2010 ACC – This Is Why We Hired TOB

Back when we were happily in the market for a new football coach (at long last for me, as I was maybe the very first person off the Amato train – having told several people after the Maryland game during PR’s senior year that the Amato experiment was going to end very badly), I got wind that Tom O’Brien had contacted NC State. Amazingly, a successful head coach (perhaps the only one in the country with a worse AD than ours at the time) wanted to come here. And he didn’t even want much money. It seemed too good to be true.

Soon after, I penned an article (in consultation with Jeff, who was on the road) under the formal SFN moniker, making the case for hiring Tom O’Brien ahead of Paul Johnson. I believed it at the time. I believe it now. Even after the “turd in the punch bowl” that was the 2009 season, I believed it was the right call at the time it was made. In 2010, I think we are seeing that decision pay off – and it could take the form of our first ACC title in over thirty freaking years.

But wait, some of you might be thinking. Paul Johnson already won the ACC at Georgia Tech! Doesn’t that mean that he was the right guy all along? In short, I believe the answer is clearly “no.” Whatever Chan Gailey’s failures were and are as a coach (he’s head man for the NFL’s only winless team at the moment), he recruited pretty damned well. As most coaches will do in a fertile state for recruiting, with only one 1-A competitor in-state. The Jackets certainly had talent on defense, and on the offensive line. Which might mean that Paul Johnson was the perfect hire for Georgia Tech.

Whatever successes Chuck Amato had as a recruiter (handful of premium front seven defenders, great speed/athleticism), he more or less completely ignored the OL, except for the walking disaster that was the Derek Morris experiment. Certainly what he left for his successor would, to put it mildly, not be the makings of instant success for the triple option offense. Even if Paul Johnson coached the Amato remnants up to the best of his ability (and even if you believe his coaching ability exceeds that of Tom O’Brien), that ragtag bunch wasn’t going to win 8 or 9 games. And can you honestly claim that without early success, he would have been able to successfully recruit a far more challenging home base, with every competitor pointing out that Johnson’s scheme won’t get you to the NFL? Hell, even after GREAT early success at Tech, Johnson is hardly setting the world on fire recruiting-wise. And his 2010 Yellow Jackets might not even attain bowl eligibility.

On the other hand, you can see in 2010 the path to a guy like O’Brien winning the ACC. The league is down, creating opportunity. There’s no 800-pound, Top 10-caliber gorilla to overwhelm us with talent. In his fourth season, Tom O’Brien has his first typical TOB offensive line. It’s solid, and serves as the foundation for our success. It’s also a predictable and reliable element, one that allows us to hang in games even when we get really bad QB play. Beyond OL, we do have a playmaking QB, solid WRs and DL, and are getting good LB play. It’s the recipe for the kind of team that an excellent leader-type coach can scavenge a league title with during a down year. And that perfect storm has arrived perhaps a few years ahead of schedule. But Tom O’Brien is ready. And he’s convinced his players that they are ready, too.

Go back to the LB play for a moment. One positive we originally cited is the remarkable stability and loyalty of Tom O’Brien’s coaching staff – a welcome change from the musical chairs we played under the increasingly unstable and egomaniacal Chuck Amato. Last year, that looked like it could be a hindrance, as Mike Archer was inexplicably retained as defensive coordinator. But on balance, this has been a good thing. And when a staff position opened up, O’Brien used his connections and respect within the profession to bring in exactly what NC State needed – LB coach (and some say de facto defensive coordinator) Jon Tenuta. Even before Nate Irving got his sea legs back, State’s LB corps impressed from Day One. All of a sudden, Audie Cole looked fast. Audie Cole!! At times, it has seemed like 3 Terrell Mannings are on the field at the same time. And thus, the defense is just good enough to make a title run.

