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N.C. State sacks veteran coordinator Dave Huxtable

Fayetteville Observer - 12/2/2019

Dec. 2--Dave Doeren said N.C. State had a lot of work to do after Saturday's season-ending setback against North Carolina.

Doeren began that process Monday by relieving defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Dave Huxtable of his duties. Huxtable has worked with the linebackers and helped run the Wolfpack defense since Doeren arrived in 2013. He shared coordinator duties this season with safeties coach Tony Gibson.

"We appreciate all of Dave's contributions to our program and wish him the best," Doeren said in a statement released by the school. "However moving forward defensively, I've decided we would like to go in a different direction."

The move may be the first as Doeren tries to rebound from an injury plagued 2019 season that ended with six straight losses.

A 41-10 setback against the Tar Heels on Saturday completed N.C. State's season with a 4-8 overall record and 1-7 Atlantic Coast Conference mark. The latter left the Wolfpack at the bottom of the ACC Atlantic Division standings and the overall record was the first below .500 under Doeren since his first year.

Offensive struggles, which resulted in N.C. State finishing near the bottom in ACC scoring (22.1), received more attention during the season. The Wolfpack defense was respectable at times, but became extremely vulnerable to the pass down the stretch. State wound up 11th in ACC pass defense, surrendering 255.5 yards per game and 21 touchdowns through the air.

Huxtable has been a consistent figure on the North Carolina college football scene for years. He served two stints as an assistant at East Carolina (1990-91, 1998-99) and spent two seasons at North Carolina (2001-02) before joining Doeren's staff at N.C. State.

Doeren has received criticism for this year's finish on social media, but new N.C. State athletic director Boo Corrigan issued a statement of support along with Monday's announcement about Huxtable.

"The conclusion of a season is a time to reflect, look in the mirror and evaluate the overall direction of a program," Corrigan said. "Dave Doeren is our football coach. He has earned it by winning nine games in back-to-back seasons and I look forward to doing all I can to help Coach Doeren moving forward. The 2019 season didn't unfold the way any of us wanted but we will continue to invest in this program, and to provide the resources to help N.C. State football compete at the highest level."

Doeren received a contract extension from N.C. State back in March after producing back-to-back nine-win seasons. The new agreement runs through the 2023 season.

ACC awards begin

The Atlantic Coast Conference began doling out its postseason awards Monday with players from Boston College, Louisville and Virginia being honored.

Boston College graduate defensive end Richard Yeargin was named recipient of the 2019 Brian Piccolo Award given annually to the league's "most courageous" player. The award is named in memory of the late Wake Forest running back whose NFL career was cut short by cancer. Yeargin began his career at Clemson when he suffered severe injuries in a car accident in June 2017 that led him to retire from the game. He was unexpectedly cleared to play again after earning his degree at Clemson and transferred to Boston College for his final season where he made six starts and played in every game.

Louisville's junior offensive tackle Mekhi Becton was honored with the 2019 Jacobs Blocking Trophy as chosen by the league's head coaches and defensive coordinators. A 6-foot-7, 369-pounder, Becton is a three-year starter and the first Cardinal to win the honor since Louisville joined the ACC in 2014.

Earning the Jim Tatum Award given to the league's top senior student-athlete is Virginia linebacker Jordan Mack. Mack carries a 3.47 grade point average and is on track to graduate later this month with a degree in education. He leads all ACC linebackers with 7.5 sacks this season.

All three athletes and others will be recognized this weekend during activities surrounding the ACC Championship game in Charlotte.

UNC, Wake bowl destinations?

Nothing is written in stone about bowl destinations until after this Saturday's ACC Championship game in Charlotte between Clemson and Virginia. But we can assume a couple of things about where North Carolina and Wake Forest may be headed.

The Deacons (8-4) should be in the mix for one of the ACC's Tier One bowls, which includes the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York, and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee, or the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida.

North Carolina (6-6) could also figure into the Tier One picture, especially with the Pinstripe or Music City games. The Pinstripe, played in Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27, might be a good choice since the school has a high number of alumni in the New York area and the Tar Heels have never played in that game. UNC could also fall to one of the Tier Two games -- the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman in Annapolis, Maryland, or the Walk-On's Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.

ESPN.com analysts Mark Schlabach and Kyle Bonagura have both tapped Wake Forest for the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl against Pac-12 Conference foe in their most recent projections. The two disagree on UNC's destination, however. Schlabach is touting the Tar Heels for Charlotte's Belk Bowl, while Bonagura likes UNC in the Military Bowl. The opponent would be from the SEC at the Belk and from the Big Ten in the Pinstripe.

Schlabach and Bonagura also have the Charlotte 49ers (7-5) headed to the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl on Dec. 20 in Nassau. Schlabach predicts Appalachian State (11-1), which plays for the Sun Belt Conference title on Saturday, will receive a bid to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, while Bonagura is touting the Mountaineers for the Belk Bowl.

Of course, all that's speculation that won't be determined until after the league title games on Saturday.

Staff writer Sammy Batten can be reached at sbatten@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3534.

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