Ranking the ACC Head Coaches

The ACC has seen nine of the 12 schools replace their head coach in the last five years and many of them enter with little experience. NoleDigest.com breaks down the ACC head men for the 2010 season.

Top Five

1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

Beamer has been at the helm at VT since 1987 and for all intents and purposes has built VT into what they are today: a consistent, top 20 team that pops their head up in the National Title picture from time to time.

His style, known as "Beamer Ball", is best described as a complete team effort--including special teams--to put points on the board. His team's are known for their tough defense and they tend to protect the football on offense.

Since joining in the ACC, the Hokie's have gone 7-1, 7-1, 6-2, 7-1, 5-3, and 6-2 in conference play. This is further prooof that he excels in conference games where he is familiar with the opponent. The one downside is that his team's have consistently struggled in big, non-conference games.

He is clearly the most proven commodity in the ACC at the coaching level and has yet another team in 2010 that should compete for the conference championship.

2. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Johnson has won everywhere he has coached. First, he led Georgia Southern to two 1-AA titles(1999, 2000). Then after going 2-10 in his first year at Navy he reeled off records of 8-5, 10-2, 8-4, 9-4, and 8-4. In his two years for the Yellow Jackets he has gone 9-4(5-3) and 11-3(8-1), including an ACC Championship last season.

Known for running the Triple Option offensively, some questioned whether the antiquated offense could work at the major college level. Well it has and it is expected to get better as he continues to add HIS pieces to the puzzle.

His first year win over rival Georgia certainly sent shockwaves through the state and other ACC teams know they are in for a dogfight when they play GT. Johnson appears poised to take his team to the next level in the coming years.

One problem he faces is the bowl game. His offense becomes easier to defend if given a month to prepare, he will need to make an adjustment there in the future.

3. Butch Davis, North Carolina

Butch can flat evaluate recruits, that is his forte as he has come out of the Jimmy Johnson school of coaching. With five possible first round picks on the defensive side of the ball in 2010, he clearly has done an excellent job in his three years at UNC.

His track record at Miami recruiting wise was stunning. He landed legendary players like Ray Lewis, Frank Gore, Sean Taylor, Edgerrin James, Vince Wilfork, and Clinton Portis(amongst many, many more).

The knock on Davis has always been his actual coaching skills on the sideline, but that has improved considerably--four years in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns certainly helped.

He has his best team in 2010 as the Tar Heel's head man and big things are expected if they can find quality QB play.

4. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest

Grobe has one of the toughest job's in the ACC at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacon's have almost no tradition, higher admission standards, and share a state with three other ACC programs. He has done a tremendous job of making Wake Forest relevant.

One thing he has done to counteract a little less pure talent is that he tends to redshirt most freshmen, that gives those players a fifth year which is huge.

His teams play hard, disciplined football and we think the best is yet to come. He went 11-3 and made the Orange Bowl in 2006 and we feel he is another couple of years left in him where that accomplishment can be duplicated.

5. Tom O'Brien, North Carolina State

O'Brien lands here because of the tremendous job he did at Boston College. He led the Eagle's to bowl games in each of his last eight years there(did not coach the last one) and is proven commodity.

He has struggled for the Wolfpack thus far with 5-7, 6-7, and 5-7 records in his first three years. However he has not been dealt the best hand and things are looking up with Russell Wilson as the QB.

We expect the Pack to be much improved in 2010 and for O'Brien to find that sweet spot at NCSU of being a consistent bowl performer again. He brings discipline both on and off the field which stems from his playing days at Navy.

The Others

Ralph Friedgen, Maryland

Can you say "hot seat"? After starting out his Maryland tenure on fire(10-2, 11-3, 10-2), Friedgen has seen his team underperform the last six years. No one expects National Title's at Maryland, but he has to make the Terrapin's relevant again in the ACC. Last year's 2-10 mark did not help matters.

David Cutcliffe, Duke

Cutcliffe is somewhat of a proven commodity as he enjoyed plenty of success at Ole Miss. He was let go and the Rebel's certainly suffered in his absence. He has a tough job at Duke, but it should be noted he improved by two conference wins in his second season for the Blue Devil's and clearly they are more competitive than they traditionally have been. Considered an offensive genius, particularly with developing QBs, Duke should be much better as long as Cutcliffe is around.

Randy Shannon, Miami

Shannon has taken his lumps in his first three years after taking over for the mess that Larry Coker left. He has gone from 5-7 to 7-6 to 9-4 in his first three years and the Canes should be better in 2010. This is a big year for Shannon, after landing a contract extension, nothing less than an ACC Championship Game appearance will do for the Hurricane faithful.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Clemson canned Tommy Bowden for "underperforming" and thus far Swinney has basically done what Bowden accomplished at Clemson. He went 4-3 down the stretch in 2008 and followed that up with a 9-5 season last year. The jury is certainly still out, but Swinney deserves some time. He is showing signs of busting out on the recruiting trail and players seem to respond to his coaching. The next 2-3 years will be huge as Tiger faithful badly want to be in the National Title picture.

Mike London, Virginia

London is entering his first season as a Head Coach at the D-1 level, he has coached Richmond (13-3, 11-2) the past two seasons. He has a lot of work to do for the Cavalier's as the talent is way down from earlier this decade. Oddly, he opens the season vs. Richmond, one of those D-1 vs. 1-AA games that could go to the 1-AA team. He will not see a ton of pressure in Charlottesville until perhaps year three or four, that should allow him to quietly build a roster because of his outstanding recruiting abilities.

Frank Spaziani, Boston College

Spaziani went 9-5 in this first year at BC and is a long time assistent for the Eagle's. He understands the culture of the program and was an excellent hire. He has professional experience in the Canadian Football League. A favorable schedule in 2010 could make BC one of the surprise teams this season.

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Fisher enters his first year as a Head Coach, thus can't be ranked at this time. While expectations are high, it will take time for him to leave his imprint on a program that had the same coach for 30+ years. While this is not 1999 FSU, he does come into a pretty good situation and Nole fans are not known for their patience. He will be expected to go 8-4 or better and improve every year.


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