Originally, I felt like we blew our chance when we inexplicably lost an early 17-0 lead, and ultimately the game, at home against Virginia Tech. Certainly, it would be nice to have that game back – we would have some margin for error as we close with three road games in November. But really, who’s to say we would have had the character to survive a brutal second quarter against Florida State, without having the Hokies punch us in the mouth? What’s happened has happened. There’s no going back. There’s also no denying that NC State controls its own destiny, and here’s what’s on the highway for our group of vultures:

1) A Clemson team in disarray (with a very green head coach), with their one offensive playmaker out with an injury – plus a QB controversy to boot.

2) The worst Wake Forest team in the Jim Grobe era, perhaps even worse than most of Jim Caldwell’s putrid squads.

3) A UNC program draped in controversy, and riddled with injuries. A UNC team that damned near lost to William & Mary last week. A UNC program that has never beaten Tom O’Brien.

4) A Maryland team with a good record that is universally regarded as a complete fraud.

That’s it, folks. And I would posit that there is no man better suited to leading our vultures to scavenge that buffet than Tom O’Brien. No, he’s not the flashiest guy. No, he’s not the best recruiter. But I have never been convinced that a recruiter type can ever succeed here. There’s just not enough in the natural recruiting area to be a dominant program, physically. And a recruiter type that can also coach is going to likely be priced out of Raleigh before ever reaching the mountaintop (speaking of PJ, he was significantly more expensive than TOB at the hire date – and almost immediately demanded more money from GT). So, I like the idea of a coach in the Dick Sheridan mold. And I always maintained that Dick Sheridan was likely Tom O’Brien’s floor (that’s what he accomplished at BC), not his ceiling.

We will see if Tom O’Brien shows us his true ceiling this November. I will close this long and rambling post with some lyrics from the awesome Rage Against the Machine:

It has to start somewhere.
It has to start sometime.
What better place than here?
What better time than now?
All. Hell. Can’t stop us now!

Here’s a video link. Tell me that wouldn’t be some bad-assed entrance music.

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

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65 Responses to 2010 ACC – This Is Why We Hired TOB

  1. Bowlpack 11/05/2010 at 11:03 AM #

    We do have 4 winnable games left. The only ones that really scare me are this Saturday at Clemson and UNC. I think we can win as easily as we can lose depending on which team shows up. I honestly don’t think we’re looking past that 4-4 record and will bring it, but can we control that Clemson D for 4 quarters? UNC has something to prove. Yes, they are banged up everywhere and under tons of scrutiny as a program, but we were pretty banged up last season and managed to win despite being completely outmatched. I think we match up better than them, but that’s the thing about rivalries.

  2. NCStatePride 11/05/2010 at 11:09 AM #

    I agree with much in this post with respect to NC State in the year 2010. What I take issue with is the claim that we are realizing the wise decision of hiring TOB. The topic of the article “this is why we hired TOB” is correct in that this year we are winning and that is, indeed, why we hired TOB. Here is the only point I will raise: a successful coach isn’t defined by one winning season. If a coach has a massively successful season followed by more failure, then all that proves is that in 2010, for one season with that particular set of personnel and no injuries, he was able to succeed. That doesn’t detract from the 2010 accomplishments that he is/will gain, but it just states that one season ‘does not a successful coach, make.’

    Next year we lose big leaders on D and behind center. We have players that are said to be outstanding players awaiting in the folds, but remember: on paper, Jay Davis looked like an amazing QB. So did Beck. With better coaching than the Amato offenses had, I’m confident our potential will be realized and developed much better than it was 5 years ago, but rather than hoping and relying on “confidence”, I’d rather see the results on the gridiron.

  3. goalielax 11/05/2010 at 11:13 AM #

    i, too, am glad that we had to suffer through 3 losing seasons to finally have such a great year we can lose to ECU and get crushed by VT at home

    what you’re trying to sell about Paul Johnson is just off base. there’s 20+ years of winning, championships, and bowl games to back that up.

    also a fan of how you described UNC while omitting they frog stomped ECU

    I get it. 6-2 is great. but let’s not put the cart before the horse. we know what has happened in the past. we collapsed with philip rivers at the helm for pete’s sake. let the games play themselves out and add a couple more seasons before we slob TOB too much. he is still a game under .500 at State, after all

  4. Statefan1998 11/05/2010 at 11:18 AM #

    I hope you are right. I have a bad feeling about this game.

