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.

'10 Football ACC Teams Coaches Tom O'Brien

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

  1. wvillepack 11/05/2010 at 12:54 PM #

    TOB recruiting? How many has he signed vs other acc schools for next year? Isn’t it 8 vs at least 15-18 for most acc schools? Does that concern anyone else?

  2. Daily Update 11/05/2010 at 1:07 PM #

    wvillepack: It was very concerning before starting 6-2. The concerns aren’t gone, but with the way the team has played and the way young players have helped this team at OL, RB, and DB, then concerns about 1 single recruiting class aren’t as big of a deal now. Things look good for next year:

    -The entire two deep at DB returns along with J. Byrd and R. Smith(two guys projected to start this season).

    -We return 2 starting LBs. We need some guys to emerge here, however I have less concerns now when I see athletes at safety and rb that this staff recruited make an immediate impact. We also have the transfer from Syracuse that played as a true freshman recruited at this position, so hopefully he is ready to play right away at a high level.

    -On the DL, we return Rieskamp, Kuhn, Sweezy, and Slay. We have guys on the roster that are hopefully ready to play next year, however TOB has been creative getting impact players like JUCOs(Mageo) and transfers(Akinniyi and Lemon). Maybe he has a couple of JUCOs up his sleeve again?

    -We have Wilson’s replacement waiting in the wings, so we should be at least solid at QB. The OL returns 4 starters(that will only be juniors) and then we have the best recruit TOB has landed to date in Crisp to step into Vermiglio’s spot.

    -We are loaded at RB with our top 3 guys returning(plus B. Barnes). Mustafa is a potential star RB at the position. We have multiple receivers returning who have caught balls plus potential impact players in Creecy, Underwood, and Palmer all redshirting. We will be fine at TE.

    TOB has a pretty clear road map IMO. He tries to recruit an entire team every year and creatively finds players in strange places to fill holes(like JUCOs and transfers on the DL, the punter who transfered from Elon, the FG kicker that came from Hofstra, etc…).

  3. packplantpath 11/05/2010 at 1:21 PM #

    Another reason the TOB-Sendek comparisons never made sense to me was that TOB is old. He won’t likely outstay his welcome, he will retire. Sendek has how many years of coaching left in him? So, worst case scenario, TOB ends up a bust but retires after 5 years?

    I could live with that, since he would leave a much better base for the next coach than Chuck left him.

    That said, I still say PJ or Jimbo could have been better hires IMO. TOB was a safe hire.

  4. Daily Update 11/05/2010 at 1:28 PM #

    TOB’s record vs those two coaches:

    vs. PJ 1-0
    vs. Jimbo 1-0

    The theory in hiring TOB was that if you have BC on the cusp of an ACC title at BC(and won a Big East title), then he should be able to produce similar teams at NC State. Neither PJ nor Jimbo had any track record of producing quality teams in a BCS conference.

  5. LifeLongWolf 11/05/2010 at 1:30 PM #

    Nice post. But Rage Against the Machine? Lame.

  6. Plz2BStateFan 11/05/2010 at 1:34 PM #

    I 100% agree with this article.

    I LOVE this articles summary. Exactly how I feel. Good details.


    But I refuse to give Fowler any credit.

  7. goalielax 11/05/2010 at 1:34 PM #

    Daily, to put up records vs records:

    TOB’s record vs. every other coach he’s faced in 3+ seasons: 20-23
    PJ’s record vs. every other coach he’s faced in his 2+ seasons: 25-10

  8. choppack1 11/05/2010 at 1:41 PM #

    “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.”

    Time will tell. Like Sendek though, TOB brought his team to the top, but could never finish. Look it up, he’s had a couple shots at glory and lost them w/ WTF games…the biggest being a blow out loss to a pisspoor Syracuse team. I’ll put it this way – a hell of a lot more good basketball coaches have blown double digit leads than lost a chance at a conference championship to a great team then by failing to beat a mediocre Syracuse team at home.

    That’s how you get a reputation of not winning the big one. (Contrast this w/ Jim Grobe who when given the opportunity, seized it.)


    And let’s face it – that Big East he was in…It also had Temple, Rutgers, UConn, and the aforementioned Syracuse. For a good bit of time it did have VaTech and the “U” – but it’s not like it was the SEC or anything.

