NC State football ‘different’: Why coach Dave Doeren says Pack has ‘something to prove’

Different.

That’s a word N.C. State fans need to embrace this fall. There have been changes on the staff, the roster and now, the depth chart.

The program features 40 new players, two new coaches — offensive coordinator Robert Anae and offensive line coach Garett Tujague — and off-field personal changes. Plus, N.C. State’s lineup includes players who have waited for their opportunity to start.

“Fall camp has really been different,” Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren said Friday during a news conference. “It’s one of building chemistry — the sweat equity, the experiences that you have, the storytelling that goes on, and the nightly meetings — and discovery; or us as a staff, seeing what these new guys can do and how it gels together in competition.”

Doeren said the depth chart, despite its release Friday, is fluid for the UConn game, and every contest going forward. The staff is still making decisions and plans to continue evaluations as the fall progresses. Things could look different in two weeks when Notre Dame comes to town.

“I do believe this team has a huge chip on its shoulder,” Doeren said. “There’s a lot to prove. A lot of guys that waited their turns.”

He said the additional year of eligibility allowed the football world to see the development of guys like linebacker Isaiah Moore and center Grant Gibson, both of whom received national attention during their State careers.

That extra time meant some players had to wait longer, as well. Now, they’re ready to step onto the field for their big moments.

“They haven’t heard a lot about themselves publicly, so I feel like they’ve got something to prove,” Doeren said.

UConn looks different, as well. The Wolfpack faces an improved Huskies team, which struggled early in 2022 but returns 10 defensive starters and four in its offensive line rotation. Doeren called the Huskies one of the most improved teams last fall after they defeated Boston College and Liberty, and qualified for a bowl game.

The Huskies are big, strong and they’re effective at changing formations and movement. Doeren said his squad needs to practice eye discipline and eliminate preventable mistakes.

“We get a team that’s gonna be a lot different than the team we played a year ago, which is good,” Doeren said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity to go on the road and have a road trip. It’s been really hot down here so we look forward to playing up there.”

Even with it being early in the season, Doeren and his assistants have no expectations of holding back, especially on offense. They may not run certain plays based on the efficiency against UConn, but it’s not about being secretive.

“(Robert Anae) is gonna do the things that he thinks are the best for UConn. The things that you’ll see later will be because they were better for that opponent,” Doeren said. “This isn’t a team that we’re going to try to be vanilla and win the game. We need to go up there and play to win, so coaches are being instructed that way.”

Wolfpack fans get their first chance to see the many differences for 2023 in less than a week, when the team kicks off against the Huskies for the season opener. The game is schedule for 7:30 p.m. Thursday in East Hartford, Connecticut.