This past offseason, NC State football parted ways with former defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable in a move that fans had long been anticipating. While having some decent years with great defensive players like Bradley Chubb and BJ Hill, problems with the secondary eventually became too much for Wolfpack fans to handle.
While Huxtable’s main focus regarding coaching was with the linebackers, as defensive coordinator the responsibility for the secondary still fell on him. The writing was on the wall, and an outcry from fans calling for Huxtable and even Dave Doeren to be fired forced Doeren and new athletics director Boo Corrigan to make a change.
While the fans were happy, many former players were not and expressed how they felt about Huxtable’s departure on social media.
Former defensive lineman Darian Roseboro took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with the firing of Huxtable writing, “Coach Hux was never a issue.. one of the best coaches period.”
Former Wolfpack linebacker Germaine Pratt also gave his opinion on Twitter by retweeting the news that Huxtable was fired and writing, “Not the problem but okay.”
Huxtable was always a player’s coach, with his brash and honest personality always bringing about a certain energy to practice. It was a distinct energy, but also one that motivated his players and kept things jovial at times.
The players clearly loved Hux, but the fans and athletic department knew that after seven seasons, a change was needed to get the program back on track after a dismal 4-8 2019 campaign.
Clearly a different direction was needed for defensive leadership and so Doeren, along with Corrigan, made the right decision with moving on.
Two days after letting Huxtable go, the team announced that co-defensive coordinator Tony Gibson was being promoted to sole defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
Gibson was formerly the defensive coordinator at West Virginia from 2014 to 2018, and he was then brought on to Doeren’s staff to help with the secondary and to be the co-defensive coordinator along with Huxtable.
Gibson’s yearly defensive rankings during his tenure were 73rd, 44th, 37th, 91st, and 69th. While not great numbers, being a defensive coordinator in the offensive-heavy Big 12 conference is no easy task. However, Wolfpack fans have a right to be concerned about whether Gibson will actually improve this defense.
The 2019 season certainly did not help Gibson’s image, albeit sometimes as a result of the offense routinely putting the defense in difficult situations.
While not having total control in 2019, Gibson did bring about scheme changes to the defense, switching the defensive scheme from a 4-2-5 stack (four down linemen, two linebackers, five defensive backs) to a 3-3-5 (three down linemen, three linebackers, five defensive backs).
The scheme change was met with mixed reaction from players, and seemingly did not help the defense to improve much in 2019, although more time will be needed to see if the scheme change will benefit the Pack.
To Gibson’s credit, he has gone out and made some good hires for position coaches.
Hiring Brian Mitchell out of Virginia Tech to coach the cornerbacks was an excellent move, especially since that meant that George Barlow would not be returning as cornerbacks coach. After coaching what was routinely the weakest part of the defense for the past six years, Barlow’s departure was long overdue.
While Gibson's track record is not strong, Pack fans have gotten what they asked for with the coaching changes. Clearly, there is an effort with coaching and scheme changes to make the defensive side of the ball significantly better.
Whether or not these changes will work, only time will tell.
The Big 12 is a lot different than the ACC, and just like with players, Gibson may improve as a coordinator while in Raleigh.
Doeren’s move to change offensive coordinators in 2015 from Matt Canada to Eli Drinkwitz ended up saving his job and brought about consecutive nine win seasons, including being one win away from an ACC Championship in 2017.
Doeren is looking to bring back that level of success heading into 2020.
Along with the hiring of offensive coordinator Tim Beck, there will be many new faces in Carter Finley next year, hopefully for the better.