  5. STLPack01 11/05/2010 at 11:19 AM #

    All these games scare me. Three out of the four are teams we have perenially struggled with (especially the turtles). UNC scares me because we’ve beaten them 3 in a row and they are like a wounded animal right now. Wounded animals do one of two things, they lay down in die, or they fight to the death. It’s a roll of the dice as to which on we get.

    That said, I’m hopefull that we can run the table. Let’s start with the tiggers this weekend! I’m glad for whoever pointed out that the last win we had against them was PRiv’s domination in the valley in ’03. That was an amazing ass kicking that should have resulted in a title run. Here’s hoping RW can get it done for us this saturday in clemson.

  6. Bowlpack 11/05/2010 at 11:19 AM #

    I think from a personnel standpoint we will be fine. We are losing some key players on both sides of the ball, but O’Brien has emphasized in his recruiting that he is trying to build a team which equates to depth in all positions. Audie and Terrel have shown that either one of them is ready to be an Irving-like leader on defense and in the few glimpses we’ve seen of Mike Glennon he has shown us that he has a terrific arm. Hypothetically, if everything goes our way this year and we can finish as strong as we hope to then we can expect to have high expectations for the following season despite our losses and that would be a result of TOB’s mentality and attitude toward what he’s trying to accomplish in this program. Build a solid base, find your “special” players, practice hard every day and play your hardest every weekend.

  7. Old MacDonald 11/05/2010 at 11:19 AM #

    “get crushed by VT”


  8. NCStatePride 11/05/2010 at 11:21 AM #

    Every team, especially teams that are building/not yet perennial top-20 teams, have several WTF teams. goalielax, I’m not so sure you can say we got stomped at home against VT because we hung with them most of the game and lost to a VT team that appears to have found their muse throughout this season. VT is in better shape than NC State with respect to record right now. The ECU loss was a bad one and unexpected. Trust me, I’m NOT sold on TOB as my above response probably indicates, but the ECU game was what it was… an anomaly.

  9. Bowlpack 11/05/2010 at 11:22 AM #

    One thing that I meant to say about UNC that I think works in our favor is that they have to be getting tired. They had their bye week very early in the season which may come back to haunt them in the end. If you watched them against W&M then you should have noticed how worn out they look. Save for one spectacular running play, they lose that game.

  10. 97 pack alum 11/05/2010 at 11:28 AM #

    Nice work BJD

  11. goalielax 11/05/2010 at 11:44 AM #

    yes, I consider getting outscored 20-3 in the 4th quarter and 41-16 over the final 3 quarters to be getting crushed.

    i hope to god we run the table. i so badly want to go to charlotte that first weekend in december. it’s just going to take more than 2/3rds of a season to sell me on TOB

  12. NCStatePride 11/05/2010 at 11:47 AM #

    ^Under that mentality, we “crushed” FSU.

  13. wvillepack 11/05/2010 at 11:54 AM #

    Not buying hype from experts that Clemson is favored b/c of their D. We have scored on the best of them. Ran the ball right down FSU’s throat. Clemson offense is struggling. If our D can make a statement early, we should win….as long as we don’t lay an egg like we did at ecu. UNC will play us tough this year.

  14. hball57 11/05/2010 at 12:03 PM #

    Sometimes I don’t get our fans. It doesn’t matter what happened in a certain period of the game. We must have crushed ECU, because we beat them 27-6 in quarters 2-4.

    And looking forward trying to forecast gloom and doom. We have 12 seniors on our two deep, and that doesn’t include the two who might be our best corner backs, Byrd and Smith, nor Carter, the Syracuse transfer at LB.

    One more thing, this team doesn’t play history. What happened in past years against Clemson or Maryland matters. What only matters is this year’s team against this year’s opponents.

