Making The Adjustment

RALEIGH, N.C. -- George McDonald spent time as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Syracuse before accepting the wide receivers coach position at NC State in January.

For McDonald, who had also spent time coaching in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Miami, the decision was easy.

"I've been at Syracuse and Miami, and I was able to see NC State," said McDonald. "I know the type of athletes they've been able to recruit here and the tradition they've had. So when coach Doeren gave me the opportunity, with that and NC State's history, along with my connections to the staff... it was a no-brainer for me."

McDonald has coached in three of the Power 5 conferences - the ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12 - as well as the NFL during his career. He started out as an assistant at Northern Illinois, where he coached with Matt Canada and Mike Uremovich, and he also spent time at Western Michigan with State safeties coach Clayton White.

Those relationships helped ease his transition to NC State.

"Coach Canada was the quarterbacks coach when I first started at NIU, and we were together three years," said McDonald. "That was really my foundation. I know what he wants as a coach, and I know what he demands as a coach. Coach Uremovich was there with us, and I also worked with Clayton at Western Michigan.

"Coming in, those guys kind of knew my personality and I knew their personality, and it made me feel a little more comfortable. I can coach how I want to coach because they already know how I coach. It's really an acceptance from that standpoint as far as starting fresh."

NC State hired McDonald in large part because Doeren believed he could speed up the development of the wide receivers on the roster.

"I’m really excited to add George to our football staff and family," said Doeren. "He has a wealth of experience and is one of the best teachers of the detail that wide receivers need to succeed at a high level."

The new assistant wanted to start the spring with a fresh perspective on the group because he knows that they all are still getting acclimated to each other so he didn't rely on last year's tape to form opinions. He wanted to see what they could do on the practice field.

"It's exciting," said McDonald. "We're still getting to know each other and you really don't get to know them until you're on the grass. They are learning my personality and I'm able to learn their personality. For me, practice is the best part of the day."

A major point of emphasis for all of them has been a much-needed trait for wide receivers: catching the football. "That's been the focus," said McDonald. "The biggest thing is catching the ball, possessing the ball. I think that might have been an issue last year. We've focused on that. We have to value the ball more and understand that our job as a receiver is to come up with the catch, first and foremost. Yards after the catch will come, but if it's thrown to us we have to make the catch first."

NC State has to replace Bo Hines, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Bryan Underwood from last year's team, but there is still plenty of talent on the roster. Bra'lon Cherry, Stephen Louis, and Jonathan Alston return, and the Pack will have talented freshmen like Maurice Trowell and Elliott Davis available.

"Not very many of them had a lot of tape, so it's good to see them live," said McDonald. "All of them are growing and taking on more of a role. I want them to be more accountable for some of the production we lost from last year.

"It's a long, athletic group. All of those guys can run, have length, and have great short-area quickness. This spring we've tried to instill confidence and develop really good habits. The roles will develop as the season takes place."

Confidence is critical for wide receivers, but it's a balancing act. You want a player who is demanding the football but also team-oriented and valuing winning over individual statistics.

"It's tough because as a wideout you want to be special," said McDonald. "You want to be the guy, but you have to understand it's about the team. I want our guys to want the ball, but I want them to celebrate when Ramos makes a play or Jay Sam makes a play. I want them to know that if it's not coming to them the next guy will make the play. But, they need to want the ball, you must have that to be a great receiver... wanting the ball in critical situations.

"It's a fine balance. You have to be a little selfish but you have to see the big picture and know it's about the team. It's a balancing act, and we want everyone to understand it's team-first but you have to have a lot of confidence to come through in the clutch."

What did McDonald witness this spring from the wideouts?

"I can see them getting tighter as a unit," he said. "We still have a long way to go, but we want to play with passion and aggression. I'm starting to see that."

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