March 9, 2016
NC State suffered its first significant bout of attrition since early September during the Wolfpack’s loss to Notre Dame last weekend. Defensive linemen Darian Roseboro, Justin Jones, and Eurndraus Bryant were all banged up early, as was running back Nyheim Hines, who got rolled up and was lucky to escape without major injury.
All of those players appear likely to return this week against Clemson, at least based on what Dave Doeren had to say on Wednesday. They all practiced; Hines and Bryant were kept out of contact drills, but both sound probable for the Clemson game, NC State’s current biggest game of the week of the year.
Hines’ injury was frightening at first look, since he had a leg and ankle dragged at an awkward angle from behind by a Notre Dame defender. Hines was immediately taken to the locker room for x-rays, which proved negative, but he did not return to the game, depriving State of one of its biggest weapons for the remaining 2+ quarters against Notre Dame.
The attrition up front was also significant, particularly with Jones and Big E unable to fill their typical roles in the middle of the defense.
State’s gonna need everybody ready to go this weekend against Clemson to pull off an upset, so let’s hope that’s what we’ve got, and this is not just Dave Doeren being optimistic for optimism’s sake. Below are Doeren’s full remarks from the ACC Wednesday teleconference.
DAVE DOEREN: Looking forward to Homecoming Game, a chance to play a great Clemson football team, and two teams fighting for first place in the division. So a ton to play for and guys have really done a great job preparing and working hard in practice. Obviously got a few more days here to polish things up.
But they are a very good team, explosive offense, balanced offense. They are the No. 1 defense in the ACC in almost every category.
So a great challenge for us with our team, and as we look at the last game we played, we know we can play better. And losing some key players during the game didn’t help, but we still had some opportune moments and some critical errors that cost us at key moments.
All big games come down to one or two or three plays, so it’s going to be a game where those plays have got to go our way, and it’s our job as coaches to get them there and their job to finish them, and looking forward to watching it happen.
Q. How would you compare the Lamar Jackson you faced this year to the one you faced a year ago?DAVE
DOEREN: Lamar Jackson?
DAVE DOEREN: Okay. We don’t play Louisville this week.
Q. Okay. Do you care to look back at that game at all?
DAVE DOEREN: He’s a great player.
Q. Obviously you had to deal with that formidable Notre Dame running game last week. What do you want to do better with the run defense as you get ready for a good Clemson running game?
DAVE DOEREN: First thing you’ve got to do is fit the run game the right way. We had a couple misfits, guys in the wrong gap and something we haven’t done. We’ve been very good at that. You’ve got to play with low pads, inside hands, shed blocks and leverage the ball on tackle and that’s what rushing defense is and that’s at all positions, because they can make it a DB tackle with a correct block and guys got have to disciplined eyes so they can strike and play aggressive in the running game.
As far as the Notre Dame game, they did a great job. They have a great offensive line; and when we lost three defensive players on the defensive line during that game, our rotation hurt us as the game went on.
So hopefully we’ll be healthier. We were able to get all three three of those guys in practice today, so that was a very positive thing for our rotation up front.
Q. Anything you’re looking to do better when it comes to your running game as you get ready for that stout Clemson defense?
DAVE DOEREN: They make it hard. They have got a really good front. They have got big people and rotate and active linebackers and big safeties.
For us, it’s about being on our tracks and being thick and our contact and running our feet and passing off movements well, because they do a good job defensively, you know, with their blitz packages and line movements. They are going to get heavy on you and try to flatten you out when they play their odd front. The O-Line has to communicate well together and tight ends and running backs and see the plays that are there to make and go get them.
Q. Kelly Bryant for them as a bigger role in the run game. How does that make it more challenging to defend this type of Clemson offense?
DAVE DOEREN: Yeah, he has, I think 30 more carries than their tailback, and maybe it’s 50, than the other tailback. He’s without a doubt a threat. Not just when they design it but when they drop back and he scrambles.
Similar to when we play Louisville and other quarterbacks; Syracuse. Our D-Line has to be disciplined. We can’t just run past and open up an escape lane. We have to power the pocket and press it, and when we blitz we’ve got to be in our rush lanes and not create seams for him to escape through; and if it’s inside pressure, we have to have guys that are containing it outside and understand how we work together in pass rush because that’s really important against an athletic guy like Kelly.
Q. You mentioned getting everybody back in practice today. If everybody is able to play, even though they might still be a little bit banged up, do you feel like your rotation will be back to the way you want it to be in this game?
DAVE DOEREN: If they are all back, yes. We’ve been able to double-train some guys, too. So it’s something that we can do if we have to.
But Justin Jones was 100 percent today. He looked great, during practice, the whole practice. Eurndraus Bryant was out and we didn’t do as much with him because at nose tackle there’s not a ton he has to do. He did his individual work and we’ll rest him. I think we’ll have them all and they will be feeling really good on game day. We’ll be back to being able to play eight or nine guys in the front.
Q. Obviously Ryan has had a great year and maybe last week was maybe sub-par for him, he threw a pick-six and the completion percentage wasn’t really there. Against a great team like Clemson, how important is it for him to get back to mistake-free football?
DAVE DOEREN: Well, I mean, any time you play in a big game, every rep matters, not just for the quarterback. But Ryan’s done a great job throughout the season. It was a tough day to be a throwing quarterback out there. It was in the 30s temperature-wise and the wind was blowing. It’s not an ideal place to throw.
So I think being home and having the weather will help him. You know, second part of it’s just learning from his errors and continuing to improve, and I think that’s something Ryan does well. He really studies himself. He’ll use that as an opportunity to be a better player.
Q. What was his week of preparation like facing back-to-back maybe his two toughest defenses all year?
DAVE DOEREN: He’s had a great week of prep, and he understands what Coach Drinkwitz wants, and he has played against this defense before, so he has an idea what to expect.
They do a great job in man coverage and they mix it a lot. There’s a lot of different looks that they are going to give you and they disguise and they have got an active front. They have got 31 sacks. So our timing and our protection is going to be important.
Q. Trying to get an updates on Hines. How did he look in practice today?
DAVE DOEREN: He was running around, feeling really good. We didn’t hit him. So that part, we’ll still have to see. But he was full speed and he was flying around the field. So we’re excited that his progression has been what we hoped it would be, and tomorrow we’ll continue to do more. We’re still three days out, so the recovery will continue.
Q. Do you feel like he can still be as explosive Saturday as he’s been before the injury?
DAVE DOEREN: Yeah, I think by the time we get to Saturday, unless we have a setback, I feel real confident about it. I know he did coming off the field today. Just those things, you’ve got to continue to get through the hurdles you face on any injury, and you go block a sled or you hit a moving linebacker and you get put in a weird position, and then the next play you feel fine.
Some of that’s mental for those guys. You get tackled and rolled up and you pop up and you’re good. You’ve got to get through those things in the game. Progression-wise, he’s doing really well so far in the recovery.