You know I hate to write this.
I’m a Keatts guy. I’ve written article after article defending him. I believe in the culture he’s building. I believe he’s a great motivator and that guys will run through walls for him. I believe, now that the fear of NCAA sanctions is gone, you’re finally going to see that he’s an elite recruiter. I believe he’s eventually going to make NC State into an ACC contender.
But sometimes you just gotta call it like it is.
I know, I know. Manny Bates is hurt. Ross is hurt. Morsell was down for a while. Cam Hayes is struggling, etc. The guy has excuses he can pull, but he doesn’t want to use those (respect that!), and neither should you.
NC State has 10 losses. 5 of those have been by 6 points or less. I’ll say it another way. 5 of their losses have been 2 possession games. Another one, against the best team in the country at the time, was tied at the end of regulation (or just a one-possession game).
That’s 6 games that came down to just a couple possessions. 6 very winnable games. And winnable games should be won.
This is why I’m pointing the finger at Kevin Keatts. It’s time for him to be accountable. I’ve sat back and watched this team and they are not a bad team. In fact, you have to first credit Keatts for getting this team to play so hungry and with so much ‘want-to’ before you can criticize him for his in-game mistakes.
I’m just going to be blunt. Keatts is coaching reactively and that alone is costing NC State a few points here and there, which this season, is the difference between a 9-10 team and a 14-5 team.
Let me give you some examples.
Late on moving Seabron to primary ball handler
I told you that to get this team to its full potential they needed to move Seabron to the point. Cam Hayes has struggled all year, the offense was stagnant and it was costing this team games. I didn’t want to write that article. You never want to write an article that recommends sitting a kid down. You never want to dig into the stats that show why that recommendation holds merit. These kids are 18 years old. I had the stats. I saw that it was necessary, and it’s likely a lot of you did too. But nothing was changing. State was dropping games. So I wrote the piece. The next game, Seabron was at point. And it’s not because of any article, it’s because it was becoming all too obvious.
But why did it take that long?
I started to note that maybe Cam needed a role change after the Nebraska game. We hinted at it again after the Louisville game. I noted it again after the Purdue loss. Finally, after the Miami game, I had seen enough. I put out a clear and concise argument for moving Hayes off the ball and moving Seabron to the point.
Look, hindsight is 20/20, but I’m going out of my way and putting my a#* on the line in these columns. If Hayes turns it around or Seabron falls apart as the PG, I look like an idiot. People lose trust in this site. This site makes less money. And the guys that run the site fire me. That’s why you don’t see many sportswriters write these types of articles. You can’t be wrong if you don’t have a strong opinion!
But why live like that? No one wants to read the same old regurgitated synopsis. They want to know how to fix a problem. Is there something there that the staff is missing? Is there a way that a few decisions or adjustments could fix our team?
Usually, the answer is no. Usually, the answer is you just don’t have the talent.
However, in this case, during this season, I think the answer is yes. And that, folks, is why I’m writing THIS article.
Late on increasing minutes for Ernest Ross
Let’s move on to the Ernest Ross example, which at this point is moot, but worth noting.
The kid is done for the year with an ankle fracture, just as he was about to break out.. But Ernest Ross had been showing signs of being ready to contribute. All while Dowuona and Gibson were building a track record of struggling against bigger, more athletic bigs. There was a noticeable difference in Ross during the Miami loss. I noted that and suggested it was time he start to see more playing time in my post-game recap.
However, he then didn’t see a single minute vs. Florida State, a 2 point loss in which Dowuona and Gibson combined for 39 minutes, zero points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Would it have made a difference? We’ll never know.
Then came the first Virginia Tech game where Ross played 15 minutes, had 4 points and 3 rebounds. I again hinted that it was time to start getting Ross more minutes and figured the staff was seeing the same thing. But again was dumbfounded as he only saw 4 minutes vs. Clemson (a game NC State lost by 5.) In that one, Dowuona and Gibson combined for 35 minutes, 2 points, 2 rebounds, and one block, all while allowing PJ Hall to drop 20 points, almost all from the paint.
