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College football: ACC's two new coaches aren't that new

POSTED: July 26, 2010 7:14 p.m.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Jimbo Fisher walked into the ballroom at the Atlantic Coast Conference media days Monday and immediately reminded everyone of his predecessor.

"Dadgum!" he said, seemingly startled to find some two dozen reporters wanting to talk to him. "This is like a birthday party — everybody's supposed to bring a present.

"Dadgum!"

Bobby Bowden is no longer in charge at Florida State, but sometimes their new head man still sounds like the longtime Seminoles coach. And after spending two years as FSU's coach-in-waiting, Fisher doesn't have to wait anymore.

Just as Florida State is Fisher's team now, the Virginia Cavaliers belong to Mike London — a two-time assistant in Charlottesville.

Turns out the ACC's two newest coaches aren't all that new to the league.

"Sometimes people say I'm like coach Bowden. Sometimes people say I'm different," said Fisher, who also won a national title with Nick Saban at LSU. "I'm just me. I don't try to look at it that way. People always talk about Coach Bowden and Nick to me. ... Two different styles can be successful, and the thing about both of them, they're their own person. They don't try to be anybody (else) — Nick tries to be Nick, and Bobby always tried to be Bobby.

"And so the greatest lesson I can learn from both of them — Jimbo has to be Jimbo."

That's all the Seminoles wanted him to be in December 2007 when they named him the eventual replacement for the 80-year-old Bowden.

Fisher arrived in Tallahassee, Fla., before the '07 season to run the offense, following a successful run at LSU under Saban in which they won the title following the 2003 season, and kept Florida State among the ACC's leaders in total offense, averaging 420.5 yards last season.

Now the Seminoles hope their familiarity with Fisher — and his familiarity with the same Florida State offense he orchestrated in the 1980s at Salem and Samford for Bowden's son Terry — can simplify the transition.

The Seminoles were the preseason pick by media members to win the Atlantic Division despite the handoff from one of the two winningest coaches in Bowl Subdivision history to someone who has been proclaimed a rising star but nevertheless has never been a head coach.

"That's expectations, and that's part of being at Florida State. That's why I wanted the job," Fisher said.

London got the job at Virginia under difference circumstances — he replaced Al Groh, his former boss who was fired after nine seasons. London was Groh's defensive line coach from 2001-04, was his recruiting coordinator for three of those seasons, and after a stint in the NFL, was his defensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007 before Richmond gave him his first head coaching job.

Now that he's back at UVa, he hopes some of his concepts stuck with his players in the months that followed spring practice.

"It's not a whole lot of (spring) practices when you're new," London said. "It's still an ongoing process of assessing your players and who you have, because most of the gains that you have come at the time when spring practice is over and you're going into the fall (and) because of the rules the NCAA has, we can't be involved with their development.

"So when they come back, you see they've gotten bigger, faster, stronger, and you see ... they can do the technique, the drill that you want," he added. "Then, you start feeling better about the level of play. So that's kind of where all this boils down to, when you come out of the spring, going into the fall, going into camp, it's, 'Who are those guys who made the jump?' And if you have enough guys who made significant jumps, then you've got a chance."

With Bowden's retirement and Groh's dismissal, the latest spins of the coaching carousel have left Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer as the only head coach in the ACC to have his job for at least a decade.

But he's not the longest-tenured coach in the league because his Hokies didn't join the league until 2004. That makes the deans of the conference Maryland's Ralph Friedgen and Wake Forest's Jim Grobe — and they've only been around since 2001.

And it wasn't that long ago that it was Friedgen, not Fisher, who was the longtime assistant finally getting his first crack at being a head coach.

"Now we've kind of come full circle," Friedgen said.


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