Greg Adkins doesn’t plan many fundamental changes to a Charlotte 49ers’ offense that he now coordinates. But he wants whatever tweaks he makes to count.
“Maybe I’m going to have a game plan that’s easier to execute,” said Adkins, who was promoted to Charlotte’s offensive coordinator Sept. 25. “But it just comes down to having our guys physically make it work. That’s the real thing I’m going to stress.”
The 49ers (0-5, 0-1 Conference USA) have played one game with Adkins, a 30-29 loss against Florida International last week, since he replaced Jeff Mullen as offensive coordinator. Charlotte returns to Richardson Stadium on Saturday (6 p.m., WCCB) with a conference game against Marshall (3-1, 0-0).
The 49ers bolted to a 26-7 lead against FIU in the second quarter, before collapsing in the second half. Charlotte rolled up a season-high 504 yards in total offense against the Panthers, although 341 came in the first half.
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Still, despite the lack of much in the way of any kind of offense in the second half, Adkins was generally pleased.
“The number one thing is we didn’t turn the ball over,” Adkins said. “We were consistent in our running game (349 yards) and efficient in our passing game (16-of-28 for 155 yards and a touchdown by quarterback Hasaan Klugh). Was that because of me? No. It was simply focusing. Maybe I gave them a game plan that was easier to execute and we took what the defense gave us. But our physicality also made it work.”
Still, the 49ers didn’t match FIU’s defensive adjustments in the second half, getting just one field goal. The 49ers ran the ball 64 percent of their offensive plays the time against the Panthers, a ratio Adkins thought was too high.
“We didn’t finish the job, but a lot of good things came out of that game,” said head coach Brad Lambert, who hired Adkins (they worked together in previous assistant-coaching stops at Marshall and Georgia) as the 49ers’ offensive line coach in February.
Adkins, 49, said Mullen, the 49ers’ offensive coordinator since the program’s inception in 2013 and a former quarterbacks coach at West Virginia and Wake Forest, helped make sure the transition was smooth for both of them.
“Jeff dug in after getting the news and has worked hard, just like he always does,” said Adkins. “He sees things through the eyes of a quarterback, like I do through the eyes of the offensive line. We’ve always bounced things off each other. Now he can focus just on the quarterback and not the overall picture of things.”
Klugh said Adkins’ new role and Mullen’s ability to now fully concentrate on quarterback play is already working.
“Coach Mullen is doing a lot more one-on-one work with me, helping me get my reads down,” said Klugh. “He’s out there on the field more with me and we’re seeing the same things. That’s been great.”
Adkins has experience at Power 5 programs such as Tennessee and Georgia, and also served as the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line coach for two seasons. He’s never been in a situation like the one the 49ers are facing: a startup program that began playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision after three seasons of existence.
“They’ve made such a rapid jump, I was surprised that things are as good as they are here,” Adkins said. “The facilities are outstanding and the commitment is here. Sometimes I’ve seen places that have started things, and you wonder if they’re really committed to that. We are here.
“But it all comes down to (player) depth. The overall depth at this moment, in this short period of time, isn’t where it needs to be. We have that deficiency at certain positions, if not all. That doesn’t happen overnight. Getting a quality-level of players in a program over a period of of time is the key.
“But we have to win football games. Once that starts, this program is going to take leaps and bounds fairly quickly.”
Perhaps the 49ers’ most impressive victory in their short history was an upset last season against Marshall, Saturday’s opponent again.
The game will have added meaning to Adkins, a former Thundering Herd player and assistant, as well as Lambert and 49ers strength coach Jim Durning, a former Marshall player.
“It will be emotional,” said Adkins. “I bled on (Marshall’s) field. I coached there. It’s always the first score that I check, every Saturday night or Sunday morning. I want them to win – except the game I’m coaching against them.”