    Like I said – look at the records. History is relative. Sendek also came to Raleigh after we’d become a joke. BC had their Doug Flutie moment – arguable as many people saw that as saw the 83 championship game.

    I think the analogy applies. Both men struggled early, both men turned around the program but couldn’t win the right games to satisfy the fans.

  9. BJD95 11/05/2010 at 1:42 PM #

    ^^ Lee Fowler played almost no role in this. He had basically no authority after the basketball search fiasco.

  10. TheAliasTroll 11/05/2010 at 1:43 PM #

    Here we go, setting expectations of State winning the ACC Championship with 4 more ACC games left on the schedule. I can see it now, as soon as we lose (likely @ Death Valley tomorrow) the lot of yall singing the highest praises will be railing against TOB.

  11. choppack1 11/05/2010 at 1:43 PM #

    BTW – I would be thrilled if TOB could reproduce here what he did at BC. I’ll take an average 5-3 conference record over the next 5 years right now.

  12. Daily Update 11/05/2010 at 1:43 PM #

    Goalielax: I actually think the people that point and laugh at Butch’s back to back 8-5 seasons are off base. That is significant improvement at UNC and a sign he had the program headed in the right direction. They would have won 9-11 games this year had the scandal never happened. Now obviously if UNC cheated, then all of those results have to be thrown out the window. But, I personally thought Butch was really building something at UNC.

    Records for any coach at a school for a few years doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. Coaches don’t have to win with their own players until years 4 and beyond anyways. We will see if PJ bounces back next year or if his 1st two years were primarily built off the NFL draft picks and other players that Gailey had recruited for him(the RB, DE, and WR).

    It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

  13. BJD95 11/05/2010 at 1:45 PM #

    Sheridan never got NC State over the hump, either. I still think TOB at BC was more analagous to Sheridan here than Sendek.

  14. bradleyb123 11/05/2010 at 1:47 PM #

    Plz2BStateFan, no worries. No need to give Fowler any credit. TOB chose us, not vice-versa. Fowler just happened to be the guy that signed TOB’s paychecks. And Fowler tried his best to blow that deal anyway. Didn’t TOB have to follow up with HIM to see if the deal was on? Fowler was probably snoozing in a hammock out by the lake with a lit cigar at his side, and straw hat covering his face.

    And if Sid ends up working out for us, I don’t give Fowler credit for him, either. Fowler totally BOTCHED that coaching search, and we ended up with Sid, maybe our 5th or 6th choice? If Sid ends up a winner, Fowler will be a classic case of the proverbial blind hog finding a nut.

  15. Plz2BStateFan 11/05/2010 at 1:58 PM #

    From NCStatePride

    “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.

    TOB Built the team up to this point to have this one year of success. It follows that if he keeps doing the same things he will have the same results. He built the foundation and everything almost above it. There isnt any glaring hole left in the team.

    Assuming they get Tenuta to stay, the defense is basically fixed, the special teams is basically fixed. What holes in the team are left?

    Jay Davis was a good QB. He is top 5 all time at NC State statistically. But the failures of Amato surrounded him, Beck, Burke, Evens, Stone, etc. Bad O-Line, Me first attitudes, extreme coaching turnover etc. Its like saying that this year Cincy’s QB is horrible, but last year he was excellent. Its the same QB, but his performance is a function of the entire offense.

    Bottom line <3 TOB

  16. choppack1 11/05/2010 at 2:02 PM #

    “Sheridan never got NC State over the hump, either. I still think TOB at BC was more analagous to Sheridan here than Sendek.”

    I’d agree w/ you more except that Sheridan won immediately. But they both did win, but could never seem to win that game to give them the outright conference championship.

  17. tjfoose1 11/05/2010 at 2:28 PM #

    “All these games scare me. ”

    That makes ’em more fun to watch and attend.

    ‘Pride – we have the personnel to maintain next year, if not surpass this year’s team. But yes, I agree with you, right now, it is only potential.

    “get crushed by VT at home”

    Must have watched a different game than the one I did. I’ve always thought the 1st quarter counted just as much at the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.

    Guess we need to go back and change the record books. I remember a game vs Clemson, in Death Valley, in which we went up 30-0, only to hold on to what I had thought all these years was a 30-28 victory.

    Think it was in Sheridan’s 2nd year, 1987… the same year we lost to East Tenn and finished 4-7.

