1) Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Jim Grobe
Going back to 1981, the 3 previous coaches at Wake Forest had a 81-139-2 record. That's a 36 percent winning percentage. The Demon Deacons were one of the worst teams in the ACC for several years. In comes Jim Grobe in 2001, and one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent college football history ensued.
In didn't happen overnight, in Grobe's first 5 seasons, the Deacs went to one bowl. In the last three seasons, though, Wake Forest has won 28 games, went to three straight bowl games winning two, won an ACC Title, and went to the Orange Bowl. At a school with an enrollment hovering around 4,000, which is one the smallest in Division 1, Grobe has done the remarkable. He's made Wake Forest a consistent winner.
2) Virignia Tech Hokies: Frank Beamer
The Hokies have not won fewer than eight games since 1997, and since joining the ACC in 2004 Virginia Tech has won three ACC titles under coach Frank Beamer. Always known for great special teams and solid defense, Beamer has built an ACC power in Blacksburg.
At age 62 Beamer's flirtations with other coaching jobs, appear over, and good for the Hokies, it looks like he will end his career at Virginia Tech. The Hokies enter 2009, as again one of the top teams in the ACC.
3) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson was won everywhere he's been. He won two Division I-AA national championship at Georgia Southern. He then went to Navy, where after he went 2-10 his first season, he won at least eight games a year the next five seasons.
Johnson's critics said his triple option offense would never work at a BCS school, when he was hired by Georgia Tech. 9 wins later, including a win over the hated Georgia Bulldogs, and Johnson had proved those critics wrong. The Yellow Jackets are considered one of the ACC best teams in 2009, and will be ranked in the top 20 by nearly every pre-season college football poll.
4) North Carolina Tar Heels: Butch Davis
After Mack Brown's departure in 1997, UNC spent 10 years looking for the right coach. They finally found their guy in Butch Davis. After a 4-8 season, his first season, Davis had the Tar Heels contending for the Coastal division title in 2008. He finished the year 8-5, which was the Heels best season since 2001.
Davis, also put together a top 10 recruiting class this past year, and has the Tar Heels poised to be contenders in the ACC for years to come. Davis knows something about rebuilding programs too. He took over a Miami Hurricane program in 1995 that would be ravaged with scholarship losses due to violations under the previous coach Dennis Erickson. By 2000 the Canes were a top five team.
5) Florida State Seminoles: Bobby Bowden
From 1987 to 2000 the Seminoles finished every single year ranked in the top five, under coach Bobby Bowden. It sure was an incredible run. In recent years, though the Noles have slipped, and no longer have a stranglehold on the ACC. Bowden defiantly earns high marks for winning over 300 games, but if you've watched FSU football lately, Bowden is more of a football administrator, than a day to day coach.
Jimbo Fisher appears destined to take over head coaching responsibilities in the next few years, but Bowden still knows how to close when he's in a recruits home. After a 9 win season last the Noles, might be turning it around.
6) Maryland - Ralph Friedgen
When Ralph Friedgen was at Georgia Tech as offensive coordinator in 1990, they won a national title. When Friedgen was offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers they went to the Super Bowl in 1994. When Friedgen went back to Georgia Tech as Offensive coordinator, the Jackets had one of the most high powered offenses in the country and QB Joe Hamilton nearly won the Heisman in 1999.
When Friedgen took over as Maryland head coach in 2001, they won 31 games the next three years. As you can see Ralph Friedgen has had a alot of success as a coach. The last few years the Terps success has leveled off including three losing seasons in the last five years.
Friedgen still has an innovative coaching mind, but he's isn't the world best recruiter. That may explain some of the recent struggles, but the Terps did win eight games last year.
7) NC State Wolfpack: Tom O' Brien
Tom O' Brien came to NC State by way of Boston College where he was very successful. BC made it to a bowl game every season from 1999 to 2006 when O'Brien left. He has yet to reach that level of success at NC State going 5-7 in 2007 and 6-7 in 2008, but Wolfpack can feel confident, that O'Brien will get things turned all the way around in Raleigh.
The Wolfpack were one the ACC's best teams in the 2nd half of last year, and with all everything QB Russell Wilson back, they could be poised for a big season.
8) Duke Blue Devils: David Cutcliffe
When a coach as good as David Cutcliffe is eighth on your list it really speaks to the new found coaching depth of the ACC. When Cutcliffe was at Ole Miss he managed to get Ole Miss to a bowl four out the six full seasons, he was there. He has coached NFL quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Heath Shuler. When Cutcliffe came to Duke, he took over program, that was one of the worst in the country.
Four wins last year might seem modest, but Cutcliffe made Duke respectable, which was no small task. As long as Cutcliffe stays Duke, the Blue Devils will continue to get better.
9) Clemson Tigers: Dabo Swinney
He plays in local celebrity golf tournaments. He started the Tiger Walk, and jumps on the sidelines. He got promoted to head coach of the Clemson Tigers, straight from being the wide receivers coach. Alot of people question Swinney's experience and his methods as gimmicky, but he was good enough to be asked by Nick Saban in 2007 to join his Alabama staff.
He also was listed in 2007, by Rivals as one of the nation's top 25 recruiters. He managed to hold together a Clemson team in total disarray after Tommy Bowden left Clemson, and get them to a bowl game, so there are positives. It's hard to get a true gauge on Swinney, but Clemson has either found a diamond in the rough or he'll be gone in two years.
10) Boston College Eagles: Frank Spaziani
The jury is still very much out new Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani. Spaziani had spent the last 10 years as BC's defensive coordinator. The Eagles had consistently well ranked defenses, under Spaziani. How Spaziani performs as head coach, well ask me again after next season.
11) Virginia Cavaliers: Al Groh
Al Groh is a very good recruiter. He has put together some really strong classes, and that resulted in 13 of his formers players being drafted into the NFL. From 2002-2006, every Groh recruiting class was ranked in the top 25 by Scout.com.
Despite the strong classes Groh has lost five games or more five of the last seven years. Two of the last three years have been losing seasons for Groh as well. It's not that Groh is a bad coach, he just doesn't normally maximize his talent.
12) Miami Hurricanes: Randy Shannon