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Appalachian State hires NC State assistant Eli Drinkwitz as new football coach

NC State takes the field before game with East Carolina

Watch as the NC State football team takes the field before the Wolfpack's game with East Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018.
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Watch as the NC State football team takes the field before the Wolfpack's game with East Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018.

N.C. State will have a new quarterback and a new playcaller next season.

Offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz, who helped develop quarterback Ryan Finley into an All-ACC passer, was named the head coach at Appalachian State on Thursday.

“My family and I are excited to embrace and build upon the proud tradition of Appalachian State Football,” Drinkwitz said in a statement released by the school. “I am thankful to the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Everts, Doug Gillin and the entire App Nation for the opportunity to be the head coach at this great university. This is a special time for App Nation, and we will work tirelessly to uphold the championship tradition.”

Drinkwitz, 35, has been the Wolfpack’s playcaller for the past three seasons, with Finley as his quarterback the whole way. The duo helped coach Dave Doeren win 25 games over three years and produce a top-25 offense this season. The Wolfpack ranked No. 22 in scoring (35.6 points per game) and No. 16 in total offense (471.3 yards per game) this season.

Finley, a sixth-year senior who will play in his final game in the Gator Bowl against Texas A&M on Dec. 31, leads the ACC in passing yards (3,789) and touchdowns (24). N.C. State had five players on the All-ACC offense, including receivers Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers. It was the first time in school history N.C. State had two 1,000-yard receivers on the same team. Drinkwitz’s offense also produced a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his three seasons at N.C. State. Reggie Gallaspy has 1,012 yards this season.

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N.C. State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz talks with quarterback Ryan Finley (15), left, during the second half of N.C. State’s 33-16 victory over Wake Forest at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, October 1, 2016. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Drinkwitz replaces Scott Satterfield at Appalachian State. Satterfield took the top job at Louisville on Dec. 4.

Doeren knew he had to start over at quarterback next season. Now he has to rework his staff and break in a new quarterback for the 2019 season. Offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford is expected to join Satterfield’s staff at Louisville as an offensive coordinator.

“Although I never like to lose quality coaches, it’s a testament to the success of our program that members of our staff are being pursued by other schools,” Doeren said in a statement he posted on Twitter.

“A cornerstone of our program at N.C. State is development, not just for our players but also our staff. Seeing my coaches advance coaching journey is a testament to that development.”

Finley and Drinkwitz both arrived from Boise State in 2016. Drinkwitz was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator and Finley began the season as the starting quarterback before he was sidelined by an ankle injury for the final 10 games.

Doeren hired Drinkwitz in January and Finley graduated and transferred over the summer. Finley won the starting job and kept it for three seasons. N.C. State’s offense jumped from No. 75 in scoring in Drinkwitz’s first season to No. 22 this season. Finley has moved to second in school history in career passing yards (10,366) behind Philip Rivers.

A spread offense with zone run principles, N.C. State has had more of run/pass balance than most pure spread teams. The scheme has been a showcase for versatile playmakers with both running back and receiver talents.

Jaylen Samuels, Nyheim Hines and Meyers all excelled in the offense, which combines some of Drinkwitz’s spread elements from his background at Auburn and Doeren’s run-heavy background at Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

“We have developed a unique offensive system that is very effective,” Doeren wrote. “I love it, our players love it and prospects love it and we don’t plan on changing something that has been so productive.”

A former pupil of Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, Drinkwitz got his start as a high school coach in Arkansas. He was a quality control assistant for Gene Chizik and Malzahn at Auburn in 2010 when the Tigers won the national title behind quarterback Cam Newton.

“Appalachian State is not only getting a great coach, but an even better person,” Malzahn said in a statement released by Appalachian State. “(Eli) has a true gift to get the most out of his players on and off the field and will lead his team with great character and integrity. I’m very proud of him and excited to see the great things to come for Appalachian State Football.”

Drinkwitz got his first coaching job at Arkansas State, with Malzahn, in 2012. After two seasons with the Red Wolves, he was hired at Boise State in 2014 and was the Broncos’ coordinator in ‘15. Doeren hired Drinkwitz to replace Matt Canada after the 2015 season. He signed a three-year contract in Jan. 2016 and then got a raise to $600,000 before the 2018 season.

Satterfield led Appalachian State (10-2) to the Sun Belt title this season and went 51-24 in six seasons as the Mountaineers’ head coach.

Joe Giglio covers N.C. State and has worked at The N&O since 1995. He has regularly reported on the ACC since 2005.


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