    Now I come to learn 20 some years later that we got crushed in that game. Wow. Gotta update that record to 2-8. I wonder if Sheridan knows.

    TOB or PJ? I was for option C, Jimbo and Bo.

  18. tjfoose1 11/05/2010 at 2:42 PM #

    “TOB’s record vs. every other coach he’s faced in 3+ seasons: 20-23
    PJ’s record vs. every other coach he’s faced in his 2+ seasons: 25-10”

    Not relevant. They came into completely different sets of circumstances. No direct comparison is valid without holding other variables constant. This comparison has no constant variables, other than a few shared opponents.

    “I actually think the people that point and laugh at Butch’s back to back 8-5 seasons are off base.”

    We laugh not at the record, but what the ‘Heels paid for that record. Before this year, it was mostly referring to Butch’s salary. Now we know that was only the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

  19. Rick 11/05/2010 at 2:47 PM #

    I want to win the ACC as well. I am still not sold on TOB but am ready to change my opinion on him once he proves me wrong.

    I certainly did not expect much out of this team so an 8-4 record would be nice. An ACC title would be fantastic.

    I do not realistically think we win all 4. I hope UNC beats FSU

  20. wvillepack 11/05/2010 at 3:12 PM #

    I really liked Sheridan. I only had two beefs with him. 1) He didn’t like to throw the football inside his own 35. What a shock when MOC took over and we threw the ball on 1st down from our own 20!
    2) He let ECU comeback and win Peach Bowl after we had them beaten!
    Thanks for the update Daily Update. Still concerned that other acc school are recruiting much better than us.

  21. tractor57 11/05/2010 at 3:13 PM #

    Relatively speaking Sheridan apparently was in a better position as compared to the rest of the ACC than TOB at the start of their tenures.

    I’m not ready to crown TOB as being on par with Sheridan but that was a much different place. If the progress continues TOB could well match or exceed Sheridan in my estimation but it is much too early to tell.

    Last year I was disappointed with the product on the field. This year I do see an improved product. Perfect – of course not.

    Will this team win out? Darned if I know but as compared to last year the chances are greatly improved. There is a different feel about this year’s team as compared to previous TOB teams. Now it is possible TOB will reach a plateau but I think that will be better than where he started.

  22. stejen 11/05/2010 at 3:16 PM #

    If memory serves me correctly somebody that knew both Paul Johnson and Lee Fowler called Fowler and told him that Johnson was not interested in the job at NC State, he just wanted the offer so he would have leverage to get a raise at Navy. After that Fowler never contacted Johnson again. When Navy wouldn’t give Johnson the raise he wanted that was when he decided to seriously look for another job.

  23. choppack1 11/05/2010 at 3:31 PM #

    “Relatively speaking Sheridan apparently was in a better position as compared to the rest of the ACC than TOB at the start of their tenures.”

    True – the ACC coached is not the current ACC. Not that this ACC is a legimate power conference but VaTech, FSU, and Miami are basically the equivalents of what Clemson had then…and in 1986, the ACC was Clemson. UNC was beginning in the middle of it’s decline w/ Crum and the miserable beginning of Mack Brown. UMd had some good seasons – but I really think it’s a much more difficult league to win in now.

  24. GoldenChain 11/05/2010 at 3:34 PM #

    “Sheridan never got NC State over the hump, either. I still think TOB at BC was more analagous to Sheridan here than Sendek.”

    I agree, I guess it just depends on what you call “the hump”.
    Sheridan beat a lot of good teams while here. You always felt like you had a chance. While Herb was more ‘OK we should win this’ but just maybe Herb will figure out a way to squander a 12 point halftime lead.

    Sheridan won 7-9 games a year, went to a bowl, and beat Smack Brownie every year.

  25. choppack1 11/05/2010 at 4:11 PM #

    Actually – unless that good team was named Clemson – I don’t recall a lot of times when Sheridan beat a good team. Granted he didn’t play a lot of them in the ACC, but look at his bowl record…I think he was 2-4 w/ wins over Southern Missippi and Iowa.

    Don’t get me wrong, Sheridan was a great coach – but his teams were actually marked by their consistency. They were the classic team that did the little things right – but he was very conservative at heart – and it’s hard for a coach like that to beat a talented team that plays w/ a more free-wheeling style.

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