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Offensive Line Coach POAPS - Part III

The POAPS series returns in a different format... just taking shots in the dark

NCAA Football: South Carolina at North Carolina State Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to installment #3 of the Offensive Line Coach POAPS! In Part I we looked at a few longshot candidates who have neither ties to the State of North Carolina nor the immediate region. In Part II, we looked at some of OL coach candidates with ties to the current coaching staff. Today we’ll be looking at some coaches with ties to the state and/or immediate region.

Again, for a catch up on how some of these Offensive Line coaches were identified, go back and read that Part I post.

Let’s get to it!

Greg Adkins

Current Gig: Marshall OL Coach

Current Salary: $175k

Years at Current Gig: 2018

2018 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 52.3 / Standard Deviation: 14.4

Notable Previous OL Coach Positions: Charlotte (2017), Oklahoma State (2015-2016), Syracuse (2009-2012), Tennessee (2003-2008), Troy (2001-2002), Georgia (1996-2000)

Adkins, in case you just completely glossed over that line right above this one, has an impressive resume. The West Virginia native and former Marshall player and assistant coach (this is his second go-round with the Herd - he was on staff for their 1992 D1-AA/FCS National Title squad) has been around the block and coached with some really successful teams and programs. Needless to say, there would be very few doubts about his qualifications if he were to be hired.

At Marshall this year, Adkins took over an offensive line that the previous year did a phenomenal job of keeping the QB upright, but couldn’t run block to save their (or rather, their RB’s) life. In just one year on the job, he took that inconsistent unit (2017 avg rank 73.3 with a std dev of 59.6) and improved their Line Yards rankings from 123rd to 50th. Their pass protection took a hit (pun!), with Sack Rate dropping from 5th to 37th, but some of that can be attributed to breaking in a new, more mobile QB. This year’s Marshall OL wasn’t an elite unit in any one area, but they also had no weaknesses. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

The big question would be whether the 50-year-old Adkins would want to leave his alma mater and home state to come coach the Wolfpack’s OL. State can undoubtedly pay him more than he’s making at Marshall, but is he in a content situation now or is he looking for that opportunity to move back up to a job in a P5 conference?

Shawn Clark

Current Gig: Appalachian State OL Coach

Current Salary: $137k

Years at Current Gig: 2016-2018

2018 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 71.4 / Standard Deviation: 15.5

Notable Previous OL Coach Positions: Kent State (2013-2015), Purdue (2009-2012)

I mean, it worked pretty dang well for State hiring Dwayne Ledford away from his role as OL coach and Co-OC at App State, so why not go back and try it again? Of course, now that former NC State Offensive Coordinator Eli Drinkwitz has been hired at App State, keeping Clark in place might be near the top of the list for Drink’s Day 1 duties. It’s also unknown if Clark wants to leave. Simliar to Adkins above, Clark is currently coaching at his alma mater, a place where he’s a bit of a legend, what with his being a two-time All-American for the Mountaineers. (Side note: Gotta love that one of the two pictures of Clark in his App State bio is him water boarding a kid on the field with a Gatorade bottle)

This is also a tough year for Clark to try to sell himself big on. Despite App State’s success this year in capturing their third straight conference crown (and almost knocking off Penn State in Happy Valley), this was probably Clark’s worst offensive line in his three years coaching in Boone. Also, if that’s a knock, it’s a horrible knock. This 2018 ASU OL wasn’t terrible by any means, but the 2016 and 2017 editions were among the nation’s leaders when it came to keeping the QB clean while also being no slouches at paving the way on the ground for the running game. Of course, that raises the concern of whether or not those first two years were Clark riding out the wave that Ledford had set up for him, or if it just happened to be a year of a small step back before taking a leap back up next year. For what it’s worth, the ASU OL only started one senior this year, but did return three guys from last year’s team with multiple career starts.

Brad Davis

Current Gig: Missouri OL Coach

Current Salary: $400k

Years at Current Gig: 2018

2018 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 23.0 / Standard Deviation: 32.1

Notable Previous OL Coach Positions: Florida (2017), North Texas (2016), East Carolina (2015), James Madison (2014)

In his first year at Missouri, Davis has himself one heck of an OL. Then again, he was gifted a great OL (2017 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 21.9 / Standard Deviation: 25.9). How much credit should really be given to a guy for maintaining what he had in place? Or should a guy even be knocked for that, especially when what he’s maintaining is an elite-level performance?

The big glaring red flag Davis is that he’s on his fourth school in four years. Coaches that jump that frequently are either quickly moving up because they’re immensely talented, or there’s something else going on that’s prompting the moves. In this instance, two of those moves were because he was on a staff that got shit-canned in those years (East Carolina, 2015; Florida, 2017). Again, though, that’s not something to be overly excited about.

Davis has shown the ability to step into a situation and produce when the talent is on hand. He also does have ties to the state, having been a graduate assistant at UNC in 2008 in addition to his season at ECU, and he appears to be a decent recruiter. However, given his propensity to jump from job-to-job and his hefty price tag, I’m not sure I’d be sold on him as the best replacement for Ledford.

Nick Tabacca

Current Gig: Wake Forest OL Coach

Current Salary: unknown

Years at Current Gig: 2014-2018

2018 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 51.6 / Standard Deviation: 28.8

Notable Previous OL Coach Positions: Ball State (2012-2013)

Hey, if Louisville’s going to poach an OL coach from a division opponent, then NC State can, too. Why not?! It worked in Blazing Saddles... (sorry, I’ve been watching Robin Hood: Men in Tights).

