RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – After finishing 4-8 two years ago, North Carolina State head coach Dave Doeren was confident better days were close at hand.

“With Drake (Thomas) and Payton (Wilson) and that whole group of guys, I said it a couple of years ago in three years, we could be really good,” Doeren said. “And we have a chance to be really good. We just have to go out and earn it.”

The Wolfpack earned a measure of respect a year ago, doubling its win total from that disasterous 2019 season while winning a school record seven ACC games. Now, with 17 returning starters, the Pack is poised for even better.

If Day 1 practice is any indication, this veteran team could be headed for a break-out campaign.

“I don’t think we had one turnover. It just seemed like everyone was on the same page,” Wolfpack wide receiver Thayer Thomas said. “It’s a veteran group that knows how to practice at this point. I’m very excited to go from here moving forward, and we’re just happy with how clean it went today.”

Happy to be back on the field, as well. A year ago at this time, N.C. State was struggling with injuries and COVID-19.

“With everything we experienced a year ago, we didn’t know we’d get to this day,” said linebacker Isaiah Moore. “So, a lot of us don’t take it for granted being out here. It’s definitely a different feeling. It’s not so much trying to figure out what’s going on from guys — everyone is on the same page already, so it’s a good feeling.”

A feeling that just comes natural for a confident, experienced group.