We know by now second-year North Carolina State football coach Dave Doeren can find quarterbacks.
After all, finding lightly recruited Jordan Lynch at Northern Illinois landed him in a power conference with the N.C. State job. Doeren developed Lynch into a Heisman Trophy contender; the lightly recruited kid finished seventh in the 2012 Heisman voting to Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. That propelled him to a third-place finish as a senior in 2013 (despite Doeren’s departure) to Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
Upon arriving in Raleigh, Doeren has found two talented quarterbacks as transfers to dress in Wolfpack red. Brandon Mitchell was a graduate transfer from Arkansas with immediate eligibility. Jacoby Brissett was a highly recruited transfer from Florida. The 6-foot-4, 231-pounder from West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer was a Rivals 4-star prospect as the No. 3 dual-threat QB in the nation in the Class of 2011.
The trouble for Doeren was Mitchell was injured in the first quarter of the season opener and Brissett had to sit out a year before he gained eligibility in 2014.
Mitchell led N.C. State to touchdown drives on his first two possessions in a 40-14 season-opening over Louisiana Tech, but he suffered a foot injury that sidelined him until late in the year when the Wolfpack’s season was a lost cause.
“Last year at this time I still didn’t know who our starter was,” Doeren said. “We brought in a transfer (Mitchell) and had another kid (Pete Thomas) and neither one of them were lighting it up in camp. And the guy we picked (Mitchell) ended up getting hurt in the second drive of the season.”
Now Brissett has his opportunity. He was named the Wolfpack’s Scout Team Player of the year while Marshall was hobbled and Thomas struggled to fit his square-pegs talent into Doeren’s round hole- style offense.
Doeren has praised his play in spring drills and fall camp and has named him his starter for the season opener against Georgia Southern on Aug. 30 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Doeren also feels good about building depth at the position. He praised the work of true freshman Jalen McClendon, who fits the mold of a big-bodied dual-threat quarterback. He was recruited out of Charlotte West Mecklenburg was a Rivals 3-star prospect ranked No. 18 in the nation in his position in the Class of 2014.
“He’s got the best arm on our team,” Doeren said. “He’s 6-6 (6-5, 200 on the roster) and can sling it. He’s a very talented guy.”
Doeren has certainly needed to invest time in his quarterback situation, but that didn’t preclude him from helping Thomas find a new home for his fourth and final year of eligibility.
Thomas, who has twice been the victim of coaching changes, had to settle for Louisana-Monroe as a graduate transfer with immediate eligibility in 2014.
He arrived at N.C. State in 2012 after two years as a starter at Colorado State. With the Mountain West school changing head coaches, former N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien brought Thomas to Raleigh to sit behind then-senior Mike Glennon before taking over an offense for a drop-back passer. O’Brien had recruited Thomas out of El Cajon (Calif.) Valhalla.
But, as Wolfpack fans know, O’Brien was fired following the 2012 season. Thomas had his moments, but he was forced to fight a losing battle playing Doren’s dual-threat scheme with an emphasis on running.
Doeren tried to help Thomas land at Virginia, where O’Brien is an assistant coach, but his transfer was blocked by ACC coaches as transfer within the conference. Doeren was willing to allow him to transfer to Virginia since the Cavaliers aren’t on N.C. State’s 2014 schedule. N.C. State is an ACC Atlantic Division member, while Virginia resides in the ACC Coastal.
Next, Doeren thought he had found a home at Wyoming. But Mountain West coaches objected to Thomas’ return, even though he was two years and one conference removed.
But that’s all been settled. Louisiana-Monroe may not have been Thomas’ ideal landing place, but he appreciated Doeren’s effort. Thomas didn’t graduate until May, so he was unable to participate in Monroe’s spring drills. His work to gain the starting job began with summer voluntary workouts.
Doeren’s only focus has returned to quarterbacks dressed in red and white.