The Mystery of NC State
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An early season loss to Wake Forest is all too familiar for the Wolfpack and their fans. In Raleigh, NC exists a program bursting at the seems to be a college football factor. Year in and year out they sell out their stadium. Their fans are passionate, and the money seems to be there. But for whatever reason, NC State cannot seem to take the next step to be an ACC contender. This year, Coach Tom O'Brien's fifth, the Pack were ready again to go after big things. But after a super early division loss to a team they were supposed to beat, the Pack have already put themselves in a tough spot to win the ACC Atlantic - and it is only week three.
I know other teams have bigger stadiums and more storied traditions. But if you watch an NC State game on TV, you will see they are just as into their team as some of the biggest names out there. Their fans stand up the whole game, and they really do create a great home-field atmosphere in 65,000 seat Carter Finley Stadium. I have been to nearly all of the SEC and ACC venues, and the Wolfpack get high marks from me. Expansion plans are in the talks to add more seating.
But back to the actual football, and what is holding the Pack back. They play in the ACC Atlantic, and that isn't the toughest division in college football. Florida State has been down (for them) the last five or more years, Clemson can't get its act together on a big-time level, and Maryland, Wake Forest and BC have been the definition of average. This division has been there for the taking, but the Pack haven't taken it.
One thing that comes to mind is talent - both in players and coaches. While NC State will load up on three-star guys, the four-star and five-star guys are rarely seen in Raleigh. The Wolfpack featured the overall #1 draft pick in Mario Williams a few years ago, but NC State isn't known as a stop on the road to the NFL. 29 players have been drafted to the NFL from this school in the past decade - an average of three players per year. A big-time recruiter is needed as some of the most successful schools may send ten (or even more) players to the NFL in a good year.
And that brings me to coaching.
Lou Holtz was the first guy to have some success in Raleigh. From 1972 to 1975, he won 33 games and had a winning percentage of .719. He moved on, and eleven years went by beofre the Pack were again under solid guidance (even Monte Kiffin came in for a two-year 16-17 stint). Dick Sheridan got this program going back strong again in the 80's and early 90's with a 52-29-3 record and six bowl appearances. He eventually retired though, giving way to Mike O'Cain and then Chuck Amato, both of whom coached six years and had roughly .500 records. Mediocre at best.
Today, the Pack are in their fifth season already under Tom O'Brien, and once again they are a .500 type of team. In fact, O'Brien is exactly .500 with the Wolfpack at 25-25 in four seasons and two games. He is just 14-18 in ACC play, and this year's schedule no longer has predictable should-be wins. Wake Forest was a should-be win and they lost.
Folks, the Pack just need a coaching upgrade. That is the mystery solved. Many thought O'Brien coming in four years ago was the answer. He is not. He is a disciplinarian, and a fundamentals coach, but he is not a big-time coach. He is not the answer, and after writing this article, I am adding him to my list of coaches on the hot seat. His record is dismal.
This program is waiting, bursting for some big-time college football success. The fans and facilities are first class, and the players are good enough to be better than a .500 record. The problem at NC State is in the coaching booth, and until a proven big-time coach comes in, this sleeping giant will remain loaded up on valium.
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