What was going on? Why, while Ross was showing promise in his small amount of minutes, was he seeing games where he barely got off the bench? Was I seeing things? The stats were showing that Ross was being more productive, but they really weren’t convincing enough to come out and really question anything publically.
Then came the Louisville game. NC State won on the road in blowout fashion. I analyzed the game from a number of different perspectives and the most obvious difference was the impact Ross had on the game. He played a season-high 18 minutes, had 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. But the stats didn’t tell the whole story. The game was different when Ross was in. He was altering shots inside and this was forcing the Louisville guards to play a little more hesitant on their drives. It changed the game. I went back and manually tracked his minutes.
When Ernest Ross was on the floor (18 minutes). NC State won 47-21.
When Ernest Ross was not on the floor (22 minutes). NC State lost 32-42.
This tracked with what we had started to see vs. Miami and what we saw in the Virginia Tech game. Just his presence was creating a net positive for NC State. This seemed clear 4 games prior, but you still had the 2 games in there where he barely played. What gives?
That’s why I put out the “The numbers don’t lie. It’s time to hand Ernest Ross the starting role.” Again, I didn’t want to write that piece and a lot of you criticized me calling for him as a starter. It seems risky to sit down your starting big and bench your other big for a freshman that was just emerging, but it had become too clear. The numbers were telling the story and low and behold, Keatts, in last night’s press conference said “If Ernest Ross was going to playing this one, he was going to fight for starter minutes.”
Keatts is making the right moves, he’s just making them too late. Your current bigs provided a clear and large data set. They weren’t producing. Ross was trending in the right direction, and you were losing games where he wasn’t seeing significant time.
Now, would major minutes for Ross have changed anything against Duke or Virginia Tech? We’ll never know since Ross was lost to an ankle injury right after that piece. But that question should have been answered during the FSU-VT-Clemson-Louisville stretch.
Now, NC State has lost two in a row. And I’m back to pointing out another trend.
Late on moving Casey Morsell back into the starting role
Casey Morsell is a guy I’ve loved since Keatts landed him as a transfer from UVA. After watching his high school highlights and his games at Virginia, it was clear to me that Morsell would be the team’s best defender and would likely become a pretty good scoring option in this offense. He started strong. Keatts was starting him and he was averaging 12 ppg, then he went down with an ankle injury.
I thought Keatts did a good job at trying to get him back in the mix, but he just didn’t look the same. He wasn’t defending at the same level and he couldn’t buy a shot. He wasn’t right, which eventually led Keatts to turn to Thomas Allen.
This worked out well as Allen went through a stretch of being red-hot. He had a great game vs. Miami, a good game vs FSU, an ok game vs. VT and then a good game against Clemson. He was helping NC State on offense, but they lost 3 of those 4 games and their defense was struggling.
During that Clemson game, Casey Morsell logged 22 minutes and seemed to look like his old self. He was defending well, and 2 of his 4 3s fell. I expected Morsell to start carving out his role again, but one game wasn’t enough to provide real confidence. The next game vs. Louisville Morsell only logged 12 minutes and didn’t score. Smith was hitting everything so he wasn’t coming out and Allen was 4-10 and had 4 assists with no turnovers. I get it, but Hayes was 1-7 and got 19 minutes (although he did have 4 assist). Morsell is your best defender and looked like he was starting to get things back on track, why wasn’t Keatts getting him more run? Still, NC State won and the offense was buzzing, so it glossed over any problems that were lingering under the surface.
The Duke game is where it became clear for me. Morsell logged just 11 minutes and only hit 1 of 4 shots (another 3), but he had 2 steals and a rebound in his time. But it was how he looked in that game that made things obvious. Morsell was locked in defensively. He was moving so well, badgering the Duke guards, and was the only guy keeping his man out of the paint. He was playing physical, and never gave up, barking at his team to play harder, even as the game had surely slipped away.
Meanwhile, Allen played 18 minutes, scored 5 points and had 3 assists. Hayes played 8 minutes, had 4 points, but turned it over 3 times. And Breon Pass got some run, logging 10 quality offensive minutes, scored 5 points, 2 assists, but was overmatched on defense (fouling 4 times in those 10 mins).
