The ACC’s had talent, so what’s been the problem in football?

Luke KuechlyThe ACC spring meetings are currently going on at the moment, and later this week I’ll give you my impressions of what went on. Before that though there was an interesting piece written by Dennis Dodd of CBSSportsline titled “On-field results don’t come close to matching potential for ACC” that I want to talk about.

From that article Dodd details the ACC’s NFL pedigree, then asks the question why hasn’t the ACC been more successful on the field? Hers’s an excerpt…

In the last three recruiting classes, only the SEC has signed more prospects than the ACC in ESPN’s top 150. In the last nine NFL drafts the SEC and ACC are the only two leagues to have at least 30 players drafted. Florida State just had 11 players taken last month, a school record matching its total of the previous four drafts combined.

In the 2012 Pro Bowl it wasn’t even close. The SEC (26) and ACC (20) had more players on the rosters than the other three BCS conferences (Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12) combined (44).

Conclusion: The ACC is recruiting good players and producing more than its share of pros. But the mystery grows when they actually play football at ACC schools.

First if you are a fan of an ACC school, this is actually a positive. This proves you can recruit talent to the ACC and produce NFL players in significant numbers, so what’s happening on the field? The answer is far simpler than Dodd made it appear. What do all successful teams have? Talent and coaching. Well the talent is there in general, so it obviously must be the coaching.

Going back the last 10 years in the ACC reads like a who’s who of collegiate head coaching mediocrity  There are names like Georgia Tech’s Chan Gailey, UNC’s Jim Bunting, Clemson’s Tommy Bowden, the last 5 years of Bobby Bowden’s tenure at FSU, Miami’s Randy Shannon, Virginia’s Al Groh need I go on? The coaches that were actually decent X’s and O’s guys couldn’t get elite talent to their schools. I’m talking about guys Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen, Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe, Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, NC State’s Tom O’Brien, Duke’s David Cutcliffe and to a lesser extent even Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer who has been the ACC’s most successful program in the last decade.

The Hokies had decent talent but would frequently get exposed in BCS games.

It’s not hard to see that the problem has been at the coaching level. I think we are beginning to see changes there though that bode well for the future. Dabo Swinney of Clemson is not a noted football strategist, but has surrounded himself with very strong assistant coaches to compliment his recruiting ability. Georgia Tech is currently undergoing changes in their recruiting philosophy. I would like to see Jimbo Fisher give up the play calling duties at FSU, but he’s a very good recruiter. In addition, there’s no denying he has Florida State moving in the right direction.

There have been recent coaching changes at UNC , NC State and Boston College. Duke is upgrading their football facilities. That will certainly aid in David Cutcliffe’s recruiting. Louisville managed to retain one of the hottest coaching names in the business in head coach Charlie Strong last season as they prepare to join the ACC next year.

So the great mystery Dodd was wondering about wasn’t that complicated. It was the odd case of a last decade of good talent with mediocre coaches and inferior talent with good coaches. It certainly appears that moves are being made in the ACC to align the good coaching with good talent.

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