Dave Doeren has plenty of experience coaching against Tabacca’s OLs. Tabacca was at MAC member Ball State (Tabacca’s alma mater) for one season (2012) when Doeren was the head coach at Northern Illinois, and obviously the two have been matched up each year since Tabacca joined Dave Clawson’s staff at Wake Forest in 2014. So this would be as much of a well-known hire as Doeren can find for someone he’s never actually coached with.

Tabacca’s 2018 WF OL struggled in pass protection, but they were also blocking for a true freshman QB; not all of those sacks are purely the result of the OL. That unit did excel, however, at run blocking, ranking in the Top 50 in five of six run blocking categories, including being Top 25 in Line Yards and Stuff Rate.

The unknown here is what Tabacca’s getting paid at Wake Forest. Since Wake is a private institution, they don’t have to disclose their salary information. I’m going to assume he’s making less than Ledford was making, but that’s a complete guess.

Would he take the job? No idea. But he’s done a great job with lesser talent in Winston-Salem, and it would be kind of nice to take some punch out of the offense of a division opponent that’s been a thorn in our side the last couple years (and longer, but we don’t need to get into that).

Bonus Round

(Because I didn’t have them on my original list)

Don Mahoney

Current Gig: East Carolina OL Coach (although currently unemployed)

Current Salary: $130k

Years at Current Gig: 2018

2018 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 76.2 / Standard Deviation: 47.9

Notable Previous OL Coach Positions: Tennessee (2013-2016), Cincinnati (2010-2012), Central Michigan (2007-2009), Tulane (1999-2006)

Mahoney was actually the OL coach at Tulane when Chris Scelfo, who appeared in Part II of the POAPS OL series, was the head coach there. Small world! Actually, speaking of small worlds, Mahoney is a graduate of Marshall and was a student assistant on the 1992 Marshall team that won the D1-AA/FCS National title; that’s the same team on which fellow POAPS member Greg Adkins was an assistant coach and Trevor Thomas, the father of current NC State WR Thayer Thomas and NC State LB commit Drake Thomas, was a starting offensive lineman. Look at this whole thing coming back full circle!

Anyways, Mahoney has a track record of success. After his stint with Scelfo at Tulane (which despite the overall record was successful given that Tulane has had one winning season, a 7-6 campaign in 2013, in the 12 years since Scelfo last coached a game there), Mahoney hopped aboard the Butch Jones express. He first joined Jones at Central Michigan, then followed him to Cincinnati, before ending up at Tennessee, where Jones was ultimately fired.

Advanced metrics are lacking for much of Mahoney’s career, but we do have figures for his 2014-2017 Tennessee OLs, as well as his 2018 ECU OL. From 2014-2016, his Tennessee OLs were great at creating running room for the rushing attack, consistently finishing strong in the Line Yards category, but they struggled to pass block to a level that allowed the passing game to take off. His last Tennessee OL (2017) struggled at both, which isn’t the only reason that Jones and crew were fired, but it certainly didn’t help.

Mahoney’s OL at ECU in 2018 was very similar to NC State’s 2018 OL (and a complete reversal of his ones at UT): great at pass protection, but struggling to run block. Mahoney was dealt a tough hand, though, at ECU; he lost his starting center (and ended up having to start a true freshman at center for most of the year) and his starting RG early in the year, and his group was pass protecting for inexperienced QBs which allowed opposing defenses to key on stopping the run.

Mahoney would be a solid hire given his track record. He’s coached a slew of All-Conference selections throughout his career and has coached two first round NFL Draft picks. Mahoney’s also been a solid recruiter throughout his career, including being credited with landing the commitment of 5-star OT Trey Smith in Tennessee’s 2017 recruiting class.

Chris Kapilovic

Current Gig: North Carolina OL Coach (although currently unemployed)

Current Salary: $450k

Years at Current Gig: 2012-2018

2018 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 68.1 / Standard Deviation: 47.9

Notable Previous OL Coach Positions: Southern Miss (2008-2011)

Kapilovic has been the OL Coach for Larry Fedora for Fedora’s entire head coaching career, beginning at Southern Miss in 2008. For the last three years, Kapilovic has also been UNC’s Offensive Coordinator. Those OC duties went great for him in 2016 and had him looking like he’d be primed to follow in the footsteps of the UNC OC before him and jump to a head coaching gig (Seth Littrell, North Texas), but he hasn’t been such a hot name since. The 2017 and 2018 seasons certainly put a damper on the perceptions of his play calling abilities.

Kapilovic’s UNC OLs have been a little all over the place the last few seasons. His 2015 and 2017 lines were among the nation’s best at run blocking, but his 2016 line was just so-so at it and his 2018 line couldn’t create room for anyone despite having a talented trio of running backs to block for. His 2017 OL couldn’t pass block a lick, but all of his other OLs between 2014 and 2018 were at or just outside of being Top 25 units in Sack Rate. There aren’t any advanced metrics on it, but his 2012 OL was considered a beast of a unit and had three players drafted. That also raises an issue, though.

Despite producing some effective OL groups, Kapilovic hasn’t exactly been great at developing talent into next-level players. Over his seven years at UNC, he’s had five lineman selected in the NFL Draft, but all five of those were in 2012 and 2013, meaning each of those players were already in Chapel Hill and significantly far along in their development when he arrived. While he has been a good recruiter at UNC, it wouldn’t appear that Kapilovic has the ability to develop those players into NFL-level talent in the way that Ledford did.