By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
The first thing Dave Doeren did when he became NC State’s new head coach last December was reach for the record book.
He immediately looked up the last time the Wolfpack won an Atlantic Coast Conference Championship, and the answer did not surprise him, but instead intrigued him. NC State has not won an ACC Championship since 1979 when Bo Rein was its head coach, and a year after running back Ted Brown was galloping through defensive secondaries.
Doeren had seen this movie before. When he came to Northern Illinois in 2011, the Huskies had not won a MAC Championship in 28 years.
“That intrigued me to be honest with you,” Doeren said. “Northern had not won it in 28 years and they had been a good program for a long time. These guys have been a good program for a long time and have not won the league.
“I feel like I have a similar blue print, you know what I mean?”
If that blueprint is anything like what Doeren had at Northern Illinois then the Wolfpack are in for quite a ride. Doeren won the MAC Championship in each of his two years coaching the Huskies, which included a trip to the Orange Bowl last season.
NC State has never been to the Orange Bowl or any of the BCS-like major bowl games.
At 41, Doeren is the youngest head coach in the ACC, but what he has already done as a head coach cannot be matched by any coach in the league.
In fact, with his 23-4 record as a head coach, he trails only Alabama’s Nick Saban in victories since the beginning of the 2011 season. His 23 wins are tied with Boise State’s Chris Petersen, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Stanford’s David Shaw and LSU’s Les Miles.
“We won the league my first year at Northern so I don’t know if I’m going to have that kind of success here in year one,” Doeren said. “It will be hard to have that kind of success in year one with all the players they lost from last year’s team.
“I can’t measure the win and losses right now. I really feel good about the nine months we have had here and the progress we have made. We will see where it goes.”
Doeren is right. It will not be as easy to win, and as quickly, at NC State. Losing guys like quarterback Mike Glennon, wide receiver Tobais Palmer, All-American cornerback David Amerson and safety Earl Wolff will hurt, but it doesn’t help that the ‘Pack play in the ACC, either. Playing teams like Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina is a little bit tougher with a young team than playing teams like Ball State, Bowling Green and Ohio.
NC State was picked to finish third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division by the media on Monday.
“The expectation at Northern is that we are going to win the MAC in year one,” Doeren said. “They had just been to (the conference title) game and lost. Here, they just lost a bowl game and lost 20 players off of that team. That is a different setup.”
But it’s a setup that Doeren thinks can be easier to navigate through.
“This one, and not that we are going to win as fast, might be easier in the fact that I’m taking over a team that just lost a bowl game and maybe underachieved compared to Northern, who had just won 11 games when I got hired,” he said. “When you take over an 11-win team, everyone knows they are going to have to play their best to beat you. We were on everyone’s schedule as the team to beat and that was in my first year as a head coach.
“That was tough. We got everybody’s best shot in year one whereas here we are picked third on our side, which surprises me considering all the players we lost. No one is going to have us circled on the calendar except UNC because of the rivalry. I think we are a little bit in a better position from that standpoint than the last one.”