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Wolfpack looks to finish strong in Sun Bowl

NC State Notebook

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Many college football teams set goals prior to a season. Some are attained and some are not. As the current campaign has progressed North Carolina State has made a point to adjust its targets to fit what is reachable.

The Wolfpack has a chance to earn an A grade for this season, but it requires a victory over Arizona State in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Friday, Dec. 29.

N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren explained how this season’s edition of the Pack could be elite in the context of its past.

“At N.C. State this is our 125th year of college football,” Doeren said. “There have been 11 nine-win teams, total, in 125 years. To get to that mark would put us in that top 10 percent, which would be great for the senior class, for this coaching staff, and for continued growth and development of our program.”

ASU IN TRANSITION

The Sun Devils are in transition as they enter the bowl game. Herm Edwards will be the head coach at Arizona State in 2018, but Todd Graham, ousted after a 7-5 regular season, will guide the team one last time in El Paso.

“I coached against an interim head coach at Northern Illinois,” Doeren recalled. “We played Arkansas State. Hugh Freeze actually had left to go be the head coach at Ole Miss, so their head coach was an interim.

“I think Todd is coaching in his last game there but I don’t see it being different in this case just because he’s coached however many seasons down there. His staff is all the same so we’ll treat it like he’s the acting head coach as far as our preparation goes.”

CHUBB DECISION FORTHCOMING

It is not clear yet if Bradley Chubb will be playing his last game or if he will sit out the Sun Bowl in order to position himself in the best possible manner for the upcoming NFL draft.

Chubb, who was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year last week, won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player Monday. He is only the second N.C. State player to be a finalist for the honor (Levar Fisher, 2000) and is the first Wolfpack player to earn the trophy.

“I talked to Bradley and his family (Sunday) at our banquet and we’ll spend some time this week at the award shows and talk about it,” Doeren said of Chubb’s participation in the bowl game. “Nothing has been communicated yet and they are the type of family that talks it through. Whatever is decided, we’ll sit down and talk through it, do whatever they feel is best for their son.

“He’s done everything he can for this football program. We understand he’s got a tough decision to make.”

TOP 25 FINISH?

One way or another, Doeren will seek to lead the Wolfpack to what would be an above-average season with a ninth victory. The Sun Devils will put up a fight however and the fifth-year head coach, fresh off of signing an extension to remain at N.C. State for the foreseeable future, is confident that his program is moving in the right direction and one game cannot impact the growth shown by the outgoing senior class.

“Finishing in the Top 25 is one of our program goals so that would be a mission accomplished for this year,” Doeren said of a potential N.C. State victory. “But I don’t think (losing) one game can derail you either. If we go down there and don’t win for whatever reason, our season wasn’t a failure, I can tell you that. It’s been a very, very good season and these guys have worked their butts off. Winning nine would be a feather in the cap and that’s what we’re going to try and do.”

PERSON HONORED

Ricky Person was selected for a unique honor but it is beginning to become commonplace for members of N.C. State’s 2018 recruiting class.

The senior from Heritage High School in Wake Forest will join future college teammates Payton Wilson (Hillsborough Orange) and Alim McNeill (Raleigh Sanderson) at the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas on Jan. 6, 2018.

Person finished with 41 touchdowns and ran for over 2,200 yards in 2017 this season for Heritage.

“It’s just something I pushed myself to do because my junior year I know I didn’t have the year I always wanted,” Person said “I wanted to show I could hold myself to high standards and do what I was supposed to do when I got here.”

With Doeren staying after a brief flirtation from Tennessee, Person is excited about the future at N.C. State. He also likes the success the members of his recruiting class are having.

“I’m very excited,” Person said. “This is an outstanding class, and I believe it is the best class N.C. State has seen in awhile. For this class to be ranked I think 25th or 24th, it’s really a blessing. You can see the work Coach Doeren has put in for us.”

His Heritage coach knows a thing or two about being a success in football.

Dwayne Washington graduated from Northern High School in Durham in 1990 and immediately started at N.C. State as a freshman. He played 10 seasons in the NFL and has guided Heritage to a 28-12 record in three seasons as head coach.

“It’s not too many times you get a special athlete like Ricky to come through, and he’s been a special, special person for the whole Heritage community,” Washington said. “I think (Doeren) is exceptional. He really gets into the high schools. (He) comes around here all the time, more than any other coach. I think that’s a differentiator when it comes to these young people, to see the head coach come in and talk to them.

“He’s done an excellent job of getting these guys to believe what the future is at N.C. State and what we have going on there. When you start getting All-Americans year after year, you can’t help but be a good football team. I think the future is bright for State.”

REST AND STUDY

With the final week of the semester underway and finals to take, the N.C. State men’s basketball team enters a lull in its schedule. Over the remainder of December the Wolfpack only has five games to play. Next up is a Saturday afternoon contest against Missouri-Kansas City in Reynolds Coliseum.

N.C. State is 7-2 currently. The Pack is beginning to adapt to Kevin Keatts’ style of play although the first-year head coach thinks the is potential for growth.

Ironically, despite eclipsing the century mark in points in its last outing, the Wolfpack still needs to run more according to Keatts.

“I think we are getting there,” Keatts said. “As a coach, you are never satisfied. I think we are a long way away. My assistant coaches swear up and down we are getting to the type of system that we want run. I don’t think we are fast-breaking enough.

“I know you look at the score and think, ‘Well, you scored 103 points,’ but I just want us to get out in transition a little bit more. I think on the defensive end, we are having some breakdowns, and I think the reason is because our group is new. I wouldn’t call it a young group but new as in playing together.”

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