Morsell was obviously back to 100% physically and was easily the best on-ball defender that NC State had against Duke. He was also starting to hit some shots. So I wondered why he wasn’t beating these other guys out for minutes? He can provide the same amount of offense, he gives you good size, more physicality and he’s easily a huge upgrade on defense. In fact, when I looked, sure enough, Morsell was NC State’s 3rd best 3-point shooter on the season. It was time that Keatts stopped playing around and started committing more to Morsell. Why wasn’t it in the process of happening?
Well, I gave him benefit of the doubt. He was probably going to commit to him against Virginia Tech. I was so sure that Morsell was going to break out that it was one of the keys to the game I wrote up in my pregame piece…
Fast forward to last night’s game and what do you know. Morsell gets 26 minutes, scores 11 on 4-7 shooting, hits 3-4 3s, grabs 4 rebounds, and nets 3 steals (should have been 4 steals and 13 points but the refs called him for a phantom reach on his pick-pocket at half court).
Morsell broke out. It wasn’t a lucky guess. It was trending data and observations. It was clear Morsell was about to do this. So again, why did Kevin Keatts keep him out of the starting lineup? Did he not see this? Did his staff not present this?
What’s the big deal, you might ask? Morsell did get 26 minutes to Allen and Hayes’ combined 19.
Well, remember, NC State lost this game by 2 points. 5 of their 10 losses have been 2 possession games. Morsell didn’t get into this game until it was 13-0. When your season is riding on such a thin margin, you can’t keep missing like this. Every minute counts. Every substitution matters. You can’t keep being reactive. You need to see these trends and make changes before the situation forces you to.
NC State lost this Virginia Tech game by 2 points.
When Casey Morsell was on the floor (26 minutes). NC State won by 13.
When Casey Morsell was not on the floor (14 minutes). NC State lost by 15.
Would starting Morsell have won this game for you? Based on the trends and stats of this game, yeah, probably.
This isn’t just me saying these. Log onto Twitter. Look on Facebook. There are a handful of real basketball heads who are analyzing what we’re seeing and are pointing out these adjustments. Sure they’re small. A few minutes more for this guy, a few minutes less for that guy. But when you’re margins are this razor thin, they matter.
Look, I’m a Keatts guy. I believe in what he’s doing here. I want him here. I don’t think there should even be conversations about replacing him at any point in the near future… but for this issue, I gotta call it like it is. The players are responsible for their play, but the coaches are responsible for having the right guys on the court to make those plays. Keatts has made adjustments, he’s just simply been too slow to make them in a season where the difference between an NCAA Tournament appearance and going home after the ACC Tourny is just a possession or two per game.
That, folks, is another visible trend. One that, this time, we hope is dealt with proactively instead of reactively.
Wolferetti: UNC’s 39 FTs vs. NC State were the most they’ve shot in an ACC game since 2007 (in a game that had eerily similar stats and outcome)
I’m over on Sports-Reference.com digging through these Free Throw attempt numbers and I’m finding some pretty interesting nuggets.
I spent yesterday morning digging through NC State’s FTAs and FT disparity numbers, which I put together in this article I posted yesterday.
Today I started looking at UNC’s FTAs and FT disparity numbers. Sport-Reference only goes back to 2010 for game logs, but up until that point, I wasn’t finding another game where UNC shot as many or more FTs than they did on Saturday. Then I moved to ESPN, where I had to go box score by box score. Finally, in 2007 I found a game. It was #1 UNC vs. Virginia, in Chapel Hill, on January 10th.
So, since 2007, UNC has never attempted more than 38 FTs in an ACC game. That means UNC’s 39 FTs vs. NC State was the most since that game. Meaning, NC Stayed played the most physical ACC game against UNC in 15 years?
Look, I watched the game, and I’m just going to go ahead and say, that’s not the case. In fact, I thought NC State was a little softer than usual in this game. But that’s just an opinion, so go rewatch and make up your own mind.
