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Re-ranking the ACC coaches

12/12/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's time for a reshuffling of this preseason list, and it wasn't any easier the second time around. A few coaches who entered the season surrounded by doubt proved themselves, one is no longer in the league, and a few ended the season on disappointing notes. The overall picture, though, didn't change much.

Here's the latest version of the ACC coaches ranking:

1. Jim Grobe -- If you can win at the smallest school in the BCS, you can win just about anywhere. Not having Sam Swank or a dependable offensive line was the Deacs' problem this season. They're still headed to a bowl game, though, and it's the first time in school history Wake Forest has been to three straight bowls. This year's group of seniors is the winningest senior class in school history at 31-19.

2. Frank Beamer -- He continues to win with defense and special teams, and his three ACC titles in five years proves he's one of the best in the league. This season was probably one of the best coaching jobs he's done in his career.

3. Paul Johnson -- He knows how to be a CEO of his program and commands the respect of the players and staff. His play calling this season proved a lot of doubters wrong. Johnson is going to give defenses headaches as long as he's in the league.

4. David Cutcliffe -- He inherited one of the worst programs in the country and won four games. Every other coach in the league has a different level of athlete to work with. Cutcliffe barely had a BCS-caliber football team, but he did have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a senior-laden roster. He is an SEC coach who can X-and-O with the best of them.

5. Jeff Jagodzinski -- What he did with how little he had to work with was impressive. He proved himself this season, and manages the program well. He lets his two coordinators -- Steve Logan and Frank Spaziani -- do their jobs without micromanaging them.

6. Tom O'Brien -- He got the most out of his team down the stretch, and practically owned the state of North Carolina with wins over East Carolina, Duke, UNC and Wake Forest.

7. Bobby Bowden -- Bowden gets this spot with all due respect. If Bowden was the one who named the starting quarterback for the bowl game against Wisconsin, he would be higher on the list. But considering he defers such decisions to Jimbo Fisher, it's not really fair to measure him entirely as a head coach. It's kind of an awkward situation, because Bowden is one of the best.

8. Butch Davis -- He's a proven coach who continues to bring the talent necessary to challenge for an ACC title and a top 20 ranking. Ending the season with losses in two of the last three games, though -- and the way they lost to NC State (41-10 at home) -- bumped him down a few notches, despite a convincing win over Jagodzinski.

9. Randy Shannon -- He got bumped up a few notches after getting the Canes back in the postseason and showing significant improvement from a year ago. He is one of the better recruiters in the league and is starting to develop that talent. He knows how to be a coach, but can he be the CEO of the program? Some outside the program still wonder about staff and player personnel decisions.

10. Ralph Friedgen -- He's not the easiest guy to work for, as evidenced by the significant amount of turnover he's had on his staff. He hasn't done the best job recruiting, and twice now he has had the opportunity to win the Atlantic Division and lost it.

11. Al Groh -- The combination of off-field issues and the 5-7 season has him here. Did Groh do an impressive job with his third-string quarterback? Definitely, but he shouldn't have been down to his third-string quarterback to begin with. Kudos, though, for scheduling USC. Still, Craig Littlepage's decision not to extend Groh's contract isn't exactly a ringing endorsement.

12. Dabo Swinney -- Despite what he did at the end of the season, Swinney is still an unproven head coach. His future starts now with recruiting.