NC State is entering its second season under coach Dave Doeren, and those within the program were encouraged by what they saw this spring and have said the program is slowly heading in the right direction. The Pack is stuck in the Atlantic Division with heavyweights FSU, Clemson and now Louisville, and will be a young team this fall. I spoke with offensive coordinator Matt Canada on Monday to get his take on how the offense looked this spring. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What was your take on the progress Jacoby Brissett made this spring being in a new role?
Matt Canada: He did a great job learning the system throughout the year [when] he was ineligible to play and made an impact on us as a leader throughout that time and certainly showed a lot about who he was in the past year. Once we got to the spring and he could actually practice, I think his understanding of the offense improved every day. Not that it wasn’t good, but when you’re out there getting the reps, it’s going to improve just based on repetition and experience. He did a nice job leading the group and leading the offense. The kids on offense would all point to him as their leader on offense now. He took care of the ball well for the most part throughout the spring, and I was pleased about that.
What kinds of things does he need to still focus on during summer camp?
MC: Just experience. I think he’ll do a great job this summer learning and understanding the offense better, the timing with the receivers. He was throwing it to the top receivers now, and we’ve got some young kids in as well, so getting the timing down.
How did the running game look this spring?
MC: It’s improved. I think our running backs had a very good spring, as far as the way they worked and the versatility they had. Tony Creecy is a guy who is a great leader for us, had a very good spring and did a lot of things. Matt Dayes was much improved. He played as a freshman last year, but Matt really, his body changed and he has really jumped in with both feet to what we’re doing in the weight room, and his conditioning. He looked like a Division I big-time back, and that was exciting for us to see. Those two guys really I felt had a very good spring. Obviously having a good spring means we’re improving up front. We still have some work to do, but the offensive line is getting better and getting older and more mature and continuing to put that together.
Where do you think the biggest growth has occurred between Year 1 and Year 2 in what you’ve seen from the offense?
MC: The kids know what we’re striving for, what we’re looking for. I think they understand the system better, they understand what we’re trying to do. They’re a year into it, they’re going to be better. We have some different guys coming in and playing with some different skill sets we didn’t have and that helps us some, and I think like anybody else will tell you after a year, they’re more comfortable with the terminology. And we’re excited about Jacoby and what he brings to the table and his experience, talent and leadership -- all those things. It’s certainly a benefit for us.
Is there any particular area you think you’ll be better, whether it’s running the ball, eliminating turnovers or anything like that?
MC: Last year was a challenging year. Every week it was like we had somebody else out. We never really got into a rhythm, from quarterbacks going back and forth to up front. We were playing musical chairs there for a good part of the start of the year. The receivers were the same way. We had some guys making plays and they’d get hurt. Just having everybody through the spring and letting them get better, for the most part we were able to have a pretty healthy spring that allowed us to get some continuity. I think we’re going to be better at all of it. I think we’ll run it better, I think we’ll throw it better. I think we’ll be better at everything. What we’ll focus on and what will be our strength, I’m not ready to say that. We’ll get into the season and see how we develop, but I do think we’ll be better in all aspects.
What are a few things you still really want to accomplish this summer?
MC: We are young at some spots. We’re a very young team, so I think just them studying tape and learning football IQ and understanding the game is very important. And then just overall strength and conditioning, because we are very young. I know coach has talked about extensively a number of freshmen and sophomores we’re going to have playing next year, so while it will be Year 2, we have a young team so both strength and conditioning-wise and football knowledge is something we have to work on every day.