Meanwhile, I’ll just point out a few things about that 2007 #1 UNC vs. Virginia game in Chapel Hill and show you that there were quite a few interesting parallels to Saturday’s game.
In 2007 vs UNC, Virginia shot 11 free throws.
On Saturday vs UNC, NC State shot 12 free throws.
In 2007 vs Virginia, the Heels shot 41 free throws.
On Saturday vs NC State, the Heels shot 39 free throws.
In 2007 the UNC / Virginia FT disparity was +30 for UNC
On Saturday the UNC / NC State FT disparity was +27 for UNC
In 2007 vs UNC, Virginia shot a better percentage from the floor than UNC (44% to 38%)
On Saturday vs UNC, NC State shot a better percentage from the floor than UNC (42% to 37%)
In 2007 vs. UNC, Virginia shot better from 3pt range than UNC (36% to 23%)
On Saturday vs UNC, NC State shot better from 3pt range than UNC (29% to 22%)
In 2007 vs. UNC, Virginia had more FGs in the game than UNC (26 to 25)
On Saturday vs UNC, NC State had more FGs in the game than UNC (26-20)
In 2007 UNC beat Virginia by 10 points (79-69)
On Saturday UNC beat NC State by 11 points (80-69)
This was a #1 ranked UNC team with Tyler Hansbrough (who happened to be at the game on Saturday) and Brandan Wright in the middle. They were 15-1 at the time with their only loss coming to Gonzaga. This Virginia game was their 2nd ACC game of the season. 24 of the FTs were shot by the two bigs, but the rest were spread out amongst the UNC guards, meaning this wasn’t just Hansbrough and Wright drawing contact. EVERYONE on UNC was drawing contact. Ellington, Lawson, Rashawn Terry, Quentin Thomas, and Danny Green shot the other 17.
Anyways, again, this doesn’t prove anything, but it is pretty peculiar. I was out here looking for FT totals in ACC play and couldn’t find one that was equal to or higher than the 39 from Saturday. And it just so happens that when I do find one (allll the way back in 2007), it’s also had the largest FT disparity we’ve seen by UNC in ACC play since Saturday. These crazy high (25+) FT disparity games don’t come often in the ACC for UNC, but when they come they seem to come on nights when they are shooting really low percentages from the floor.
Take from this what you will.
WOLFERETTI: Only 3 times in the Keatts era has an ACC team shot over 30 FTs with a positive double-digit disparity vs. NC State. All 3 times it’s been UNC.
This loss doesn’t sting, it stinks.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. The refs were the primary reason NC State lost this game. What we watched wasn’t basketball, it was guys in striped shirts controlling an outcome.
Now, did they mean to do it? Did they get caught up in the UNC home crowd? Was there some kind of unconscious bias in play? Was it just a coincidence? Did NC State force their hand?
We’ll never know, but it seems par for the course if you’ve watched enough ACC basketball.
Think I’m being dramatic or making excuses? Judge for yourself.
UNC was 32-39 from the free-throw line. NC State was 12-12.
Yes, the Heels shot 27 more free throws than NC State last night.
You RARELY see a disparity in numbers like that in the ACC. I mean, sometimes you’ll get a game that is called super tight. In those games, you’d expect to see high Free Throw Attempt (FTA) totals for both teams. And sometimes you’ll get a game where the refs let you play, meaning you have low FTAs across the board. But I’ve never seen a conference game where on one side it’s called as extremely tight and on the other side they mostly just let the guys play. But that is exactly what happened last night. And if you somehow think that might be normal, I’ll take the time here to prove that it’s an EXTREME outlier.
Free Throw Attempt (FTA) Disparity in ACC games from NC State’s 2022-23 season to date
(+4) NC State 19 – Pitt 15
(-5) NC State 12 – Miami 17
(-3) NC State 21 – Louisville 24
(+6) NC State 18 – Clemson 24
(-11) NC State 15 – Duke 26*
(-4) NC State 21 – VT 25
(-2) NC State 20 – Miami 22
(+2) NC State 21 – GT 19
(-27) NC State 12 – UNC 39*
Yeah, you see it. 27 is by far the largest FTA disparity we’ve seen all season, and it’s not even close.
