As we near the end of May, let’s go ahead and rank the ACC football coaches. This will be the first of several ACC rankings as we start with the coaches and move to the ACC postional rankings in preparation for the season.
When I look up and down the ACC’s coaches I see more coaching depth than I’ve seen in literally years. This doesn’t even include Louisville’s Charlie Strong who will join next year and would have certainly been in the top 4.
There isn’t a single coach that hasn’t had some level of success at least the assistant coaching level. Agree or disagree with the rankings?
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1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Frank Beamer has had an absolute stranglehold on being the ACC’s top coach for years, but his grip is slipping. After 8 straight 10 win seasons, that included 4 ACC Titles the Hokies went 7-6 last year. The Hokies have clearly fallen behind Florida State and Clemson as the ACC’s top programs, but I’m not giving up on Beamer just yet. If he can put together a 10+ win season he’ll be able to hold off the hard charging Jimbo Fisher and Dabo Swinney.
2. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
You know I think Jimbo Fisher gets a lot of undeserved criticism. For a coach that’s won 31 games in 3 years, there are whispers of of underachievement. I don’t think people realized just how far the Seminole’s program had sunk in Bobby Bowden’s final years. Fisher has returned FSU to relevance, and the 11 players drafted in the 2013 NFL draft proves the talent is returning to Tallahassee. Yes there are head scratching losses to NC State and Wake Forest in recent years, and I’m not a fan of him calling the offensive plays, but FSU prorgam is in the best shape it’s been in since the late 1990s.
3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
It’s time give Dabo Swinney his due. The Tigers have put together back to back 10+ win seasons, and they are coming off of a 11 win season that included a win over SEC Power LSU. The Tigers have now established themselves along with Florida State as the ACC teams most likely to eventually breakthrough and contend for a national title. He’s arguably the conference’s best recruiter. If Clemson knocks off Georgia to open the 2013 season, Clemson could jump into the top 5.
4. Al Golden, Miami
Al Golden has impressed me at Miami. With the cloud of the NCAA investigation still hanging over the Miami program, Golden has keep the Hurricanes program afloat. He rebuilt Temple while he was there, and has recruited decently at Miami. Last year he tied for first in the Coastal Division. I have a prediction, Golden will again make Miami a perennial top 20 program.
5. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
I don’t think there is a better play caller in the ACC. Johnson’s triple option offense is as tough to defend 5 years later as it was when he first arrived at Georgia Tech. That is with less talent too. He’s made 3 ACC Title games in his 5 years, and turned Navy’s football program around. Unfortunately the Yellow Jacket’s talent level has declined in recent years, but as I’ve said here before Georgia Tech is modifying their recruiting philosophy to recruit more nationally. If Johnson can ever figure out this recruiting thing and start bringing in some stronger classes, the Jackets could be a real force. Yes I know Georgia Tech has a limited curriculum. He can still recruit better.
6. David Cutcliffe, Duke
What David Cutcliffe has done at Duke is remarkable. The Blue Devils football program was an absolute laughing stock when Cutcliffe got there. He’s made Duke respectable, and he got the Blue Devils to their first bowl game since 1994. He’s one of the most respected quarterback gurus in the country. He’s worked with the likes of Peyton and Eli Manning and turning Sean Renfree into a NFL pick. With Duke finally investing in their football program, the Blue Devils rise may not be quite finished.
7. Larry Fedora, North Carolina
In his first year at UNC, Larry Fedora won 8 games and had the Heels not been on probation, they would have represented the ACC Coastal division in the ACC Title. This was following a 12-2 season at Southern Miss. Fedora uptempo offense should be even better in 2013. Fedora and UNC could make a huge splash if they can defeat South Carolina to open the year down in Columbia.
8. Dave Doeren, North Carolina State
This will be Dave Doeren’s first season at NC State, but he’s coming off a 23-4 record at North Illinois that saw the Huskies make the 2012 Orange Bowl. Doeren is a little tough to judge because he has yet to coach in the ACC, but I like the hire. I wasn’t a fan of Tom O’Brien and I think Doeren is a big upgrade for the Wolfpack.
9. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
That I have Jim Grobe at 9th on this list, is testament to the ACC’s improved depth of coaching. Grobe won the ACC Title at Wake Forest and won 28 games in a 3 year span from 2006-2008. I still think Grobe can coach, but his last winning winning season was in 2008. The talent level has decline since that time. Wake will never recruit all that well no matter who is coaching there, but Grobe hasn’t found those diamonds in the rough that seemed to be there during the 06-08 run. The ascension of Atlantic Division rivals Clemson and FSU has hurt Wake Forest, and it remains to been seen if Grobe got Wake Forest as far as they could go.
10. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh
I think ACC fans will be surprised by Paul Chryst, he’s a good offensive mind, and was a very successful offensive coordinator while at Wisconsin. There were some worried folks at Pitt when the Wisconsin job opened last year, but the Panthers were able to retain Chryst. I have long felt Pittsburgh is a place that under the right coach can be consistent winner. It would not surprise me to see Pittsburgh become a perennial bowl team under Chryst with the occasional run at the ACC Coastal Title.
11. Mike London, Virginia
Mike London looked like the ACC’s next big thing at head coach, but 3 years after his hire the Cavaliers are right back where they started with London. There are bookend 4-8 seasons in year year 1 and year 3. London is a decent recruiter, but coming into year 4 Virginia fans are going to start expecting some better results. He did win a FCS Championship at Richmond.
12. Steve Addazio, Boston College
Addazio has brought some much needed energy to a Boston College program stuck in neutral. He’s a Northeastern guy, that’s a good fit for Boston College. Addazio won 9 games at Temple in 2011, but only 4 last year in a transitional season. If Addazio can produce a bowl season at BC this year, he’ll move up this list quickly.
13. Scott Schafer, Syracuse
Schafer has no head coaching experience, so he’s been the toughest to judge. You would prefer that a head coach have some experience running a program, but he has had some strong defenses at Syracuse while he was DC there. He’s a noted defensive guy and he’ll need that when he faces high powered ACC offenses like Clemson’s in the Atlantic Division. As with Addazio if Schafer gets Syracuse to a bowl, he’ll move up this list.
14. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Somebody has to be at the bottom of these rankings. Edsall really isn’t that bad of a coach. He got Connecticut to a BCS game, and averaged more than 8 wins his final 4 years there. His tenure at Maryland has been a disaster though. He won 2 games in 2011 and just 4 last year. An exodus of players left after year one. He was the victim of a rash of injuries in 2012 at quarterback, but if anyone can make an argument for Edsall to be higher than 12th on this list I’m listening.