Counting Down ACC Football's Best Coaches in 2010
While the ACC has seen its share of coaching changes in the past decade, there will be no denying the type of talent ACC fans have faced.
As a new year is set to begin, I look at the 12 leaders that bring constant flavor to the ACC football scene. In my list, I look at winning percentage, recruiting ability, and charisma.
Here is is...
No. 12: Mike London
I am giving Mike London No. 12 in my rankings only because he has yet to prove anything on the field.
I have always been impressed with what he was able to do at Richmond, and he has the ability to do the same thing with UVA. This time, he'll have even better resources.
No. 11: Jimbo Fisher
As with Mike London, I cannot fully evaluate Fisher at this time. He takes over a Florida State program that already has a great amount of strength on offense.
Fisher was able to reel in one of the best classes in the nation on National Signing Day and should be able to transform the FSU defense into something special next year.
No. 10: Tom O'Brien
I know that there are two first-year coaches that came into the ACC this year, but I am giving both of them the benefit of the doubt in this case.
Tom O'Brien took the NC State job before his former team (Boston College) played their bowl game in 2006. O'Brien has been 16-18 since coming to Raleigh, which is mediocre at best.
My problem with Coach O'Brien is his lack of enthusiasm in terms of recruiting and engaging the fanbase. At this point in time I wouldn't doubt that NC State fans dislike him much more than they like him.
With recruiting, I am very disappointed that in such a strong recruiting zone and with the program landing special talent year in and year out, O'Brien can't develop his recruits better than he has so far.
I hope that after this upcoming season, I will be able to move Tom O'Brien up on this list.
No. 9: Ralph Friedgen
If it wasn't for such a deplorable season in College Park last year, I most likely would have Coach Friedgen among the top five best coaches going into the 2010 season.
Maryland has always been a very prestigious school, and Friedgen has been able to maintain that prestige for almost his whole tenure at MD. Sadly, last season was easily the worst of his career and nearly got him fired as well.
With a pretty good recruiting class coming in this season, coaching staff and Terrapin faithful alike will hope this season goes along much more smoothly than the season past.
No. 8: David Cutcliffe
Unlike Ralph Friedgen, David Cutcliffe has moved up in my ACC coaching rankings because of the past season. Led by Thaddeus Lewis, Duke went 5-7 overall, which is a great step above their 2008 performance (4-8).
I also give him props for sticking with the Duke program even after he was offered the University of Tennessee head coaching position.
With a few more years in the Cutcliffe system, Duke will definitely climb to the top of the Coastal Division.
No. 7: Frank Spaziani
In his first full season as a head coach, Frank Spaziani surprised the college football world (or Andre Ware, at least) as his Eagles flew to 8-5 overall in a roller coaster season.
With some promising freshman talent coming in for 2010, the Eagles look to reclaim the Atlantic crown. Spaziani is the perfect man to lead them as well. He has a great sense of humor yet is still able to get his point across to the players, as well as the media.
With some great defensive playmakers returning, anything is possible for Spaziani and the Eagles.
No. 6: Jim Grobe
Jim Grobe has been a class act as a coach in the ACC throughout his whole career, and it seems to have paid some dividends in the past five years.
In 2006, Wake Forest won their first ACC Championship in 36 years. Since then, WF has always been a perennial powerhouse under the guiding eye of Riley Skinner.
Now that Skinner has graduated, it will take real coaching skill to groom another quarterback for the ability needed to play ACC football.
Grobe has proven he is able to win without much in the way of supreme talent—let's see if he can do it again.
No. 5: Randy Shannon
After many skeptics believed that he was unfit and unable to handle such a storied program as the University of Miami, Randy Shannon has very lately proved those critics wrong.
After a very rough 2007 campaign by Miami's standards (5-7), Shannon was able to go 7-6 during 2008 and qualify for his first bowl game as a head coach.
Those two seasons were greatly overshadowed by Coach Shannon's outstanding recruiting ability. In 2008, UM put together a sure-fire top five recruiting class. This gave any and all Hurricane fans hope for the future.
After a very strong 2009 season, the Hurricanes hope they can ride the wave to an even better season in 2010.
No. 4: Butch Davis
Since taking the reins at Chapel Hill (NC) in 2006 for John Bunting, Davis has changed the fortunes of the Tar Heel program.
For a period of time, it looked as though the program was headed into a great abyss. Davis has energized a fanbase made mostly of basketball fans and created one of the best football atmospheres in the ACC.
With arguably one of the best defenses in the country coming back for an encore performance next year, Butch Davis and the Heels are poised for a tremendous season in the Coastal Division.
No. 3: Dabo Swinney
Dabo Swinney became an interim coach for Clemson University in the middle of the 2008 season after the Clemson administration fired Tommy Bowden and subsequently started searching for a suitable replacement. It turned out they alread had a great replacement in the fold.
Swinney began the 2009 season with a freshman quarterback at the helm who was surrounded by offensive playmakers all across the field. The Tigers ended up taking the Atlantic Division crown by the end of 2009.
While CU did lose some great talent on both sides of the ball, Swinney and company look to protect the division crown once again in 2010.
No. 2: Frank Beamer
Heading into his 23rd season as the Virginia Tech head coach, Frank Beamer is officially the longest tenured coach in the ACC. There has been no doubt that Beamer has earned his position at VT year in and year out.
In the 2010 season he looks to add a new trophy to his case: the National Championship Football. To make it even better for Hokie fans, his dream is very realistic.
Returning the majority of the offense and some great talent on defense, don't be surprised to see VT in Phoenix come January. That NC trophy would be a perfect ending for one of the nation's most respected coaches.
No. 1: Paul Johnson
In just two years' time, Paul Johnson has completely transformed (for the better) the Georgia Tech football program.
Taking responsibility of the program in 2007, Johnson brought the intriguing triple-option offense to GT. Without many of his own recruited players to run the offense in 2008, he led the Yellow Jackets to a 9-4 season.
During that time it seemed that no one in the ACC would be able to stop the offense GT ran. Coming into 2009, though, many coaches believed they had the offense figured out, and it would only be a matter of games before every coach in the nation knew their secret.
To respond to such absurd comments, Paul Johnson went 11-3 in 2009, capped by an Orange Bowl berth.
One of the most interesting stories in the ACC heading into next year is how coaches will respond to their third time seeing this simplistic offense that has such a devastating effect on defenses. There is no doubt that Paul Johnson can't wait to get started refining his team as a whole.