Gone is the venerable Tom O'Brien as athletic director Debbie Yow looks to improve all of her programs from mediocre at best to annually competitive at the top of the ACC. So, in steps one of the hottest names in college coaching, Dave Doeren, who led the Northern Illinois Huskies to their first ever BCS bowl game following a 12-1 season and a MAC championship.
Before the Huskies could play in the Orange Bowl their head coach was off to Raleigh, North Carolina and saying goodbye to the Midwest – a place he's spent most of his life coaching in – to move up to a guaranteed BCS level program. Congrats to Doeren for parlaying an amazing season into a new job and a significant upgrade to his and his coaching staff's salaries.
However, critics may say he's only had a few years of head coaching experience and while 2012 was a nice season it may not be indicative of just how good a coach he is as he had a lot of built in parts thanks to the recruiting of Jerry Kill in DeKalb, IL. So, can he prove the doubters wrong and get a team that was already bowl eligible under O'Brien to become an annual contender for division and conference title honors?
Let's take a chance at answering those questions and more?
Why We Like the Hire:
Doeren is a young head coach, at least in terms of experience and he's not ancient like Tom O'Brien. Call me crazy, but that may help put a fresh and more exciting face on a program that admittedly got lost in the shuffle, even in it's own region (thank Duke's historic season for that).
Then there's the whole fact that he's a winner, sporting a 23-4 record in two seasons at NIU. Doeren is also a defensive football coach and that can help a team that's strong suit was scoring points on offense, but giving far too many up on the defensive end of things.
If Doeren can win a lot of football games in a place like Northern Illinois and comes highly regarded from people like Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema – two proven winners as football coaches – that's good enough of an endorsement for me for him to get his shot at a bigger job. Heck, the rumor was that he was in line to succeed Bret Bielema at Wisconsin had he stayed.
He's also put together a heck of a staff, one that has mixed his time at Northern Illinois with his roots at Wisconsin, plucking a few really good coaches from each school to make up an impressive looking staff at NC State.
Why We Won't Like the Hire:
There are only two things to not like and first is the fact that he doesn't have a lot of experience at the head coaching level. He's only been a head coach for two years. Is that enough to ferrrit out if he can be a head coach that can bring in enough talent as a recruiter? I don't think so, but ultimately his track record as an assistant coach at Wisconsin and Kansas speaks for itself and that shows a coach that is more than capable of being a very good recruiter.
Secondly, there's got to be a little trepedation about a man who has spent his entire life from playing career to coaching in the Midwest and wasn't in charge of east coast recruiting. That's where putting together a staff of varying backgrounds will help him and by all indications he's done just that.
What Kind of Talent Does He Inherit:
Well, gone is QB Mike Glennon and that will for sure be something that hurts this team, at least in the short term as they look to institute an offensive system that fits Matt Canada and Dave Doeren's philosophies better. As for talent that he actually inherits?
NC State took a huge step in telling the college football world where they are going to go by landing Florida QB transfer Jacoby Brissett. So, expect this team to run a lot more read option and look a lot more like Northern Illinois than the vanilla pro-style system Tom O'Brien was fond of. However, he will sit out next season, so what does actually return for Doeren to work with next season?
He'll have two decent parts to work with in the backfield with running backs Shadrach Thorton and Tony Creecy who combined for just over 1,100 yards but that's really about it for him on offense. The good news is that there are a lot of experienced players returning to the team on the defensive side of the ball, where 8 starters return. However, he will lose his best piece – cornerback David Amerson and that will really be hard to replace as he could be the top corner taken in the NFL draft.
So, he does have a few players in his fold that he can work with, mold, but still have experience in their fold, but this team also will have enough holes to allow them to mold this team to his liking sooner than later.
Yeah, But Can He Recruit?:
Doeren is a great recruiter by all indications. Just look at where the Badgers defense has been over the past two seasons. Those are all players Doeren had a hand in recruiting. You know – names like Chris Borland, Mike Taylor, Brendan Kelly, JJ Watt, David Gilbert, and Devin Smith just to name a few. By all indications he had brought in a very good class by the standards of the MAC in his first two seasons in DeKalb so there is that.
Frankly, we know enough to know that on the defensive side of the ball he's got an eye for talent and talent under the radar, which could be a huge advantage at a school like NC State where 5 star recruits are banging down the doors of the football offices to come on board on a daily basis. He'll be just fine in that manner, especially if he can build up a good enough relationship with coaches in North Carolina and Virginia, where talent is real and deep.
AD Debbie Yow was looking to hire a winner with some energy behind him as the head coach and that's exactly what she gets in Dave Doeren. He's proven to be a winner, albeit in a small dose, but for a school like NC State where winning at a very high level hasn't been consistent enough for the past 15-20 years this is a coach who can bring excitement to the fan base, the students, and most importantly, the players.
He'll be a guy that can quickly turn around any issues this team has with the talent in place – just look at his time at Kansas under Mangino for proof of that kind of turnaround.
Final Grade: B +