It’s the college football off-season so that’s the time for opinions galore on teams, players and of course coaches. We’ll be doing that during the course spring and summer starting with the coaches. Coming off the 2014 season who’s the ACC’s number 1 coach? This isn’t a career based ranking, though it’s not completely ignored either. As with anything it’s a what have you done for lately world.
1) Jimbo Fisher – Florida State
I still don’t think Jimbo Fisher gets enough credit for completely turning the Florida State around. The Seminoles are coming off a national championship season, and are again one of the country’s elite football schools. For nearly a decade in the early to mid 2000s, Florida State was a shadow of the powerhouse program it had been from the mid 80s – through 2001. They were decent, but no longer great. It’s a disservice to Fisher say he built FSU with a SEC Blueprint. It’s not that simple. He re-built Florida State they way he needed to win the ACC then the National Title, and Seminoles show no signs of slowing down.
2) David Cutcliffe – Duke
Duke won 10 games last year, made the ACC Championship game, and came within an eyelash of beating Texas A&M in the Chick Fil A bowl. David Cutcliffe has done more than just make Duke respectable, he’s made them good. He had to completely resurrect a dead football program when he took over. Cutcliffe has a remarkable job at Duke, and if you think the Blue Devils are going to back take a huge step back forget it, not with David Cutcliffe at the helm. Peyton Manning seeks him out for advice if you need anymore evidence.
3) Dabo Swinney – Clemson
Dabo Swinney will never be known as an X’s and O’s football tactician, but he knows his strengths and utilizes them. He’s an engaging personality and a good recruiter. He isn’t just a good recruiter when it comes to players either. He pulled in Brent Venables from Oklahoma to coach defense, and when some questioned the hire of OC Chad Morris, Swinney saw an innovative offensive mind. He’s turned Clemson into a legitimate football power over the last 3 years, and he’s laid the term “Clemsoning” to rest. That might be the most impressive thing he’s done. He needs to end that ugly losing streak to South Carolina though. By they way will the Freedom from Religion Foundation needs to leave Swinney and the Clemson program alone?
4) Frank Beamer – Virginia Tech
Frank Beamer is the dean of ACC Coaches. He’s won 224 games at Virginia Tech, and 4 ACC Titles. Beamer also got Virginia Tech to national title game back in 1999, so why is he 4th on this list and falling? The Hokies have went just 13-11 the last two seasons. Virginia Tech is still good, but they’ve slipped in recent years due to mediocre recruiting and an offense that at times looked like one of the worst in country. Is Frank Beamer headed down the Bobby Bowden path, or can he turn Virginia Tech back into an ACC contender? I still think he has a run or two in him.
5) Bobby Petrino – Louisville
Bobby Petrino has a poor track record off the field, that we don’t have to re-hash here, but he can flat out coach football. He’s won at every college he’s been to. He won at Louisville. He won at Arkansas, and he won at Western Kentucky. Petrino is one of the best offensive minds around, and he should be able to keep Louisville in the top 25. If he’s truly changed as a person, the Cardinals have found gold in Petrino. If not he’ll win a few games, and leave Louisville to pick up to the pieces.
6) Al Golden – Miami
Remember where Florida State was about 3 years ago? That’s where Miami is now. Golden has improved Miami each season he’s been there. Last year the Hurricanes went 9-4, and at one point in the season were in the top 10. Miami had too many issues on defense to sustain that, but they are improving. Golden is bringing talent to Miami, and it’s only a matter time before Golden gets back Miami into the top 20. The NCAA investigation is behind them too, and that will only help.
7) Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech
A few years ago it would have been unheard of to have Paul Johnson as a middle of the pack ACC coach, but that’s where he is. Johnson has Georgia Tech right back where they were when he got there. A 7 win team that gets to bowl games, but loses to Georgia just about every year. Johnson is an excellent gameday coach. I still believe that, but he’s recruited so poorly that the Yellow Jackets usually get overwhelmed and lose to any of the better teams on their schedule. This is no matter how well they play. There’s just isn’t a lot of talent in Atlanta. This year he put together a decent class, but I wonder if it’s too late for him.
8) Larry Fedora – North Carolina
Is this the year UNC, really takes a steps forward? After a 1-5 start last year, Fedora regrouped and got the Heels to a bowl game which they won to finish the year 7-6. They were arguably the Coastal Division’s second best team after Duke. There’s a lot of optimism around Tar Heels program going into this season. I like Fedora and I can see him moving up this list.
9) Paul Chryst – Pittsburgh
Pitt was very close to having a great season. They lost 5 of their 6 games by 11 points or less, and they won their bowl game. Chryst is now entering his 3rd season at Pittsburgh with a 13-13 record. You’d like to see the Panthers move beyond that 6-7 win total, but in their first year in the ACC, Chryst had Pitts quite competitive.
10) Steve Addiazo – Boston College
Steve Addiazo made a really good first impression in year one of his tenure at Boston College. He brought a toughness and new attitude to Boston College, that resulted in a bowl game, and Andre Williams becoming the Doak Walker award winner. This was a program that had really fallen off the last few years, but the future looks much brighter with Addiazo.
11) Scott Schafer – Syracuse
It was tough to separate Schafer, Addiazo, and Chryst. They are all are in the 1st or 2nd year at their respective schools, and all are coming off 7 win seasons with bowl games. None has more than 3 total years of head coaching experience. I think you could have put them in any order. That said, I think all have done some good things, and that proves the depth of the ACC Football coaches going into 2014. Syracuse won 4 of their last 6 games included a bowl victory over an 8 win Minnesota. There were three losses by 35 points or more.
12) Dave Clawson – Wake Forest
Dave Clawson will be in his first year at Wake Forest replacing Jim Grobe. He has a 90-80 career record including a 10 win season last year at Bowling Green. He’s never head coached at a Power 5 conference. Is Clawson ready for the Florida States, Clemsons and Louisville of the ACC Atlantic?
13) Dave Doeren – N.C. State
When you go through your first ACC season, and don’t win a single ACC game and go 3-9 it’s hard to rank you too high on an ACC coaching list. Doeren did have a nice recruiting class, and he had success at Northern Illinois so I don’t think you can give up on him just yet.
14) Mike London – Virginia
It’s an ugly situation in Virgina now. The Cavaliers have won 6 games the last two years, and are 2-14 in the ACC the last two years. London is a good recruiter, but the bottom line is win and losses, and London and Virginia have been losing a lot lately. If he doesn’t show some improvement this season, it may be London’s last season at Virginia.