Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has had one of the most loyal, stable staffs in the country during his tenure there, which is why the departure of three assistants this offseason is so unusual.
Only once before has Grobe lost two assistants off of his Wake Forest staff. After 2007, Jeff Mullen left as quarterbacks coach to become OC at West Virginia, and Dean Hood left as defensive coordinator to be head coach at Eastern Kentucky. In six of Grobe's 11 years, there have been no changes to the staff, with the exception of moving guys around to coach different positions.
This year has been different.
Grobe made two of the changes himself, hiring Jonathan Himebauch as offensive line coach and Derrick Jackson as outside linebackers coach.
Most recently, Steve Russ has decided to leave for the Air Force Academy. The move makes perfect sense for Russ, an Air Force grad who will now have the title of assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator (have you noticed lately how much titles mean in this business?) Plus, Russ' wife, Betsy, is also an Air Force grad, so they're excited to return. It was a tough decision, though, as Russ played for Grobe at Air Force, and the two of them had a great relationship.
It could work out for the best, though, for both of them.
"I put Steve in a tough position (in 2011) because he coached linebackers his whole career, and I switched him to the secondary last year and it was a tough learning year for him," Grobe said. "He did a great job, but was not an experienced secondary guy. I've always looked to hire the best person I can find first and then worry about where they're going to coach later. I hate to lose Steve, but I think in reality, if I can find a good, veteran secondary coach to come in here, somebody who has been doing it for a while, we might actually improve a little bit back there.
"I think it's a situation where Steve gets to go to Air Force and be an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, but from our perspective, it gives me an opportunity," Grobe said. "I've got to find the right person. I'll hire the best football coach I can first, but if I can find a really good football coach who is also a good secondary guy, I think it could be a move that ends up good for Steve and his career, but also helps the Deacs."
Another change Grobe wanted to make this offseason was to separate the duties of offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke had been doing both, and it wasn't the best scenario for the Deacs.
"Lobo's trying to coach 15 guys, he's got eight to 10 who play every Saturday, and when we get back on Sunday and start breaking down game film, he's got more guys to grade, more guys to coach, more planning, and then when we're out on the field working on the passing game, which we've become, primarily a throwing football team, he's over there going through the chutes, hitting bags, and doing all that Neanderthal stuff with the offensive line," Grobe said. "I think we hit a home run with Jonathan Himebauch."
Grobe also said the team didn't rush the passer very well last year, and that the 11 sacks were the fewest he has seen since he had been at Wake.
"I think Derrick Jackson has some great thoughts not only scheme stuff, as far as pressuring the quarterback, but also fundamental stuff, pass-rush type stuff," Grobe said. "I think we can be better up front with Derrick Jackson helping us out."
Sometimes, change is good.