Wolfpack's coaching search focuses on architects of high-scoring offenses

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 29, 2012 

The wheels of N.C. State’s coaching search moved in motion on Wednesday but they did not produce the Wolfpack’s next football coach.

N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow traveled to Atlanta on Wednesday and met with a potential candidate. Back in Raleigh, the university’s Board of Trustees met to determine the contract parameters for Tom O’Brien’s replacement.

O’Brien was dismissed on Sunday, a day after a 27-10 win over Boston College to finish the regular season at 7-5. Yow, who is in the midst of her seventh coaching change in 29 months at N.C. State, has moved quickly to find the new football coach. The search has focused on Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes and Clemson assistant coach Chad Morris.

O’Brien made just over $1.9 million this season. At least seven ACC coaches made more, according to USA Today. FSU’s Jimbo Fisher was the league’s highest paid coach at $2.75 million. Morris, the highest paid public school assistant in the country, made $1.3 million. Dykes made $760,200, the paper reported.

Yow, who was unavailable for comment on Wednesday, previously said she was not specifically looking for an offensive innovator but both Dykes and Morris fit the bill.

Louisiana Tech led the country in scoring (51.5 points per game) this season under Dykes’ version of the spread offense, which he learned from Washington State coach Mike Leach.

Morris, Clemson’s offensive coordinator, has jump-started the Tigers’ offense with his fast-break version of the spread.

Clemson went from No. 87 in the country in scoring from the season before he joined Dabo Swinney’s staff, to No. 6 this season (42.3 points per game). Morris has helped the Tigers win the ACC title in 2011 and 10 games this season.

ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham worked Clemson’s 62-48 win over N.C. State on Nov. 17, when Morris’ spread scheme rolled up 754 yards.

“If you don’t make a hire like that, then why did you fire a respected coach like Tom O’Brien?” Cunningham said in reference to Dykes and Morris.

Dykes and Morris, both 43, got their coaching starts in Texas high school football. Morris jumped from the prep level to Tulsa in 2010 to Clemson a year later.

Dykes worked for Leach at Texas Tech for six seasons, before becoming the offensive coordinator at Arizona in 2007 and then the head coach at Louisiana Tech in 2010.

Dykes has a 22-15 record in three seasons with the Bulldogs, including a 9-3 record this season and a Western Athletic Conference title in 2011.

By comparison, O’Brien went 24-14 the past three seasons at N.C. State. O’Brien, 64, had a 40-35 record in six seasons.

“He’s not leaving a broken place at all,” Cunningham said of O’Brien.

N.C. State ranked 70th in scoring offense this season (28.4 points per game) and 20th in passing. Yow said the style of offense wasn’t the reason for O’Brien’s dismissal and wouldn’t necessarily be a criteria for the next coach.

“My experience has been, if the coach wins, people are fine with the style of play,” Yow said on Sunday. “It’s only when you start losing when they start picking at those kinds of things.”

Yow’s No. 1 priority is finding a “hardcore recruiter” who will “reinvigorate” the program. If an exciting brand of offense comes with that, so be it, Yow said.

“I’m not caught up in that as much as I am finding for us a person who is, pure and simple, a winner,” Yow said on Sunday.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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