as many times as you can and not having Matt there creates that void for him and others to take advantage of.
Q. Do you think the depth you’ve been able to accumulate is going to lead to more redshirting freshmen?
DAVE DOEREN: You know, it should, unless there’s someone like Kelvin that comes in that’s ahead of his years from a development standpoint. You would hope that that happens. There are some spots like I’d mentioned in the secondary where we may have not necessarily a starter but a guy that plays on special teams and may have a role in a sub package, just because we’ve lost more back there than we have anywhere else. But I would like to think that 90 percent of our freshmen coming in would have to redshirt because of the experience we have and how we’ve developed and staggered the roster over the last four years.
Q. Dave, similar to what I asked Bradley, you’ve not shied away from putting some expectations on this team, and not only the games you won last year but a couple of the games you lost were stepping stones I think for the program. How do you manage expectation because Wolfpack fans sometimes get a little bit scared about that?
DAVE DOEREN: Well, first of all, you want expectations, and you have to earn them. That’s the one thing I told our guys, be proud of people talking nicely about you, but also understand that changes quickly when you don’t live up to those things. And so the bottom line for me and our program is we don’t look at where you want us to end up. We all want to be champions in college football. There isn’t a coach that won’t tell you that.
Our focus is on the daily grind, the daily competition, the daily opportunity to get better, and if you realize that opportunity, then your roster is getting better on a daily basis, which makes you a better team when you get to the game. It’s the same thing for my staff. I challenge them all the time, we’ve got to be our best every day, and I think if we just take that daily approach — we call it one more — what one more thing can I do today that I didn’t do yesterday to get better, then we’re putting ourselves at a place difficult to beat and that’s the bottom line game. You want to walk out of every game knowing you did everything you could do. Win or lose, you didn’t do anything in retrospect from an effort standpoint that you could have done differently.
Q. Do those close losses at Clemson and to Florida State, do those serve as motivators? Do you still think about those games?
DAVE DOEREN: Oh, I think about every game. I think any time you have a game that really exaggerates the importance of one play, it helps your program because you can go to that and say, hey, when we work out today, guys, this last rep, it matters because every rep matters. Remember when, you can go right to one play in the game that changes the game. Everyone goes like this. So they know how important a finish to a rep is, whether it’s a weight room rep, whether it’s a running rep, whether it’s a mental thing in a meeting room, a walk-through rep, but there is no rep in a football game that can’t change the game. And when you have those tight games like that where it goes one way or the other, it’s quick to point to a play and say, that could have changed it. And that helps your development and it helps your off-season, and I think it helps kind of hammer home the word finish, which is what it’s all about. It’s finishing plays, finishing games, finishing quarters, the whole deal.
I think any obstacles that we’ve had in front of us has only made us stronger as a team, as a family.
Q. Two-a-days, how have you guys adjusted the schedule for camp this year?
DAVE DOEREN: You know, we haven’t done two-a-days. Last year’s camp we didn’t do them. So we use the opportunities to teach at night in a walk-through environment or in a run-through environment. We just have really studied injuries and the best way to prevent those kind of things in our program. For us the biggest change was the day off during camp. You’ve never had that before. This is the only time of the year where we get to coach football without classes going on. Once you get into that phase, and now they have a day off with no class, which is — and they’re not even allowed to come talk to us. Like a player could call me and say, Coach, I’d really like to watch film with you today and I have to say no, which I think is a crazy rule personally. If a young man wants to do something, let him do it. Don’t let us mandate it, but people want to get better.
I understand a lot of sports use off days as travel days and do — we don’t do that in football. Don’t do it. You know, we give our guys days off.
I think fall camp to me — it’s like my favorite time of the year from a coaching standpoint. Once that last summer school final is over and we hit the field with those guys for 10 to 14 days without academics and just get to talk about the chemistry and the football and the Xs and Os and what it’s all about to be at our school, that’s a huge program time for you, and so I’m really excited about it.
You know, using the current format which was your question, I think it’s all about trying to maintain the quality of your practice and keep as many players in back to back to back to back sessions that you can so they can improve.