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Mike O'Cain lettered for Clemson from 1974-1976. O'Cain hails from Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he attended Orangeburg-Wilkinson High, the same school that produced Woody Dantzler. O'Cain quarterbacked Orangeburg-Wilkinson to a 13-0 record, a state 4A title, and a #12-national ranking his senior season.
His high school coach was Dick Sheridan, who was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. Upon graduation from high school, O'Cain decided to further his academic and athletic career at Clemson. A four-year letterwinner, he was the most valuable player of Clemson's 1976 team, working as both the punter and quarterback. He completed 91-182 passes for 1,291 yards and six touchdowns during his career. He still ranks 16th in Clemson history in passing efficiency. Also a gifted runner, he held the single-game quarterback rushing record until 1994 with 140 yards against N.C. State in 1976.
O'Cain began his coaching career at Clemson in 1977 as a graduate assistant. He was on the practice field and on the sidelines learning the game from some veteran coaches at the time and realized the thrill of victory, as the Tigers had an 8-3-1 season that culminated with a trip to the Gator Bowl, Clemson's first bowl appearance in 18 years.
O'Cain then coached the offensive backfield at The Citadel for the 1978-80 seasons. In 1981, he moved to Murray State, where he was an assistant under current Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer. He remained at Murray State through the 1984 season. After one year as the assistant head coach at East Carolina, he joined Sheridan as quarterbacks coach at N.C. State. O'Cain served as a top assistant under Sheridan from 1986-92 and was a part of a staff that coached the Wolfpack in six bowl games.
In 1993, Sheridan decided to retire just five weeks prior to the start of August practice and O'Cain was promoted to head coach. This short period of time for preparation did not inhibit O'Cain and the Wolfpack. He took N.C. State to a 7-4 regular-season record and an invitation to the Hall of Fame Bowl. He was the only rookie coach in the nation that year to lead a team to a bowl game.
The next year, O'Cain guided the Wolfpack to a second-place ACC finish with an 8-3 record. One of the victories was over Clemson in Death Valley, as O'Cain became the first Clemson graduate to gain victory against his alma mater in Death Valley. Overall, he had a 2-2 record in Death Valley. He completed his season with a victory over Mississippi State in the Peach Bowl. O'Cain became the second coach in N.C. State history to take a team to a bowl in his first two seasons with the program.
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