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ACC Kickoff 2014: Doeren knows Pack is better

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Day two of the ACC Kickoff event is all about the coaches. The now 15 head coaches of the conference – Swofford made sure to especially welcome new guys Dave Clawson and Bobby Petrino – all do the full round of radio, television and print (internet sites are print for the purposes of ACC Kickoff).

During his hour-long session with the writers, Dave Doeren addressed a laundry list of topics ranging from the obvious stuff such as Jacoby Brissett to the more random – the Pack’s recent leadership development exercise that brought in military folk to push the players.

So, let’s hit the bullet points.

  • Doeren was only asked about Brissett on three separate occasions, solidly below the five I set as the over/under for the hour. As you may have heard, he likes his quarterback situation better this year.

    "I don’t want to put too much on him – obviously I coach at a school with three quarterbacks playing in the NFL. Has the skillset, intangibles, personality. Now we have to get the pieces around him."

    "He’s played more than the guys we were playing with at times last year. He’s been for two springs and an entire season – he knows what coach Canada is looking for."
  • When asked about the ‘best’ part of Brissett, Doeren picked his drive, and went on to say that while everyone will tell you they have that kind of drive to win it’s not really true.

    "Probably just his overall competitive spirit. He’s just so driven to win – it hurts him, it’s personal. A lot of guys say they are [that type of person], but they aren’t."
  • Keeping Brissett healthy is going to be ‘the most important thing in the world’ for the Pack this season. He also knocked on wood, literally, when he talked about Crisp’s return to the team and his health. Overall, he said the offensive line's conditioning is better.

    "You’re offensive line is your least talked about group of people and they have the most impact on your football team."
  • The Pack will move to a base nickel defense this year and go with two linebackers on the field with five defensive backs, but they won’t be a true 4-2-5 defense either and will have the ability to go to a more traditional three linebacker set. Doeren said the main driver is simple – a lot more teams play base three receiver sets than base two receiver sets in college these days, plus they feel like this area for whatever reason has a lot of athletes that fit well in the secondary.
  • "I know we are better this year than we were last year," Doeren said. He noted that the team has better depth, better talent at the top and better chemistry/leadership after last season forced the team to come together.
  • Last season was a struggle, he admitted, and he often had to remind his own coaches to look at the big picture – the performances of the red-shirted players and the 30+ incoming recruits – to reinforce that the program was moving in the right direction even as the season was nose-diving (my words, not his).
  • As Creecy noted yesterday, the Pack was actually in a large number of games in the 4th quarter. "Comes down to execution," Doeren said. "To still be in those games in 4th quarters and find players who can make those plays and put them in those positions as coaches."
  • Doeren wanted to build mental toughness in addition to physical toughness this offseason. To that end they brought in something called The Program, led by a mix of active and retired military personnel. He called it ‘team building under duress’ and said it exposed players both good and bad and it helped him see something things in individual players that he wouldn’t have known otherwise.
  • Shadrach Thorton cares a lot about what people think, and Doeren has told him he has a lot of making up to do.
  • Someone asked about his 4th down decisions, with the implication being that he took too many chances last year, because sadly there’s a lot of media who don’t understand math after years of listening to risk averse coaches espouse the virtues of punting. Doeren was having none of that, thankfully, saying "How can you say you’re tough and then not go for it on 4th and one."
  • When asked about creating turnovers on defense, Doeren off-handedly mentioned that the goal is one turnover per 30 defensive plays. As a follow-up, he was asked if they measure everything now by play (one guess as to who was curious about that one) and Doeren confirmed that they don’t really look at per game stats at all on the staff.

    "You can’t do it per game anymore because it’s skewed and it’s not realistic. You have to do everything per play."
  • Doeren wants to go faster on offense sometimes, but also wants the ability to change tempo when it’s called for and play fast when necessary but slow it down and kill clock/rest the defense sometimes as well.
  • As far as the positions he’s most comfortable with going into the fall, he pointed to the defensive line on defense and running backs on offense. Said that because of youth (and not talent), he’s most concerned with the secondary and the wide receivers.
  • As far as approach to last year’s struggles, he said last year he just tried to stay positive and not let his guys get down. He said he was proud of his team for never quitting in any game – specifically pointing out the 17 unanswered late against Florida State. He admitted that the offseason has been challenging.
  • Doeren confirmed that yes, he does get angry. But he said he wouldn’t "put on a whistle and come in and do a song and dance for you guys, I’m answering questions." Said he’s not gonna show a lot of emotion sitting in interviews but that it comes out when he gets on the field because coaching is an emotional job.
  • The ACC has been about what he expected going in, but Doeren did lament the infrequency of some cross division opponents like Virginia, Virginia Tech and Duke. He said he would like to see that changed and play those teams more often, but that was his only real complaint