After N.C. State’s disappointing second half against UNC this past Saturday, resulting in their 8th loss of the season, I used my better judgement and took a week off and a step back to not write anything based on a kneejerk reaction. Now that I have a clearer head, I am just going to let this season be, but I find myself wondering what offseason changes may be on the horizon for this program.
Well, I didn’t have to wait long for said changes to occur. On Sunday, quarterback Matt McKay announced that he would be entering the transfer portal and leaving N.C. State. During his career in Raleigh, he completed 58.8% of his passes, threw for just under 1,000 yards, 3 passing TDs, 5 rushing TDs and 1 INT. While he was considered a great teammate, McKay never really found his footing in Raleigh. He only played a few snaps in 2018 and in 2019 started just five games for the Wolfpack while playing minimal time in one other game. I think everyone on the staff and in the fanbase wanted McKay to be the next guy at quarterback for N.C. State but it just didn’t click. Passing inaccuracies and a lack in ability to get the offense moving against equal or lesser competition led to other quarterbacks surpassing McKay on the depth chart. I believe and hope that McKay finds a good landing spot and finishes out his career on a high note.
The news about McKay got the offseason news ticker buzzing but more news would drop on Monday. Monday morning, N.C. State announced that defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable had been relieved of his duties. This probably came as a relief and surprise to many State fans who have been clamoring for a change on defense for weeks. N.C. State ranked 74th in total defense in 2019, giving up almost six yards per play and just under 400 yards per game. The Wolfpack defensive stats had been in decline over the past few years under Huxtable. In 2017 the Wolfpack ranked 58th and 66th in 2018 in total defense. Rankings aside, State allowed opposing receivers to easily run routes and find space down field, struggled to stop teams on third down and looked off-kilter in the 3-3-5 defensive scheme. I am not going to sit here behind a computer screen and advocate that firing someone is or isn’t the right move, that’s not my place. However, I will objectively say in order for N.C. State to be a better defensive team in 2020 and beyond, something had to change whether that be with or without Dave Huxtable.
As if the news of your original starting quarterback transferring and the firing of your defensive coordinator wasn’t enough, on Wednesday it was announced that Tony Gibson would be the new defensive coordinator at N.C. State. Gibson was on the N.C. State staff for the 2019 season where he served as the co-defensive coordinator. It is pretty common for someone already on the staff to be promoted when a higher profile role opens up but what is interesting about this move is that it most likely means that the 3-3-5 defense will stick around in Raleigh for another season. I know many fans will not be happy about that since N.C. State struggled to get turnovers and to get off the field on third down this season. In this first year on the job, Gibson will have to settle into his new role quickly if he wants to keep a vocal and rabid fanbase at bay in 2020.
As I stated earlier, the offseason just began for the Wolfpack and already so many changes have occurred in just a few days. However, I want to know where this program is going in 2020 and beyond. What are the goals that this program wants to achieve in 2020? Is the goal to beat Carolina, go to a bowl game, get to 8 or 9 wins, win the Atlantic, win an ACC championship or even more. Now yes, I know many of these things are far-fetched goals but you get the point. What should I expect as a fan in 2020? If the goal in 2020 is to just go to a bowl game and the team only wins five games and fails at that goal, so be it. I would know what the expectation was and not be all that disappointed if not met. However, if the goal is to compete for the Atlantic title and the team only wins four games then there is a gap in the process and I as a fan would like to know what that gap is and how it can be fixed. My point here is that I want Doeren and others to be open and honest about the current status of the football program and where they hope to be by the end of the 2020 season.
For the State football program to rebound and move onward from the disappoint of 2019, I feel that everyone needs to come together to be on the same page in 2020. Coach Doeren, Athletic Director Boo Corrigan, Chancellor Randy Woodson, the athletic department and the fanbase all need to be in unison with one another about the expectations of the 2020 season and where the program should be in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years. I felt like for most of 2019 the fans had one expectation, Coach Doeren and the staff had another while the athletic department and others had another set of expectations. Everything was out of sync. If everyone can get on the same page and have an understanding as to where this program is right now and what is the next step in the process to advance the program forward, then 2020 will be a much more successful year.
Honestly, right now I have no idea what my personal expectations for N.C. State football are in 2020 or will be. Too many things can change between now and next August but I do hope that the 2020 season is better than 2019 and progresses this program forward in the right direction.