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. Ismael 11/05/2010 at 4:11 PM #

    One of the problems i see here occasionally and in other forums is this attitude of being scared or whatever when big games are on the line. As much as the attitude of the football team needed adjusting, the attitude of the fans needs adjusting as well. We’re already bowl qualified, we have a chance, at the start of Nov. to win the conference and you better be damned sure I want another crack at VT.

    Someone mentioned about we’re setting ourselves up praising TOB and if he loses to Clemson we’ll be on his case. It all depends of course. If we get down there and CU plays the game of their lives and we just can’t stop them and lose, then no, this is a tough place to play. But if we go down and lose because adjustments aren’t made or a timeout isn’t called at the right time, then yes, this is something to hound TOB about.

    BJD95’s points still stand regardless, this team and this program has a different feel. Just look at the simple fact we are the least penalized team in the conference.

    I’m also not worried about this recruiting class at all. 1) it was going to be small to begin with and 2) i’d rather us swing and miss on good talent instead of filling up the roster like we’ve had to do just to have bodies. We could practically not take anyone in this class, ZERO recruits and we’d have a damn good team next year

  2. 61Packer 11/05/2010 at 4:13 PM #

    After Chuck Amato was fired, Paul Johnson was the better choice than Tom O’Brien. Amato left players who were suited to Johnson’s wide-open style of offense, but O’Brien had to rebuild a completely different type of program since he was a line-oriented coach. It’s taken 4 years and although Georgia Tech won’t win the ACC this season and State might, don’t jump to conclusions. The same people who hired Sidney Lowe, which I still believe was a colossal mistake, made a somewhat lesser mistake when they passed on Johnson for O’Brien. But it was a mistake nevertheless.

    I don’t know if we’ll ever win the ACC under TOB, but we should at least compete from here out, or I think he should be sent packing. I agree with choppack1 most of the time, but the ACC is NOT a more difficult league to win now that FSU is no longer a national top 5 program every year like they were for a decade.

  3. Daily Update 11/05/2010 at 4:41 PM #

    Sheridan only beat a few teams with 8+ wins. I did that research already when we hired TOB.

  4. tjfoose1 11/05/2010 at 5:09 PM #

    “He let ECU comeback and win Peach Bowl after we had them beaten!”

    Ugh. Bad memories… only thing that helped was the multiple, some might say excessive, very expensive Corona’s at Fulton County.

  5. VaWolf82 11/05/2010 at 5:27 PM #

    Here is the only point I will raise: a successful coach isn’t defined by one winning season.

    And if this season is ultimately judged as “successful”, it won’t be TOB’s only one….just the latest one.

  6. mwcric 11/05/2010 at 5:27 PM #

    Wow, was the article written by an actual State fan? It’s waaaaay too optimistic; must be from an impostor. I’ll wager with anyone we finish the season 1-3. We won’t win in Death Valley, especially after CU lost last week to BC. Maryland seems to always have our number when there’s something on the line, and Friedgen’s first UMD team was considered a fraud too…and made it to the Orange Bowl (granted they were hammered, but I wouldn’t mind concealing fraud status until reaching a BCS bowl). We’ll beat Wake or UNC, but not both of them. It just doesn’t happen that way in Raleigh, sorry. And TOB seems like a nice enough guy, but he did his fare share of choking in Boston too. Hope I’m wrong…know I’m not.

  7. coach13 11/05/2010 at 6:25 PM #

    Recruiting right now is my biggest concern. We need a good team of recruiters aside from TOB.

    Finally, the nice thing if TOB ever leaves or get replaced, he will likely leave a fundamentally sound infrastructure.

  8. wvillepack 11/05/2010 at 6:28 PM #

    I keep telling you and you ain’t listening. Moose is going off tomorrow and we are going to win.

  9. RedandWhite97 11/05/2010 at 9:18 PM #

    Although it was tough last year, I have been a TOB supporter because I do feel there are similarities with Sheridan and I always have and always will be a Sheridan fan. However, I’ll admit, at the time I wanted us to hire Paul Johnson. When TOB put his name in the hat, I was intrigued but still leaned slightly towards PJ. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would bring the triple option to the ACC, though. I thought he would modify it to incorporate more passing because he would have athletes that he just did not have at Navy. I figured he ran the trip. op. at Navy because it was Navy. Yes, he won an ACC Championship last year, but I feel over the long haul, he will have a mediocre program with an occasional above average to very good season. I just don’t see how an offense with “8 pass plays” as the guys on ESPN mentioned last night can be successful in a major conference. The ACC has been middle heavy for a decade. EVENTUALLY (who knows when), someone will emerge which will make it that much more difficult for the PJs and Grobes to win.

    I think recruiting (because the trip. option is going to get these recruits to the NFL how?) and the lack of the forward pass will catch up to him. Coaches and teams adjust. With every passing year, I think it will be easier for GT’s ACC opponents to prepare for the triple option. I may be wrong and if so, more power to Paul Johnson. I just don’t think it will work out in the long run.

    btw – On the flip side, I do have a lot of respect for PJ for sticking to what he knows and what he feels is right and bringing the triple option to a BCS conference. Very admirable.

  10. highstick 11/05/2010 at 10:35 PM #

    I’d been a TOB fan while he was at BC, but I’d developed some concerns over the past years after he came to State. Obviously some of the comments that you guys have said he made about players was part of that concern. But, I’m not totally against a coach calling a player out on occasion if he knows what he’s doing. I’m hoping things are turning for him and this year is the “beginning year” of a lot of good things for our team.

    I think I was snakebit in the Sheridan-early O’Cain years. Every time I went to Clempson to watch the Textile Bowl, we’d lose. If I didn’t go, we won. It was very frustrating.

  11. TheCOWDOG 11/05/2010 at 11:14 PM #

    Not a single one of you picked up BJD’s belief/ready reference.

    Most of you guys still don’t get it. Not your fault.

  12. Ismael 11/06/2010 at 9:51 AM #

    call it realistic, pessimistic, whatever, but some of you guys have some really pissy attitudes. i don’t necessarily blame you what with all the years of mediocrity we’ve endured, but can’t we have some optimism, just a little?

  13. goalielax 11/06/2010 at 2:57 PM #





  14. Primewolf 11/06/2010 at 3:10 PM #

    TOB– that was one of his worst calls ever. No logic to it at all.

    TOB game day coaching makes Butch Davis look like a genius.

    What a cowardly decision, let everyone down.

    I do not see why they kept putting Graham in the game. He can’t run a kickoff back, he can’t catch a pass, and he likes to dance around too much.

    We have made no progress as a team in TOB’s 4th year.

    I hate Bible’s play calling when we play a good team. This and ECU were awful.

  15. El Lobo Loco! 11/08/2010 at 11:50 AM #

    I still believe TOB was a good call.
    Compared to where we were at the beginning of the season, i guess he’s done very well!

    Agreed ECU and Clemson were big screw ups; but other games were big wins.

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