NC State spending time studying South Carolina already
Posted August 17
Updated August 18
Raleigh, N.C. — NC State's training camp ended Tuesday, just in time for players to begin classes Wednesday.
For Dave Doeren, the decision to give the team the first day of classes off was a no-brainer.
"That's never been a great day to practice focus-wise," he said. "There's a lot of stuff happening the first day of school."
Doeren means for the players: books pickup, actual classes throughout the day, freshmen getting used to campus, etc. But the coaching staff was working on its Week 1 game plan.
"We spend time as a staff on South Carolina every time we have one of these days off in camp," Doeren said. "We've had four days just with our coaching staff getting our game plans ready, so when we do transition, it's not like a game week where you're trying to catch up.
"That way, if there're plays that you may not be running on either side that you think fit, you can start installing that now and getting reps on that."
The four days spent scouting South Carolina are an earlier look at that first-week foe than Doeren said the team had last year. The number of returning players on this year's roster, plus having the same offensive system as the team ran last season helps State speed through the preseason playbook faster.
"With the team, it'll be Tuesday of next week that we'll install our first-down, second-down game plan," Doeren said.
While the opportunity to spend those off days on the opponent is a by-product of returning as much as NC State does, the Wolfpack head coach doesn't see the Gamecocks as having the same luxury. South Carolina's 10 returning starters on offense are surely the highlight of the scouting report. But, Doeren sees that there are still "many questions," for the Gamecocks to answer in some places that limit the way his staff can scout personnel.
According to what Doeren and his staff has already studied, Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley got "better and better as the year went on," and now returns for his sophomore campaign with more confidence, based on "his press conferences," Doeren believes.
The NC State head coach calls redshirt junior Deebo Samuels (71 career catches for 944 yards) one of the better receivers NC State will face all season.
For the offense, which is in its second season under coordinator Eli Drinkwitz, the biggest benefit comes in the coach knowing his personnel better, not just in the players knowing the system.
"What I ask both coordinators to do is make sure our schemes fit our personnel," Doeren said. "With Nyheim (Hines) in the backfield, there's different things you can do, with Jay(len) Sam(uels) in and out of the backfield, there's different things you can do.
"That's where you're see the difference, I don't think it's as much him in his second year, although I do think his knowledge base of the entire roster is way different than it was a year ago."
Understanding the players on the Pack's roster and their skill sets better puts Drinkwitz in a better position to use his multiple offense, which is what Doeren sees as the OC's signature.
"He's got plays off of plays, he knows what he's looking for within the play call for the next call," Doeren said. "Instead of just calling a play, he's looking at how (opponents) are defending it and knows how to adjust quickly. If we're going to be in a formation, we're going to have four or five things come out of it."
In the second year with this offense, the head coach believes the unit is in better position to take advantage of the way opponents defend.
Hines, Samuels and others in the backfield, like runningback Reggie Gallaspy, will be less one-dimensional in their second season of knowing the offense as all backs are required to know all the protections in order to help the offense expand into it's multi-option plays.
Quarterback Ryan Finley and the weapons he's now familiar with have a few more days of continuing 'camp mode,' before they begin learning their game plan for Week 1 next Tuesday. Finley says he watched all of South Carolina's 2016 games this summer, but isn't quite onto the Gamecocks scout fully yet.
"I flipped the switch and went to fall camp and that self-scout mode," Finley said. "As close as we are as a team, when we can come out here and just operate and execute, that's fun when everything is starting to click."