One of the cool things about Blogger So Dear is that Wake Forest alumni and a couple of students staff our humble domain. However, Yours Truly is a "Townie", which sometimes causes a problem.
For instance, while my guys are thoroughly and intensely invested in this coaching search because they want the school to pick the right guy, I would rather Ron Wellman hire Ed Orgeron or Lane Kiffin just for the entertainment value. Therefore, I think it is only right to let the fellas field some questions I jotted down about Jim Grobe, the qualities they want in their next football coach, and the current problems facing the Demon Deacons.
What do you think Jim Grobe meant to Wake Forest University-both the football program and the school itself?
What is there to really say? Bar none, the best football coach in school history. He has put Wake football on the map, at least to the point where we're less of a perennial joke. He did it with charm, with class, and at least early on, with making the most out of a little less. Jim Grobe is a first ballot WFU Sports Hall of Famer, and anyone who argues otherwise is nuts. I want to thank Coach Grobe for all he's done, both in the immediate past and for the future.
Grobe is a national name due to the success he had at Wake even outside of the the 2006 season. I have seen stories about him all week and have yet to see a negative thing said about him. He is easily the most recognizable name in Wake football history and possibly in Wake athletics in general. Class act who worked his ass off without seeking recognition.
Jim Grobe is the best coach in Wake Forest history no questions asked. He put the Deacs on the proverbial football map with the miraculous 2006 Orange Bowl run followed by strong 2007 and 2008 campaigns. Before the 2006-2008 stretch, fans accepted 3 and 4 win seasons. But, Grobe raised the bar. Now fans realize that success is possible here. In addition, this run enhanced Wake's national academic profile. While the university has always been a Southern and East Coast academic gem, the Demon Deacons' success on the gridiron brought tremendous academic attention to the school. In 2005, the University had a record 7,481 applicants. In 2013, 11,407 seniors applied to Wake Forest, with record numbers from the Midwest and West Coast. We all know what Grobe did on the field, but his contributions to the community and the university should not be overlooked.
There's no doubt that Grobe greatly elevated the caliber of football program that Wake Forest has. That was made evident by his ACC Championship, five bowl games, NFL talent produced, and the caliber of coaches we are hearing who are interested in Wake's job. Jim Grobe is a class act and has been an outstanding representative of our university.
To mirror what everyone else has said, Jim Grobe is undoubtedly the greatest coach in Wake Forest history. He did the impossible and led Wake Forest to an Orange Bowl. You can debate all day if the ACC was up or down when he did it, but you cannot deny that nobody would have ever wagered Wake would win the ACC in 2006 and Grobe did it. He is tied for the most wins in school history and forever changed the perspective and expectations of Wake fans. More than everything else though, he was a man who left Wake in the same manner in which he entered: full of class, with his ears pinned back, and blowing a couple of snot bubbles. Jim Grobe was a fantastic representative for Wake Forest and he will be missed.
Coach Grobe meant everything to Wake Forest football. He showed fans, the administration, and the media alike that it is possible to win at Wake Forest. He molded mountains of men and demonstrated how to excel on and off the gridiron.
As students/alums, what are you looking for in the next head coach at Wake Forest?
This might fly in the face of my first answer, but frankly I want a coach who is in many ways the opposite of Coach Grobe. Young, aggressive, not afraid to take chances. I want a coach who's not just quietly confident, but outwardly confident, so that that energy and winning attitude can rub off on the players. Coach Grobe was and is an incredible coach, but Wake needs just a little bit of attitude. Ron Wellman has been taking a lot of heat lately for being overly conservative, so take this as an opportunity to prove that wrong. I think with the right hire, Wellman can really cool off the hot seat he's been facing.
Most of all I want a coach who is capable of developing 2-3 star recruits and is able to compete in North Carolina and pipeline states for bigger name recruits. I want a coach who will honor and recognize the rivalries and really hype those up. The coach doesn't need to be an in your face guy, but I would like someone who isn't afraid to speak his mind and get hyped up. I would like a coach who prefers an in your face defense (jamming with the corners, bring the safeties up on the line, etc.) and is willing to gamble on offense.
Grobe is known for his calming ways, had its benefits for many years, but his magic touch wore off the past few seasons. The past two seasons, there was a sense of complacency. For that reason, Wake Forest needs to turn the other way and get a young, passionate head coach. A guy who will light a fire under the players asses. A coach who is not scared to get up in their grill and make a point. This is the kind of personality that can reinvigorate energy and desire into the program. This is the type of coach that can put fans into the seats and keep Winston-Salem as "Wake's Country." While not a requirement, I would prefer an offensive-minded head coach to replace the "offensive juggernaut" the Deacs had with Steed Lobotze.