So why does that matter? Well, the more fouls that are called, the more referees control the pace, flow (and score) of the game.
See, the more fouls, the quicker the teams get into the bonus, and when teams are in the bonus, any foul is one that stops momentum, sends guys to the line for free shots, and thus, changes the score without offense or defense involved.
Now, I’m not saying ACC referees stack up the fouls in games in order to control the game, but what I am saying is that IF someone was going to try to control a basketball game from the referee’s position, this would pretty much be the way you’d do it. How do I know? Well, it’s one way they DID do it in the NBA according to former NBA referee Tim Donaghy who was caught by the FBI for fixing games. Don’t take it from me though, Operation Flagrant Foul (a documentary about the Donaghy saga is on Netflix right now).
Now look, before you lose your mind and accuse me of accusing ACC refs of cheating, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m explaining how games are controlled and I’m telling you that I only know that because a former ref explained it to the world. Now, after 30+ years of watching NC State basketball, I’m starting to wonder how it’s possible these unlikely things keep happening. Some people call it the Curse of Jimmy V. Some people call it NC State S#*t. Whatever you call it, you know what I’m talking about.
The main problem is, I’m not superstitious and it’s getting harder and harder for me to believe that no matter who the players are, no matter who the coaches are, no matter who the athletic director is, the same story continues to unfold with Wolfpack basketball.
So what is going on?
Last night was just another chapter is the story. NC State plays UNC, fouls somehow play a role, the game flow just doesn’t feel like the rest of the games we’ve watched, and then the Pack loses. Fans get pissed. Blame the refs. Rinse and repeat.
So I wondered if I looked closely at the numbers if I’d find any patterns or try to uncover any hints as to what is going on. Again, not saying anyone is cheating, but wondering if there are subconscious biases involved or something. And if I didn’t find anything then I was going to just jump on the superstition bandwagon and call it a day.
Anyways, here are a few things that stood out to me.
– I saw that State’s season-low of 12 FTAs is tied for the lowest in conference play this year for the Pack.
They DID have 2 games where they shot fewer, but they were not in conference play. Those were vs Austin Peay and vs. Elon. In those games, NC State shot a ton of 3s. 28 vs AP and 33 vs Elon. So I guess in those games you could argue that they were playing mostly on the perimeter and there wasn’t much contact happening on dribble drives or post-play. This doesn’t hold true vs. UNC. NC State played physical on both ends, They were going down to Burns while Smith and Joiner were attacking the basket quite a bit. NC State shot just 17 3s (least amount in a conference game this season) vs. UNC. The Pack wasn’t just hanging out around the perimeter hoisting up 3s. They were playing a very similar style to what UNC was playing (UNC shot 18 3s) So there goes the ‘different styles of play’ argument.
– I found out There is very rarely a +20 FTA disparity in the ACC.
In fact, in the Keatts era, there have been only 7 games with a FTA disparity of 15 or more on either side, and of those, only 2 have had a disparity of 20 or more. I listed them below…
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2021-22
(-27) NC State 12 – UNC 39 = Lost by 11
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2021-22
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2020-21
(+15) NC State 24 – Clemson 9 = Lost by 4
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2019-20
(-18) NC State 7 – UNC 25 = Lost by 10
(-18) NC State 13 @ UNC 31 = Lost by 6
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2018-19
(-19) NC State 9 @ Wake 28 = Lost by 3
(-22) NC State 7 @ Louisville 29 = Lost by 7
(-17) NC State 11 @ Duke 28 = Lost by 16
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2017-18
The only Pattern I could find here is that NC State lost all of these ‘high FT disparity games.’ It also may be worth noting that of the 7 ‘high disparity’ games, 5 of the 7 were Tobacco Road teams. And the last note here is that 5 of the ‘high disparity’ games FTA slants went against NC State and only once went for them. However, they even lost the one where they shot a ton more FTs.
– I found out that NC State rarely have games where one or both of the teams attempt 30 FTs in ACC play.
