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2022 POAPS: Offensive Coordinator

Let’s take a look at some potential candidates to lead the Wolfpack offense in 2023

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 NC State at North Carolina Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last time I tried this Profile Of A Potential Savior (POAPS) for NC State’s Offensive Coordinator position, Dave Doeren up and hired Tim Beck less than 12 hours after I posted part one of the series. I’m not expecting much different this time around, but I’ll begin the effort anyways... and I’ll be covering more than just three candidates per part.

I’m going to ignore the pie-in-the-sky ideas of poaching an OC from an SEC school or CFP participant, or talking a TV analyst like Dan Mullen into coming to Raleigh as anything other than a head coach.

That said, let’s take a look at a few names...

Willy Korn

Current Gig: Coastal Carolina Offensive Coordinator & QB Coach (2019-2022)

Other OC Experience: none

Stats as a OC (SP+ Offense Ranking): 45th (2022); 6th (2021); 9th (2020); 99th (2019)

The name is most likely familiar to you since he was a big time high school recruit who started off playing his college ball at Clemson. He eventually transferred to DII North Greenville where he had a nice two-year run, including leading the team to a national title game appearance.

Korn has spent his entire coaching career - and his entire life, for that matter - in the Palmetto state, working as a receivers coach at Charleston Southern from 2013-2016 before moving to Coastal Carolina in 2017. He was promoted to the role of QB coach and co-OC in 2019 and has held that position since.

The positives are obvious; just look at those SP+ rankings. Also, the development of QB Grayson McCall has been phenomenal, with McCall earning his third consecutive Sun Belt Player-of-the-Year award in 2022.

There aren’t really negatives, only questions. Those consist of Korn having never worked outside of the state of South Carolina, whether or not he can recruit at a P5 level, and whether the offensive prowess of the Chanticleers over the last few years should be credited to him or (now former) head coach Jamey Chadwell.

Korn is also being mentioned as a candidate for the open South Carolina OC position, so he should have no shortage of suitors.

Robert Anae

Current Gig: Syracuse Offensive Coordinator (2022)

Other OC Experience: Virginia (2016-2021), BYU (2005-2010, 2013-2015)

Stats as a OC (SP+ Offense Ranking): 63rd (2022); 8th (2021); 55th (2020); 48th (2019); 62nd (2018); 91st (2017); 88th (2016); 52nd (2015); 41st (2014); 67th (2013); 74th (2010); 26th (2009); 17th (2008); 40th (2007); 7th (2006); 23rd (2005)

Anae has gained a lot of attention this year for the turnaround of the Syracuse offense, as well for the monster year the Virginia had in 2021 under his guidance. This year, Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader became a dual-threat monster, just a single year removed from most questioning if he was even a P5 caliber passer. Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong rewrote the UVA passing records in 2021 under Anae, and many have speculated that Armstrong (who is now in the transfer portal) could be heading north for his final year of collegiate eligibility should Shrader move on from the Orange.

The positives for Anae as OC are obviously his recent track record with QB development and his extensive experience as an OC.

The negatives are, well, that lengthy track record as an OC. Looking at the advanced metrics, Anae’s offenses were pretty pedestrian (if not worse) from 2010-2020. It wasn’t until the last two seasons that his offenses took off. Are 2021 and 2022 flashes in the pan? Or a sign that things have clicked and Anae has his system in place now?

Also, Anae has never coached QBs. He cut his teeth as an OL coach with inside receivers being the only other position group he’s coached.

Jim Svoboda

Current Gig: Tulane Offensive Coordinator (2022)

Other OC Experience: UCLA (2006), Central Missouri (head coach 2010-2021)

Stats as a OC (SP+ Offense Ranking): 47th (2022); 67th (2006)

Anyone paying attention to college football this year has taken note for the turnaround at Tulane. The Green Wave went from 2-10 in 2021 to 11-2 in 2022 and the American Athletic Conference championship. That’s incredible.

Tulane improved across the board, including on offense where they brought in Svoboda as the new OC. Svoboda crafted a run-heavy offensive scheme, but that’s more to do with working with the talent on hand. His offenses at DII Central Missouri were typically pass-heavy, but also ran the ball effectively. Regardless of the method, his teams put points on the board.

The pros here are obviously extensive experience (in addition to Svoboda’s 11 seasons at Central Missouri, he was also the head coach for 7 seasons at Nebraska Wesleyan) and his ability to build successful offenses. He would provide yet another veteran coach on the Wolfpack staff, someone who has sat in the head chair and can provide guidance when necessary.

The cons are that the Tulane job is the farthest east that Svoboda has coached. He, obviously, has limited ties to the area. Additionally, his only FBS experience aside from the 2022 season is his run as the UCLA QB coach from 2004-2006, which included the 2006 season as the Bruins’ OC. Granted, he was a Broyles Award finalist in 2005.

Will Stein

Current Gig: UTSA Co-Offensive Coordinator & QB Coach (2022)

Other OC Experience: none

Stats as a OC (SP+ Offense Ranking): 16th (2022)

Stein, a former Louisville quarterback, is the co-offensive coordinator and QB coach for UTSA after spending the previous two seasons with the program as the pass game coordinator and WR coach. He is the play-caller for the 2022 CUSA champion Roadrunners.

