N.C. State has two offensive coordinators.
Veteran assistants Des Kitchings and George McDonald will share the title and play-calling duties for the Wolfpack next season.
Two coaches handling the job typically of one person can get a little complicated. Both Kitchings and McDonald know who will have the final say.
“Coach (Dave) Doeren is in charge,” Kitchings said. “That’s the hierarchy. There’s no discrepancy about that.”
Doeren is wrapping up his seventh spring practice at N.C. State. The Kay Yow Spring Game is on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium.
For Doeren, this spring has been about breaking in new players, particularly on offense, and new assistant coaches.
Kitchings and McDonald were promoted to co-coordinators after Eli Drinkwitz was hired as Appalachian State’s head coach before the bowl game. They both have previously been coordinators at “Power 5” programs, Kitchings at Vanderbilt and McDonald at Syracuse.
The concept of co-coordinators isn’t as unusual as it once was. Clemson has had co-coordinators since Chad Morris left after the 2014 season.
Doeren has has used only one offensive coordinator at a time during his N.C. State tenure — Matt Canada for the first three years and Drinkwitz for the past three years. Under Drinkwitz, N.C. State’s offense ranked No. 8 in the country in passing last season and No. 25 in total offense in 2017.
The Wolfpack has to replace five first-team all-ACC picks on offense from last year’s 9-4 team. There are three new coaches on the offensive side of the ball. Kurt Roper (quarterbacks), John Garrison (offensive line) and Todd Goebbel (tight ends) are the new additions to Doeren’s staff.
The structure of the spread offense will mostly be the same, McDonald said, but with some new wrinkles added by the new assistants.
“Anything that can help N.C. State get better, then let’s look at it and let’s put it together and try to work it out and see what fits,” said McDonald, who is going into his fifth season at N.C. State.
There’s an open dialogue between the coaches, McDonald said, and everything will be scripted for gamedays. That process hasn’t changed with the new assistants. Neither has Doeren’s role.
“Coach Doeren is the lead,” McDonald said. “If he says, ‘I want to do this on third-and-3,’ it doesn’t matter what anybody else says.”
Doeren said it has been a group effort to put the game plan together and will continue to be that way with co-coordinators. Kitchings, the running backs coach was hired in 2012, will be the primary play-caller.
Kitchings, as he has been, will coach from the press box on gameday and McDonald will be on the field. McDonald, who is the receivers coach, has specialty segments, Doeren said, including third downs and red-zone calls.
“Des is the one that kind of triggers it but he’s using George in those certain areas of expertise,” Doeren said.
McDonald compared the relationship to a marriage.
“It’s just matter of both us trying to keep each other on track and trying to fix problems where they arise,” McDonald said. “We’re going to do what’s best for N.C. State.”
Having the coaches, and the structure of the operation, in place is different from nailing down the starting roles. That will take longer to sort through and, in the case of the quarterback, likely until a week or two before the Sept. 1 opener against East Carolina.
Matt McKay, Devin Leary and Bailey Hockman are competing to replace Ryan Finley, a three-year starter, at quarterback.
Three starters on the offensive line and two 1,000-yard receivers, in Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers, also have to be replaced.
Getting the best out of the skill players, receivers Harmon and Meyers last year and running backs Nyheim Hines and Jaylen Samuels in 2017, was Drinkwitz’s strength, McDonald said.
“At the end of the day, the whole offense and really the whole program is driven through the players,” McDonald said. “Whatever these quarterbacks can do and what these receivers can do, that’s what we’re going to do.”