Actually, during the Keatts era only 7 times during ACC play has NC State played in a game where this occurred.
1 – Last night vs UNC (they shot 39 FTs)
2- In 2021 vs. Pitt (they shot 34 and NC State shot 30 FTs)
3. In 2020 vs UNC (They shot 31 FTs)
4. In 2019 vs Wake (They shot 30 FTs)
5. In 2019 vs FSU (They shot 30 FTs)
6. In 2019 vs UNC (They shot 37 FTs)
7. In 2018 vs Wake (They shot 31 FTs)
No real pattern here other than UNC being here 3 times, and again 5 of the 7 games are Tobacco Road teams.
– However, if you look at those 30 FT games again, and then look at the disparity of those FTs, here is what you find…
1. NC State 12 – UNC 39 (-27)
2. NC State 34 – Pitt 30 (-4)
3. NC State 13 – UNC 31 (-18)
4. NC State 30 – Wake 26 (+6)
5. NC State 21 – FSU 30 (-9)
6. NC State 24 – UNC 37 (-13)
7. NC State 31 – Wake 22 (+9)
The only time over the entire Keatts era (during ACC play) that you had a team with extraordinarily high Free Throw Attempts (FTAs) in a game AND a double-digit disparity in team FTAs was the 3 UNC games, one of which was last night.
Kind of interesting if you ask me. But not convinced of anything….
Then I went to see “What if this had happened in any other ACC game prior to last night for UNC.” I wanted to see if UNC just lived at the foul line all the time while their opponents weren’t able to get there. If so, maybe they just play a style of basketball that I was unaware existed. One where you’re able to be very physical on offense and get to the line, but able to play such good defense that you don’t allow your opponent to the line.
I mean, you could also just say they always get calls, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.
However, what I found is that aside from the NC State game, their highest Free Throws Attempted (FTAs) in ACC play is 27 vs VT. And in almost every conference game this season, their FTA discrepancy has been around 3 to 5. Oh, but there was one other outlier other than the +27 from last night, which was a +16 vs. Georgia Tech (They shot 24 to GTs 8 FTs) and that game happened to be on the heels of their 4 game losing streak when the bottom was falling out and they NEEDED a win.
Interesting again, but at the end of the day, this proves nothing. Maybe NC State was just foul-happy last night and UNC wasn’t. Maybe despite a full roster of different players, the same thing tends to happen every couple of years, only when NC State takes on UNC. Maybe, these are just excuses and NC State really is just cursed.
Or maybe not.
Wolferetti: A recap of UNC’s no-good, very bad weekend
Sure, this is an NC State site, and we like to keep things positive. So we were positive in our decision to rehash with our readers, the awful weekend that UNC just had. And yeah it’s Tuesday and I should have written this Monday, but I was busy, so you get it today. Let’s get to it.
First off, you had NC State capping of the football season with a win over UNC, at Carolina. To make matters worse, NC State was starting their 4th string QB (Ben Finley) who just so happened to outperform their Heisman-hopeful freshman.
And the way they lost was brutal. A missed chip shot in overtime, which was one of two missed FGs on the night for Noah Burnette. Here, watch…
Ouch. And Finley didn’t just outperform Maye, he also dug at him in the meeting with the media.
NC State quarterback Ben Finley gets a little dig on UNC quarterback Drake Maye, letting him know he is excited about getting his degree from NCSU in December: pic.twitter.com/TVnsdCJAXS
— TheWolfpackCentral (@NCStateRivals) November 26, 2022
And then there was Dave Doeren who didn’t mince words when he said this…
Doeren, paraphrased during the broadcast:
“They don’t like us. We hate them. We’re blue collar, they’re elitist. Their coaches talk down to us, they talk behind our backs in recruiting, and negatively about our coaching staff.”
Well then. https://t.co/3PGco9BNhl
— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) November 25, 2022
According to the broadcasts, after saying this to the reporters, they asked if it was on the record and Doeren said “I don’t give a &*$#”.