    I am wondering – when will all of our fans finally “buy in” to NC State athletics? You may say “when we win something” but isn’t that the attitude of the Wal-Mart UNC fans? We are State fans – our life is tougher, but we are tougher for it! We believe in the impossible because our history shows nothing is impossible. THe curve is coming – let’s be ahead of it like State fans should be!

  15. goalielax 11/05/2010 at 12:07 PM #

    VT scored 41 points in the final 3 quarters. if you didn’t come out of that game feeling like VT crushed state that’s fine for you and I’m not trying to change your mind about it.

    and you can be bought into NC State athletics without being bought into a coach. I’d say a wal-mart fan is more apt to defend a 22-23 coach just because of the color he wears. just look at UNC fans vigorously defending Butch Davis. (not calling any of you wal-mart fans, just using your argument to present the opposite tack)

  16. rky 11/05/2010 at 12:16 PM #

    I’m happy to see progress over last year. Now win something significant and I’ll upgrade my reaction to ‘impressed’.

  17. wolfacct 11/05/2010 at 12:18 PM #

    Great post. TOB is actually building a program. The cupboard was very bare when he arrived. If you look at the current depth chart, with the exception of the DL, we are loaded with F and So throughout the OL, RB, DB, and LB’s. It is much more enjoyable watching games without the senseless personal foul penalties, etc. that were common during the Amato years. Young teams will make mistakes and hopefully grow from those mistakes (ie VT, ECU). The goal is now in sight, and the team knows they must show up every Saturday to reach that goal.

    Watching the VT – GT game last night, I could not help but compare our defense to VT’s with respect to defending the GT option. I don’t recall us giving up as many big plays. Our DL and LB’s played their lanes and positions much better than VT. VT certainly has better athlete’s than we do on the defensive side of the ball, but our discipline was much better. That’s coaching.

    My hope is that the same team shows up tomorrow to play Clempson that beat GT in Sept.

  18. chickenchan 11/05/2010 at 12:18 PM #

    If I had to watch our team run PJ’s boring ass offense like they do at GT I would sell my season tickets immediately. Plus it makes their games like 2 hours long.

  19. Daily Update 11/05/2010 at 12:21 PM #

    I was a big proponent of TOB over PJ. I was biased do to my familiarity with the George Welsh era of UVA football. TOB is a good football coach. The program was in worse shape than any of us knew when he took the job and the injuries made the situation worse, but this year’s team is what I expected to see from TOB. Hopefully this is the beginning of a string of bowl seasons and conference contention.

    I still don’t see us winning out, however we needed progress this year to regain momentum and that has already been accomplished.

  20. bigwolfpacker 11/05/2010 at 12:29 PM #

    Personally I think the D will be even better next year. We lose Nate but little else. The DL that we lose are replaceable. On offense, the big question is Wilson but even if he leaves, I think Glennon should be ready. The biggest ? is the WR position. They really havent played incredible this year so other than Owens I think we can replace the rest. Smith, Howard, Payton, Palmer and Graham hopefully will be ok. Bryan needs to become Glennons best friend. Id like to see Creecy move there too. Hell, give Barnes a look at WR.

  21. TheCOWDOG 11/05/2010 at 12:38 PM #

    ” And he’s convinced his players that they are ready, too. ”

    This phrase is the single most important binder to a winning team.
    When a team collectively believes that your leader believes in you, then there is some good mojo going on.

    I’ve stated often that I felt TOB’s teams over the past seasons did not “feel the love.” There seemed to be a lack of trust between the two. ( TOB/team)

    There has been a process, tangible to my eyes, that bodes well for this squad. I hope what I see is true, that he believes in them, therefore they believe in him and consequently believing in themselves.

    That faith is not specteral, it’s real, corporal. If this team has IT, then good things are bound to happen.

  22. packalum44 11/05/2010 at 12:39 PM #

    Well written post as always BJD. I agree with most of it.

