By: Jeniece Jamison
The Tom O'Brien era of N.C. State football was plagued by a lackluster offense, mediocre recruiting and good -- but not great -- finishes. While each of these served as the pitfalls of O'Brien's six-year tenure at State, Athletics Director Debbie Yow seems to, at least on paper, have found the remedy to those issues in DeKalb, Ill.
Six days after O'Brien was removed from the head-coaching seat, a new chapter began for the program with the hiring of Dave Doeren, former head football coach of Northern Illinois, to the same position.
Any change in major college football is all associated with one statistic as the bottom line-- wins and losses. Despite O'Brien leading the Pack to a 7-5 record this season, three consecutive bowl games and five straight wins against rival North Carolina, it wasn't good enough. Where O'Brien was below par, Doeren excelled.
Doeren's Huskies went 23-4 overall while he was at the helm and 17-1 against Mid-Atlantic Conference opponents. This season, they reached a No. 16 national ranking, a school-record 12-win season and captured the MAC championship over Kent State. The Huskies are the only Football Bowl Subdivision team to win 21 of its last 22 games.
"If we want to be the champions in this office, which I know we do, if we want to be consistent top-25 program, then we're going to have to be tireless workers and understand that's our charge," Doeren said. "And we will be."
Like the hectic 24 hours between winning its season finale against Boston College and O'Brien's departure for the Wolfpack, Doeren has also had to make a life-changing adjustment in a short period of time.
His former school earned a bid to the Orange Bowl and will play Florida State. Doeren will not coach NIU in the bowl game, but he said leaving the team at this time was a difficult decision.
Doeren brings experience as a recruiting coordinator at Wisconsin to a program that has struggled to bring top-rated classes into Raleigh. The 2011 class was the worst under O'Brien, ranked last in the conference according to Rivals.com. Doeren said he would honor each of the current 2013 commits under O'Brien if they choose to stay committed to State.
"To see all of these great freshmen in the state of North Carolina starting off their careers at other schools is upsetting," Doeren said.
While O'Brien's office was plagued by dropped passes and a disjointed rushing attack all season, Doeren again provides a flip of the coin in the offensive category as well. NIU ranked 15th in total offense and scored 40.8 points per game this season. State averaged 28.4 points per outing. But in an era full of high-powered offenses this isn't good enough, ranking State 72nd overall.
As the Doeren era begins, for the price tag of $1.8 million per year in a five-year contract, Yow is expecting him to push the program to national prominence, refusing to accept the status quo.