FSU preps to face one of country's best

Toss out the topic of the best college football coach in the country, and the familiar names will start flying your way - Nick Saban, Urban Meyer (sorry FSU fans), Mack Brown, Jim Tressel, etc. Big names at big schools.

One name that won't come up is Wake Forest's Jim Grobe. A small name at a small school. No school in a BCS conference is smaller than Wake Forest, with its tiny enrollment of 4,569 students (to put that number in perspective, FSU has that many students from Leon County alone on an annual basis).

And no coach in the country does more with less than Jim Grobe.

His career record at Wake Forest is a seemingly pedestrian 61-52. That's enough to get you fired at Alabama or Florida or Ohio State. At Wake Forest, it's enough to get you a contract extension, which is what Grobe got in February of 2007, after leading the little school that could to the ACC Championship and the Orange Bowl.

But under Grobe, the Demon Deacons have not been a one hit wonder. In fact, under his direction the Deacs have been to more bowl games, produced more eight-win seasons, and tallied more bowl wins than under any other coach in school history. The program's 33 wins over the last four years are the most ever during any four year period in Wake Forest football history.

And remember Seminole fans, 3 of those 33 wins came at the expense of Florida State.

So how does Grobe do it? In unconventional fashion, which is one of the reasons why his name doesn't stand out on a who's who list of college football coaches. He goes into tradition rich football states and finds football players that slipped through the cracks, or were passed on by the bigger, more well-known football programs. This year's roster alone features 28 players from Florida, 11 from Georgia, and 6 from Texas. That's half the Wake Forest roster from 3 of the best high school football states in the country.

Most of those players didn't play when they initially arrived on campus in Winston Salem. Because Grobe does the unthinkable for typical recruits: he redshirts them. Almost all of them. In his decade long tenure at Wake Forest, he's played only 19 true freshmen. FSU is playing 13 true freshman this year alone, and during Grobe's tenure FSU has played somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-100 true freshmen. But true freshmen make freshmen mistakes, something Grobe has all but eliminated from the equation at Wake Forest as a result of his philosophy. Instead, Grobe allows his players to mature physically and mentally during their first year on campus, and it follows that his teams play with better continuity and cohesion and with a better grasp of the playbook than many other schools because of their extra year of development.

Speaking of the playbook, it too is unconventional at Wake Forest. There is plenty of misdirection to scheme against, from reverses to option passes. At the line of scrimmage, the cut blocking technique Wake uses at times is legal but atypical, another challenge for opposing teams to prepare for during game week. Additionally, Wake Forest's special teams are always solid and sometimes spectacular, because special teams play can be a difference-maker.

And that's what Jim Grobe is and has been for Wake Forest - a difference-maker.

He's made a difference at a place where others couldn't, including his predecessor who now coaches the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, Jim Caldwell.

He's not a big name at a big school, though many of those schools have called. Over the years Grobe's been linked to vacancies everywhere from Alabama to Arizona State, Auburn to Arkansas, Virginia to Clemson to Tennessee.

Instead, he remains a small name at a small school. Except to Wake Forest fans. To them he's as big a name as it gets.

He's their Bobby Bowden, having put Wake Forest football on the map.

And he's one of the best college football coaches in the country, whether you've heard of him or not.

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