Sonny Dykes, Chad Morris emerge as front-runners for the Wolfpack

Sonny Dykes and Chad Morris appear to be front-runners as Debbie Yow searches for N.C. State’s next football coach

acarter@newsobserver.comNovember 30, 2012 

  • Experience necessary? Nine of the ACC’s 12 head coaches in 2012 held the same position at a previous school. Two of the most successful, however, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and FSU’s Jimbo Fisher, did not.
    TeamCoachRecordPrevious job
    Boston CollegeFrank Spaziani22-29Defensive coordinator
    ClemsonDabo Swinney29-13Assistant HC/Interim HC
    Florida StateJimbo Fisher29-11Offensivecoordinator
    TeamCoachRecordPrevious HC years
    VirginiaMike London16-212
    North CarolinaLarry Fedora8-44
    MiamiAl Golden13-115
    Virginia TechFrank Beamer215-104-26
    Wake ForestJim Grobe73-746
    DukeDavid Cutcliffe21-396
    N.C. StateTom O’Brien40-3510
    Ga. TechPaul Johnson27-1711
    MarylandRandy Edsall6-1812

There are certainties in life, but rarely in coaching searches. They often take on a life of their own, especially in these times when information – and misinformation – can spread so quickly.

But for now, at least, two favorites have emerged as leading candidates to fill the head football coaching vacancy at N.C. State. Sonny Dykes has spent the past three seasons as the head coach at Louisiana Tech. And Chad Morris has spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Clemson.

Both are known as aggressive, successful recruiters. Both are known for their up-tempo, high-scoring offenses. Here’s a look at how Dykes and Morris compare in a variety of categories, beginning and ending with their ability to recruit:


Debbie Yow, the N.C. State athletic director, has made it clear she wants to hire a coach who can recruit at the highest level. Dykes and Morris fit that description, said Mike Farrell, a national college football recruiting analyst for

“I don’t think they can go wrong,” Farrell said, speaking of Dykes’ and Morris’ recruiting ability.

Before becoming the head coach at Louisiana Tech, Dykes spent seven seasons at Texas Tech and three at Arizona. He’s familiar with recruiting the talent-rich state of Texas, and also has put together a talented roster in the heart of SEC country at Louisiana Tech.

Morris has far less college coaching experience, but excelled as a high school in Texas before becoming the offensive coordinator at Tulsa in 2010. His high-powered offense recruits itself, Farrell said.

“It’s one of the most dynamic offenses in college football,” Farrell said. “So kids are going to want to play for that guy.”


Yow has said that lack of college head coaching experience wouldn’t preclude a candidate from being considered. And good thing for Morris, given he has no college head coaching experience.

On paper, Dukes, 43, would appear the more desirable candidate. He has a wealth of experience as an assistant coach in college, and he took over a 4-8 Louisiana Tech team that he guided to five wins in 2010, eight in 2011 and nine this season.

Morris, who will turn 44 on Dec. 4, spent 16 years as a high school head coach in Texas. He won nearly 82 percent of his games during that span, and led Lake Travis High to back-to-back 16-0 state championship seasons. Overall, his teams won three state championships and he coached in the championship game six times.

In Morris’ first season at Clemson, the Tigers averaged 440.8 yards and 33.6 points per game. At Louisiana Tech, Dykes’ offense currently leads the nation in total offense (577.9 yards per game) and scoring offense (51.5 points per game).

Offensive philosophy

When Larry Fedora became the head coach at North Carolina, he told those at his introductory press conference to buckle their seatbelts. He promised a “wild ride” – and an up-tempo, relentless offense.

Since his earliest days as an offensive coordinator, Fedora has utilized the spread offense. So, too, do Dykes and Morris.

Dykes worked under Mike Leach, now the coach at Washington State, during his days at Texas Tech, and Dykes’ offense mirrors that old Red Raiders’ offense, which relied heavily on the passing game. During his years at Tech, Dykes coached quarterback Graham Harrell, who threw for 4,555 yards in 2006.

At Arizona, Dykes’ offenses set five single-season records.

Morris also utilizes the spread, but his body of work – at least on the collegiate level – consists of just two seasons, one of which is still ongoing. Still, what Morris has done at Clemson has been impressive. The Tigers ranked 88th in total offense in 2010 and improved to 26th in 2011 in Morris’ first season there.

Recruiting, again

Yow’s search is likely to begin and end with thoughts about which candidate – be it Dykes, Morris or someone else – can do the best job of luring talented players to N.C. State, which didn’t recruit particularly well under former coach Tom O’Brien.

Dykes has proven he can recruit and while Morris hasn’t been at Clemson long, he served as the lead recruiter for quarterback Chad Kelly and running back Zac Brooks, both of whom were four-star prospects who signed with Clemson in February.

“To get the offensive talent that they’re getting at Clemson, you have to have an offensive coordinator who can help close out kids not only on campus but on the road,” said Farrell, the recruiting analyst.

Morris, in his limited time at Clemson, has proven he can do that.

Whomever becomes the next coach at N.C. State, though, will face a unique set of challenges in recruiting. Going head-to-head against Fedora and his young, aggressive staff at UNC will be one of those. But, Farrell said, “I don’t think Fedora is the problem. And that’s nothing against him, because he is a strong recruiter. The problem is Georgia, Florida, Clemson – all the schools down south that have traditionally raided that state and taken all the good players.

“That’s what the real problem is. It’s going to take something special to stop that.”

Carter: 919-829-8944

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