Prior to joining UTSA on Jeff Traylor’s inaugural staff in San Antonio, Stein was the OC at Lake Travis HS in Texas. Prior to that, he worked as a quality control coach at both Louisville and Texas, spending two seasons with each program.

Just watch UTSA’s offense and you’ll see the pros here. A balanced attack that features a bevy of playmakers. Stein is a football junkie; a young guy who is seen as a potential fast riser in the profession.

The questions all revolve around his experience at this level and his lack of regional ties. His last year at Louisville (2014) was the Cardinals’ first year in the ACC, so you can say his has some experience in the conference, but even that was in a non-recruiting role.

Mike Shanahan

Current Gig: James Madison Offensive Coordinator & WR Coach (2019-2022)

Other OC Experience: none

Stats as a OC (SP+ Offense Ranking): 52nd (2022)

If you’re looking for name recognition, this is your guy.

Wait a minute... Nope. Not related to former NFL coach Mike Shanahan. Scratch that.

Well, either way, Shanahan has seen his star rise this year following JMU’s incredible 8-3 season in their first year at the FBS level. The Dukes actually won their division of the Sun Belt Conference, but were ineligible to play for the conference title, so the Coastal Carolina team the Dukes throttled in the regular season finale went on to get destroyed by Troy instead.

Shanahan was a receiver for Pittsburgh in college, posting a 2nd Team All-Big East performance as a senior in 2012. The Panthers joined the ACC the following year, and Shanahan returned to the program in 2014 as a volunteer and graduate assistant. He’s also made stops at DII IUP and FCS Elon before making his way to JMU in 2018.

He does have the benefit of serving as the recruiting coordinator for the Dukes; however, he’s only ever coached wide receivers, so the fit with NC State looking for a QB coach in addition to an OC doesn’t quite lineup, even with current Wolfpack RB coach Kurt Roper having had QB coach duties in his past.

Seth Littrell

Current Gig: Unemployed (North Texas Head Coach, 2016-2022)

Other OC Experience: UNC (2014-2015), Indiana (2012-2013), Arizona (2010-2011)

Stats as a OC (SP+ Offense Ranking): 53rd (2022); 100th (2021); 83rd (2020); 86th (2019); 67th (2018); 65th (2017); 111th (2016); 7th (2015); 30th (2014); 25th (2013); 52nd (2012); 23rd (2011); 29th (2010);

It was just announced that Littrell has been let go at North Texas after seven years on the job and just a day after losing in the CUSA Championship Game to UTSA. Over his seven years in Denton, the Mean Green finished with 9 wins twice and played in two conference title games. They went 11-5 in conference over the last two years and are set to jump to the AAC in 2023.

Prior to his first head coaching gig, Littrell was the Assistant Head Coach and OC at UNC under Larry Fedora. His final year in Chapel Hill was the high-water mark for the Fedora era as the offense (and program as a whole) backslid after Littrell left town.

Oh, yeah. Littrell and Dave Doeren just happened to be on staff at Kansas together from 2002-2004, Littrell as a Graduate Assistant and Doeren as the LB coach and Recruiting Coordinator. No idea what the relationship was between the two, but sometimes it’s those early connections that last.

The positives here are... well, just look at those offensive numbers he produced when he was an OC. In six seasons as an OC, only once did an offense of his finish outside of the Top 30 in SP+ Offense. Only three times in ten seasons under Doeren has NC State’s offense finished in the Top 30 (29th in 2018, 15th in 2017, and 27th in 2015). Littrell would also offer another former head coach to the staff, one who has a reputation for creating a family-centric program much like Doeren and Ruffin McNeill, and someone with prior ties to the state.

The negatives are basically just that the guy used to coach at UNC. That’s the only tie to that school for the former Oklahoma running back (class of 2000).

Major Applewhite

Current Gig: South Alabama (2021-2022)

Other OC Experience: Houston (head coach, 2017-2018; OC, 2015-2016), Texas (co-OC, 2011-2013), Alabama (2007), Rice (2006)

Stats as a OC (SP+ Offense Ranking): 66th (2022); 106th (2021); 20th (2018); 43rd (2017); 56th (2016); 41st (2015); 62nd (2013); 10th (2012); 43rd (2011); 53rd (2007); 54th (2006);

Probably the most glamorous name of those listed here, but not the most glamorous results. As most of you will remember him for, Applewhite was the starting QB for Texas from 1998-2000, including being under center for the Longhorns in their only ever game against NC State, a 23-20 Wolfpack win in Austin.

Like a few others, he has previous head coaching experience, which is always a plus. Unlike the others, he has a significant strike against him in the form of being reprimanded while at Texas for having an inappropriate relationship with a student trainer. Never a good thing.

Applewhite was the OC for Alabama in Nick Saban’s first season with the program, then quickly moved back to his alma mater for a role under his former coach Mack Brown. He rode out the tail end of Brown’s Texas tenure as the co-OC (along with Bryan Harsin).

I wouldn’t consider Applewhite as a serious candidate for NC State given all of the above, but the name is gathering momentum after South Alabama’s 10-2 season this year and turnaround under 2nd-year head coach Kane Wommack.