RALEIGH – N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren did not sugarcoat the state of his program, telling the assembled media on signing day: “We had a lot of needs.”
He also did not portray a false image when talking to the large recruiting class he assembled under the brand name #Pack14. Thus, despite a 3-9 season on the field that included a winless conference slate, Doeren was able to sign 30 recruits and have a verbal commitment from linebacker Airius Moore of Beavercreek (Ohio) High that will become official in August.
Moore was set to sign with Indiana but changed his mind on signing day. Instead, he will wait to enroll and receive a scholarship from N.C. State in August. Waiting until then allows NCSU to effectively label him as a walk-on with the NCAA and count his scholarship toward the 2015 class instead of 2014, but Moore will be able to play this fall.
The collection the Wolfpack announced on signing day is a combination of quantity and quality and an impressive first class for Doeren, especially considering the circumstances. It is ranked in the top 30 in the country by both Rivals.com and Scout.com, the latter which has the group third overall in the ACC. Both services rank N.C. State’s class third among Atlantic Division teams behind only national powers Florida State and Clemson.
“I didn’t feel like we had enough depth or competition in our program,” Doeren said. “We needed both, and I think we accomplished both.”
Perhaps the two most impressive accomplishments for Doeren were holding onto a quality class despite all the on-field struggles that plagued the Wolfpack in the fall and securing an in-state class of 16 signees in one of NCSU’s best efforts within its home borders in many years. For that, Doeren falls back on the honest approach.
“They knew, we didn’t lie to them,” Doeren said. “We didn’t come and say, ‘We’re going to be 12-0 in Year One.’ We told them, ‘We’re building a program, and we need some guys to come in and help build that want to be a part of that process.’
“We tell the truth to these guys. We talk about their opportunities here. We tell them what it’s going to be like. It’s not for everybody, but it was for these guys. They wanted to be a part of it.”
Headlining the in-state class is defensive end Kentavius Street from Rose High in Greenville. Street chose N.C. State over Ole Miss, LSU and Miami, and Rivals.com ranks him the second-best prospect in the state. Street is one of nine N.C. State signees ranked in Rivals’ top 30 for North Carolina. Scout expands their ratings out to 50 in North Carolina, and 15 of NCSU’s 16 signees were ranked in there, including 11 in the first 35.
Doeren’s sales-pitch to those natives was simple, as he explained.
“We really feel like the state of North Carolina has enough players to win a national championship with,” Doeren said. “Staying home and playing for your state university does a lot for you in life. You will have more people that are excited about you doing that from where you live than if you go to Texas or some other place.
“Our goal was to get as many North Carolina players as we could. We accomplished that. You don’t get them all, but we did get 18 for our class (including two preferred walk-ons). That is a tremendous accomplishment in my opinion.”
Doeren cited the example of the love and adoration that former NCSU standouts such as Mario Williams and Torry Holt, a pair of North Carolinians, receive every time they are around the program.
N.C. State fans will also likely get to know this class sooner rather than later. Doeren estimated that they would redshirt “75 to 80 percent of the freshmen,” but also added “some of these guys will play and compete for jobs right away.”
“We had some deficits at certain spots, and we answered every one of them,” Doeren pointed out.
Youth Might Be Served In Fall
It’s also worth noting that with the announcement that fifth-year senior quarterback Pete Thomas is graduating in May and transferring, NCSU is facing a shortage of upperclassmen.
Depending on the uncertain future of senior offensive tackle Rob Crisp, N.C. State could have as few as 14 scholarship seniors on its roster, and the junior class is even shorter. Over three-quarters of the fall squad is likely to be freshmen and sophomores.
Street is among those likely to play early. The Pack returns senior Art Norman as a starter at defensive end, but the rest of the players back there, a thin list of three scholarship players, are limited in experience.
“At 260 pounds, he’s just really light on his feet,” Doeren said. “He’s just a disruptive guy. He can do a lot of different things on a defensive line.
“He is quick-twitched. He has great power in his core and can shape his hips and lock a guy out. He can shed a block and change direction and accelerate.”
If Street can prove to make a quick impact, then he will offer early tangible evidence that the blueprint established during Doeren’s inaugural class will pay dividends.
Street was a team recruiting effort led by running backs coach Des Kitchings, who added recruiting coordinator responsibilities to his title in January. Ironically, the former recruiting coordinator, defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen (now also the coordinator for run defense), played a significant role in landing Street as well. Both Kitchings and Nielsen were there together when Street committed.
It was that type of coordination, Doeren believed, that led to an immensely successful signing day.
“I truly believe our staff recruits better than any staff that I’ve worked with,” Doeren said. “The way we cross over, and not just in our geographical areas, but position coaches and offensive and defensive coordinators, make it fun to be part of this staff.”