    I disagree we have a solid D-Line. They are below average IMO and will remain average at best without an influx of talent. One could argue that where Amato neglected the O-Line, so to does Tom with the D-Line. Since time is scarce, you must focus on some positions at the expense of others. If I’m wrong can someone please name committed or redshirted D-Line talent…with that said I’d rather have a strong O-Line than D-Line b/c linebackers and d-backs are behind a D-Line. The most valuable man on the field is directly behind the O-Line with no help (not counting half backs).

  23. choppack1 11/05/2010 at 12:43 PM #

    1) I’m still not sold TOB was a better choice than PJ. Neither coach has had a chance to completely put his stamp on the program yet, this question won’t be able to be answered for a few years.

    2) I agree w/ BJD95 that you can’t say that PJ would have won a conference championship or enjoyed a success similar to what he’s had at GaTech if he came to State instead. He’s had a beast as a qb – and that’s helped. I think RW would probably be concentrating on baseball if he’d played in that system.

    3) I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet. We could play pretty well against these last 4 teams and still lose 3 of the games.

    4) I’d only encourage ALL State fans to take a hard look at TOB’s record. If you looked at his tenure at BC – there’s plenty of evidence he struggled early. However, once he got there and got settled in – his program was on auto-pilot. Unfortunately – those auto-pilot results were somewhat Sendekian – as he was always on the cusp of that special season, but never quite able win THE game that got BC over the hump delivering them the conference title and coveted BCS bowl-bid.

    5) It’s important for TOB to finish this season strong. If we go 3-1 in the last 4 games, this season will be the most successful season in NC State football since 1994. A strong finish – even if we don’t end up in the ACC championship, will make the kind of statement this program needs to make for the future of football under TOB.

    6) If TOB can simply match his results from BC – he’ll be the most successfull coach since Dick Sheridan – and depending on how these 8-4 records are reached, arguable moreso.

  24. Daily Update 11/05/2010 at 12:49 PM #

    -If he matches his results at BC, then he will be more successful than Dick Sheridan.

    TOB had BC about maxed out. There program sustained itself for a year after TOB left, but the program has been going backwards since Matt Ryan left. Now they are paying for Jags lack of success on the recruiting trail.

    The Sendek/TOB comparison was always flawed. Sendek was at a program that had national titles and conference titles in its history. TOB was at a program that didn’t have a championship history, lacked the fan support to be selected for quality bowl games, lacked the facilities to attract recruits, and was geographically disadvantaged being in the NE. Still, even at BC he finished tied for 1st and 2nd in his two years in the ACC. Then he had the program positioned to have its best team of his tenure the following year when he took the job in Raleigh.

    Sendek’s career was much closer to Tommy Bowden than TOB. TOB was more successful relative to the history of the program he coached than either Sendek or Bowden.

  25. BJD95 11/05/2010 at 12:49 PM #

    Remember, the D played really well early on when Nate was playing like a fish out of water. As long as Tenuta stays, I am confident.

    The OL will just get better and better. That will make any QB and RB group more likely to succeed.

    What do I want out of TOB? To win the conference. It’s been so damned long. If it only happens once, when all the dominoes fall just right…it will still be a championship. And flags fly forever.

    We have a great shot this year. It may be our best shot. It may not. But TOB is showing that he can leverage the situation and make a move when an opening develops. That’s what I want to see.

    And nobody was more furious than me after the VT game. And I think with good reason. But we responded, and that’s the key.

    Yeah, we sucked against ECU and they beat us in their Super Bowl. Woohoo for them. Competing for an ACC title is one hell of a lot more important to me. I would rather have laid an egg there than against any ACC foe. And if it gave us just a scintilla of added focus or motivation against FSU, then I’m glad it happened.

    By the way, if we win out it would clearly be the best regular season NC State has EVER had, at least in my lifetime. Sure, that’s not probably. But it’s November 5, and we are realistically talking about it. I’m pleased.

    Note that “pleased” does not mean “satisfied.” Tom O’Brien isn’t satisfied either, and won’t be until he gets the title that eluded him in Chestnut Hill.

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