Ideally I would like a coach who has had success at the BCS level. For a school like Wake Forest who has struggled in recruiting, I would want to bring in someone who has a knowledge of how bigger programs recruit and perhaps bring methodology and ideas that were not used during Grobe's tenure. In my opinion, the more people we can bring in from major college football programs, the more our program will start to resemble one, and the better we will be for it.
For the next coach I would prefer somebody who has head coach experience, but more than anything I want a guy who understands the challenges of a private institution like Wake Forest and embraces said challenges. I don't necessarily subscribe to the theory that the coach needs to be animated on the sideline, but I do believe that a major problem with the team over the past couple of years was that the attitude was stale and we were running low on ideas. We need a guy to infuse the energy that Wake had between 2005-2009 and bring that excitement to the fans.
For the next head coach at Wake I want a coach that is not afraid to go after the big-time recruits with energy and passion. That is extremely important on the recruiting trail and on the sideline. Emotion and intensity has been lacking the past few years and I believe that is a big reason for the lack of success. A group-think mentality was also to the detriment of the team as of late, so a coach that does not put up with extended failure is also a necessity. Most of all though, I want the head coach to exemplify Wake Forest on and off the field as Coach Grobe did for much of his tenure in Winston-Salem. Winning with no character and class is no way to win at all.
What are the biggest challenges facing the next coach of the Demon Deacons?
One word: continuity. When a guy like Coach Grobe has been as much of a fixture as he has at Wake Forest, the guy who follows him is going to have a hell of a time keeping things on any kind of course, especially since we're also losing a ton of senior players. I don't necessarily mean he needs to WIN right away, but he needs to leave his own mark right away and show that whichever hire is made was a promising decision.
Recruiting and developing a program mindset, not settling for 5-6 win seasons. Building an expectation for success (7-8 wins) from the very beginning. Biggest challenge from the beginning will be putting an offense on the field, and determining the best approach with the talent we have now as well as the future.
On day one, the new head coach needs to state simply "We play to win the game!" Well, maybe it's not the best idea to take one from Herm Edwards's book, but you get the idea. Wake Forest needs to establish that is it not satisfied with mediocrity. This is not "Little Old Wake Forest" anymore. Five win seasons are unacceptable. The Demon Deacons are striving to contend each and every year and there are no excuses to claim otherwise.
The obvious challenge the new coach will face is the talent that Wake is losing from its current roster and inheriting a 2014 recruiting class that currently ranks last in the ACC (although he would have time to improve that). I hear challenges facing Wake Forest, and I really would just view them as opportunities. I believe a lot of these challenges are real, but I also believe they are excuses. Wake Forest has a lot to offer potential recruits and I believe the right coach can show future recruits/players that. Finally since Jim Grobe is so beloved, and the fan base's complaints about Jeff Bzdelik's lack of charisma, I believe the new hire will need to be very personable and begin to win over Triad area residents as well as alums who may have been losing interest as of late. This is a great job, and I think a new hire could take this program and help make it a more consistent winner.
The biggest issue for a coach is how to get good players to Winston-Salem. While the school has had a handful of players crack the NFL with success over the past few years, Wake is ultimately struggling to attract high-level talent and always has. I don't expect Wake to compete with FSU and Clemson's five star teams year in and year out, but I do expect Wake to be able to make bowl games at least three of every five years with a chance to compete for the division title at least once every five to seven years. I don't know right now if that's incredibly realistic given FSU and Clemson's level, but that's what I would look for in the next coach: somebody who embraces all the challenges and believes that Wake can consistently become what Jim Grobe had the team at between 2006 and 2009.
The biggest problem for any coach at Wake Forest is figuring out how to recruit and bring in talent to a small, elite academic institution. With 85 players on scholarship it is very difficult to consistently find a team that can take care of business in the classroom and on the field. This was a rare balance in the middle of Coach Grobe's tenure, bookmarked with one or the other for the first and last few years. For this team directly, I would say replacing a lot of the offensive seniors, but I cannot imagine they could get worse. What now is needed is an offensive identity that plays to the strengths of the team as opposed to the weaknesses. The defense will take care of itself with the talent level still there.