N.C. State coach Dave Doeren hasn’t had to give any fiery speeches this offseason to get his team ready for the opener against South Carolina.
USC has the Wolfpack’s full attention heading into the showdown in Charlotte on Sept. 2.
Doeren said at the ACC Kickoff event that his team is eager to face another SEC team to open the 2017 season after ending 2016 with a 41-17 win against Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl.
“When you’re sitting there talking about playing maybe a (FCS) school, the focus is more about you,” Doeren said. “(Playing USC) it’s easy to look up at the wall and say, ‘You know who we’re playing. You know what conference they’re from. That ain’t going to cut it.’ ”
Wolfpack star Jaylen Samuels, a Charlotte native, said he is looking forward to the challenge of playing an SEC school as opposed to a team from a smaller conference.
“All my life, I’ve always loved competition. ... You’ve got to beat the best to be the best,” he said. “It’s going to be very exciting to play an SEC team the first game of the season. That’s going to be pretty big.”
Despite the disappointing end to the 2016 season, N.C. State had a strong year.
The Wolfpack went 7-5 in the regular season with three of the five losses coming by a touchdown or less.
N.C. State was a chip-shot field goal away from knocking off eventual national champion Clemson on the road, and led ACC power Florida State 20-17 entering the fourth quarter before falling, 24-20.
The Wolfpack are hoping to build on that success and do a better job finishing games.
“When you have those tight games like that where it goes one way or the other, it’s quick to point to a play and say, that could have changed it,” Doeren said. “And that helps your development and it helps your offseason, and I think it helps kind of hammer home the word finish, which is what it’s all about.”
Doeren has spent a lot of time studying South Carolina on film and has been impressed, especially with quarterback Jake Bentley.
“They’ve got a great quarterback with good skill players around him,” he said. “Coach (Will) Muschamp does a nice job. He’s going to have a physical football team. He’s got a lot of players back.”
Defensively, Doeren noted that the Gamecocks are young but said linebacker Skai Moore stands out.
“They’re going to play some transfers and freshmen,” Doeren said. “They’ve got maybe one of the best linebackers in the SEC back from a serious injury. Watching him on film from two years ago, he’s a baller. It’s going to be a great game.”