The Wolfpacker

September 2017

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 93 of 95

94 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER D ave Doeren enters his fifth season with Wolfpack foot- ball armed with the most ex- perienced team of his tenure at NC State. The Wolfpack begins the season with eight returning starters on offense and eight on defense. He has the essentials: a sea- soned quarterback in redshirt ju- nior Ryan Finley, who was solid in his debut season in his second college program. He has a fear- some defensive front, perhaps the best in the nation, with all six starters returning on the line and at linebacker. He has the speed of Nyheim Hines and versatility of Jaylen Samuels on offense. Throughout its ACC history, dating back to 1953, NC State has only kept half of its football coaches five years or longer. Earle Edwards, the longest-serving coach in Wolfpack football history at 17 seasons, had nothing to prove in his fifth year. The Penn State graduate and former Michigan State assistant came to Raleigh to establish a program, build a new stadium and somehow usher NC State into football relevance, something it had rarely had in the program's first six decades. In 1955, his fourth season, thanks to the remarkable exploits of Dick Christy and a two-way lineup made up of mature players, Edwards guided the Pack to the school's first ACC championship. However, NC State was 2-7-1 in his fifth season and 1-9 in his sixth. In 1958, Edwards had a freshman quar- terback named Roman Gabriel sitting out under NCAA rules and, in his debut sea- son, the sophomore managed to win but one game. Gabriel, though, became a star as a ju- nior and senior, winning ACC Player of the Year honors both seasons. In the years after Gabriel graduated, the Pack won three con- secutive ACC titles and four championships in six years. Dick Sheridan was the next coach who had the opportunity to secure his program in its fifth season. After enjoying immediate success in his first season in 1986, Sheridan had the only losing season of his coaching career in 1987. He rebounded nicely with eight wins in 1988, but coming off a disappointing fourth season, in which his team lost five of its last six games after a 6-0 start, Sheridan needed a better showing in 1990. The Wolfpack, though, struggled during the regular season, compiling a 6-5 record. Invited to the All-American Bowl in Shreve- port, La., the Pack set the tone for the next two seasons by beating Southern Missis- sippi and its All-America quarterback Brett Favre to finish with a 7-5 overall record. In each of the next two seasons — his last before he stepped down due to health concerns — Sheridan led the Pack to nine regular-season wins, firmly establishing himself as one of the top coaches in modern NC State football history. Sheridan's successor, assistant coach Mike O'Cain, made an easy transition, winning seven and nine games in his first two years with players he helped recruit for Sheridan, but managed only three wins in each of his next two seasons. In 1997, his fifth year, a six-game stretch in the middle of the season resulted in five losses, and only three straight wins to end the campaign gave the Pack another win- ning record. In O'Cain's final two seasons, big wins over the likes of Florida State and Texas were intermin- gled with inexplicable losses. The program never gained the traction it needed to be success- ful for a long period of time. No coach had a more critical fifth season than former Wolf- pack player Chuck Amato, who reveled in the success of four consecutive winning seasons and four straight bowl games with quarterback Philip Riv- ers and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. Entering year five, Amato thought he was in good shape at quarterback with a pair of highly touted prep prospects in Jay Davis of Florida and Marcus Stone of Pennsylvania. But nei- ther was able to run the offense efficiently. Even having the na- tion's best defense couldn't save the Pack from a 5-6 record. In 2005, Amato's sixth year, the Pack managed bowl eligibility and beat South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, capping off five wins in the final six games. The next season, Amato was let go after NC State lost its last seven games. Of all the modern coaches who lasted more than five years, Tom O'Brien fared the best in that critical year. Junior Mike Glennon thrived as Russell Wilson's replacement and led the Wolfpack to an 8-5 record in 2011, including a win over a top-10 Clemson squad at home, a remarkable 56-41 comeback victory against Maryland in the regular-season finale and a win over Louisville in the Belk Bowl. The next season, even with Glen- non throwing for more than 4,000 yards, O'Brien's program was determined to be on a downward slide in recruiting and develop- ment. The Wolfpack lost three of its final five games, and O'Brien was let go. Doeren seems to be in position to have perhaps his best team, which would put the program on an upward trajectory that few of the coaches that preceded him were on at this point in their NC State tenures. ■ ■ PACK PERSPECTIVE Dave Doeren Joins The Five-Year Club At NC State Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker. and can be reached at The Wolfpacker is a publication of: Coman Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Offices are located at 905 West Main St., Ste. 24F, Durham, N.C. 27701. (919) 688-0218. The Wolfpacker (ISSN 0273-8945) is published bimonthly. A subscription is $39.95 for six issues. For advertising or subscription information, call (800) 421-7751 or write The Wolfpacker. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Wolfpacker, P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Periodical mail postage paid at Durham, N.C. 27702 and additional offices. First-class postage is $14 extra per year. E-mail: • Web site: A successful 2017 campaign would put Doeren's program on an upward trajectory that few of the coaches that preceded him were on at this point in their Wolfpack tenures. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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