On Monday, NC State announced that defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable was relieved of his duties with the football team. After a 4-8 season with a handful of disappointing games, it was apparent that changes needed to be made, and the defense isn’t the only side that struggled.
The Pack’s offense has struggled this season. This is especially true against ACC opponents. In the Pack’s eight games against ACC opponents this season, it has only scored three or more touchdowns twice. If you include all opponents for the season, State has averaged only 22.1 points per game.
Part of this is due to the weak play at quarterback for the Pack. For the entire 12-game season, its three quarterbacks, redshirt freshman Devin Leary, sophomore Bailey Hockman and redshirt freshman Matt McKay, have only 14 passing touchdowns. The bigger problem, however, is that NC State uses two offensive coordinators.
Using two offensive coordinators rarely works at any school, but what makes it worse for the Pack is that these two coordinators have totally different coaching philosophies. Des Kitchings is the running back coach/offensive coordinator, and George McDonald is the wide receivers coach/offensive coordinator. These conflicting approaches on how to call plays during the game had a negative effect on the offensive.
During the games, it seems that it isn’t clear what system they should run. The best example of this was during the final game of the season, when the Pack faced UNC-Chapel Hill. The Pack used its run game to control the clock and took a 10-6 halftime lead. However, in the second half, NC State switched to a more pass-heavy offense, and as a result, threw three interceptions and lost control of the game.
This was not just a one-game result, though. Throughout the season, it was clear that Des Kitchings did a better job coaching the running backs than George McDonald did with the passing attack. While all three quarterbacks struggled along with most of the wide receivers, the two lead running backs flourished. Freshman Zonovan Knight ran the ball 136 times this season, averaging 5.5 yards per carry for a total of 745 yards and five touchdowns. Freshman Jordan Houston, with the second-most touches at running back, ran the ball 101 times, averaging 5.2 yards per carry for 526 yards and two touchdowns.
Because of Kitchings’ success in creating an effective running game and his help in the development of Knight as a dominant running back, he should become the sole offensive coordinator. Knight is looking like he will become the No. 1 weapon for the Pack moving forward, especially when you consider the weak play at quarterback, and if Kitchings becomes the sole offensive coordinator, he can design the playbook to work with his running ability.
Also with the passing attack of ACC teams like North Carolina and Clemson improving every year, the Pack needs to create a new identity to compete. If the Pack creates a stronger running game, it could use the clock to its advantage more and keep the ball out of the hands of opposing quarterbacks.