Later that night, UNC, the #1 ranked team in college basketball also had a pretty bad showing, losing to Iowa State by 5…
And then turning around the next day, and losing to Alabama by 2 in overtime.
This led UNC to see the biggest single-week drop (from #1 to #8) by a #1 team in the AP Poll era.
North Carolina’s drop from No. 1 to No. 18 in this week’s AP poll is the biggest single-week drop for a No. 1 team in the AP poll era, per @ESPNStatsInfo.
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) November 28, 2022
So to recap. Their Drake Maye Heisman dreams were crushed, they lost to rival NC State, they were the but of a joke by a 4th string QB, they rival coach called them elitist, and their basketball fans realized despite returning almost all of their talent from a team that made it to the National Championship, they still aren’t #1. Oh, and with another loss, they fell the furthest of any #1 in the history of the AP.
That’s a pretty sucky weekend for UNC. But me, personally, I’m here for it.
Wolferetti: It’s time to see what Delbert Mimms can do at RB
Delbert Mimms only totaled 3 carries against Florida State on Saturday, but with NC State down 1, with just over 9 minutes to play and facing a 2nd and 4, he showed Wolfpack nation what he’s capable of. Mimms broke off a 14-yard run, and put them into FG range, which helped them knock through what ended up being the game-winner.
The sophomore RB stands at 5’11 and weighs in at 215lbs. He’s NC State’s biggest back, yet he really has been stuck behind Jordan Houston and Demie Sumo for most of the season despite averaging 4.7 YPC.
Now, I get it, you have an experienced Houston who runs extremely hard, but so far this season he hasn’t been able to really break out. He’s averaging 4.1 YPC on the year. Meanwhile, Sumo has kind of had most of the hype, and deservedly so. He’s leading the team in rushing with 299 yards and 3 TDs (the only 3 TDs all season on the ground by NC State RBs). However, if he plays vs. Syracuse this Saturday he’ll likely be a bit banged up (He went out of the FSU game with an injury.)
That said, Sumo really struggled versus Clemson, the first real stout defense the Pack has faced this season, carrying the ball 5 times for just 10 yards. Against FSU he was a bit better, carrying it 8 times for 37 yards, but still not really allowing NC State to rely on the run and pound it down the defense’s throat like Dave Doeren would like to do.
So where does NC State go from here?
Well, I believe it’s time to give Delbert Mimms a true look. If you remember, he was my ‘sleeper pick’ in our preseason prediction piece.
Mimms isn’t some home run hitter. He isn’t a guy that’s going to break off 70-yard runs, but Dave Doeren isn’t looking for a guy like that. He’s looking for a ball-control bruiser. A guy that sees a hole and hits that hole with authority. He’s a guy who is going to give you great yards after contact and can help sustain drives.
Demie Sumo may very well be that guy for NC State as the season goes on, but Sumo is a very patient runner. If you watch his footwork, he likes to let the line set up their blocks before he picks his hole. If NC State’s offensive line was a little better, I wouldn’t be writing this piece because I think Sumo would be solving a lot of the Pack’s problems himself. However, the line hasn’t been that great setting up the run. The holes, when they’re there, don’t stay open long enough for a back like Sumo to reach his full potential. Because of that, I think they need a guy like Mimms. The sophomore doesn’t dance, he gets to that first level fast and is able to shed arm tackles because of his size and downhill running style.
Now, I think Houston does these things as well. He doesn’t dance and he hits the hole hard, but he hasn’t been as great at shedding those arm tackles without being slowed up. This is why I think with this team, at this point, it’s time to start working Mimms in.
I know the Sumo faithful won’t like this take, and I’m not saying Mimms needs to be NC State’s featured back, but Mimms passes my eye test. When NC State is taking on a faster defense, I think the move is to not try to beat them with speed or with patience, NC State will lose that battle. I think your best bet on the ground is to beat them with a leg-churning bruiser.
We’ll see how it plays out going forward, but I saw something in the preseason and I saw that same thing this weekend when Mimms took 3 carries for 21 yards. He’s got value for Dave Doeren, and with the offense sputtering as of late, I think it’s time to see what he can do.