Before we completely close the door on the 2016 football season, let’s hand out some grades for the ACC coaching efforts for the 2016 season. I have a feeling given the ACC’s fine football season, there’s going to be a lot of good grades handed out. Sometimes most of the class does well.
Virginia Tech – Justin Fuente : A
Justin Fuente just about couldn’t have had a better debut in his first year at Virginia Tech. The Hokies won 10 games, a Coastal Division Title, and had an epic bowl comeback against Arkansas. The offense showed more life than it has in years, and there’s feeling that this could be the start of something big in Blacksburg. This looks like a home run hire.
Georgia Tech – Paul Johnson : A-
With all the new hires in the ACC, some folks kind of forgot that Georgia Tech still has a pretty good coach in Atlanta. The season got off to a slow 3-3 start, but the Yellow Jackets won 6 of their last 7 games. That included wins over Virginia Tech, arch rival Georgia, and a bowl win over Kentucky for a fine 9-4 year. The Jackets were the quasi-SEC East champions going 3-0 against that division. Coming off a 3-9 season, where only 6 or 7 wins were thought to the ceiling, Georgia Tech exceeded expectations and ended up with a really solid season.
Miami – Mark Richt : B+
Mark Richt got a bowl game boost with the Canes win over West Virginia. It was Miami’s first bowl win since 2006. Miami won their last 5 games, and Richt was able to hold together a season that could have went south after a 4-4 start. Past Miami teams would have packed it in at that point, but not Richt’s version. The Canes finished the year 9-4. If Mark Richt wants to get an A, he’s got to find a way to break through against the Noles though. That said it was an encouraging first year for Richt.
Pittsburgh – Pat Narduzzi : B+
Quick the name the only 2 team in the country that beat two Power 5 Champions? If you guessed Pittsburgh and USC that would be right. The Panthers had a 2016 that featured wins over Big 10 Champion Penn State and ACC Champion Clemson. Those same Tigers that went on to win the national title. Narduzzi has made the Pitt program one you have to pay attention too. Narduzzi just missed an A, because as a heavy favorite in their bowl game against Northwestern, the Panthers did not play well and lost 31-24.
North Carolina – Larry Fedora : B-
UNC finished the year 8-5. That really doesn’t sound too bad, but look deeper and this was a season Fedora let a major opportunity slip away. Many felt his team was the ACC Coastal Pre-season favorite. His Tar Heels couldn’t beat Georgia or Stanford in the non-conference, and there was a late season collapse. With a likely first round NFL pick in Mitch Trubisky at QB, and a stud RB Elijah Hood, the Tar Heels lost 3 of their last 4 games. The Heels had talent, and we saw flashes in the wins against FSU and Miami, but in the end it was the finish to the year that hurt Fedora’s grad the most.
Duke – David Cutcliffe : C
It wasn’t a great year in Durham. We know David Cutcliffe can coach, but 4-8 and 1-7 in the ACC is still 4-8 and 1-7. Duke got blown out in their final games against Pittsburgh and Miami and lost 5 of their last 6 games. The win at Notre Dame was big especially at the time, and even though Blue Devils lost their starting QB before the season, Cutcliffe mostly made them competitive. Duke was better than their 4-8 record, but sometime s even good coaches have bad seasons.
Virginia – Bronco Mendenhall : D+
I can’t give Bronco Mendenhall much better than this D+. I know Virginia has a major rebuild on their hands, but I expected more from the Hoos this year than a 2-10 year. Virginia opened the season with losses to FCS Richmond, the worst Oregon team in years, and a UCONN team that went 3-9. There were decent efforts against Louisville and Wake Forest, but Virginia rarely showed the trademark toughness you saw from Mendenhall’s teams at BYU. The 52-10 loss to Virginia Tech in the season finale was embarrassing, and made us question if Virginia ended the season as bad as they started.