The ACC has a tradition of being one of the best conferences in the NCAA. The conference is consistently getting better year-by-year. Here are answers to questions I’ve been asked about the overall state of the conference recently.
“How do you feel about the coaching talent on the ACC?”
I think, top to bottom, there isn’t a conference that has as many really good coaches in it than the ACC. The obvious class of the league is Dabo Swinney at Clemson. Few would actually think that he’s not one of the top three coaches in the nation. I believe he is very Saban-esque, but fun.
Mark Richt has literally come into Miami and done something that The U hasn’t been able to accomplish since they entered the ACC in 2004, that is go to the championship game. He’s definitely got them trending in the right direction.
The next level of coaches is really where I can see the conference making a name for itself by being competitive. Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Dave Doeren (N.C. State), Willie Taggart and Steve Addazio (Boston College) are all coaches who give programs much reason to be excited. Doeren and Taggart both came up in many coaching searches last season.
Paul Johnson, David Cutcliffe and Larry Fedora aren’t slouches either. Every three or four years Georgia Tech puts out a surprisingly talented football team and North Carolina got hit with the injury bug big time last season. Cutclife took Duke to a Coastal Division championship. I could realistically see these two coaches competing in the Coastal as they all have as many division titles as reigning champ Miami.
“Is there a clear favorite in the Coastal Division?”
Personally, I see this being Miami’s to lose this season. The Canes return a lot of players from a talented defense; that should be what separates them from most. But it does seem that division produces a new winner every season. The Coastal would be seen as down if you only consider the overall records from last year.
With every team returning double-digit starters and all, but Pittsburg and Virginia with returning starting QBs, one could realistically see a team rise that nobody would expect.
“NCST lost a lot of key players from last season, easily the most in the ACC. How far can Ryan Finley carry them this season?”
Ryan Finley is the most important returning starter of the nine N.C. State has coming back. Bigger than that, Dave Doeren is an extremely talented coach who gets the most out of his players.
They also return a lot of talent in the receiving core with Kelvin Harmon, Jakobi Meyers and Stephen Louis who have 169 catches and 11 touchdowns between all them. It’d be more concerning if Finley had to create a new chemistry with new targets.
The biggest holes are in defense. You just can’t lose that much talent in the draft and not see a dip. A good QB should keep them in most games. If nothing, else they should have a similar record to last season.
“Who will be the surprise team of the ACC this year?”
I’m going to go out on a limb and say there’ll be two teams that turn heads in the ACC in 2018. I think Boston College will shock more teams like it did FSU last fall. They’ve got 10 players that project well in 2019 draft. Addazio has done a good job of recruiting talent that fits the tough-nosed and physical style of football that BC has been known for for years. I don’t think they will feel intimidated by any team they play next season.
The other surprise team will be how much more improved FSU will be in 2018. The tempo should challenge every team they face with the exception of Clemson and Miami.
“How deep is the ACC in terms of talent this year?”
The ACC had 45 players selected in the 2018 NFL Draft only bested by the SEC. This total was the third highest in conference history. I can see that number being higher in 2019.
Clemson and Miami could have multiple first round picks, with many suggesting Clemson’s entire defensive line could be drafted in the first round. Boston College boasts one of the most talented teams, in terms of draft stock, in the ACC. Finley from N.C. State and Bryant from Clemson are two of the top QBs in the NCAA. FSU has a lot of talented underclassmen who could be drafted high if FSU performs better than the 2017 campaign.
That brief rundown alone should project to be at least as good, if not better, than 2018 draft class.
Article Originally Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/expect-on-major-surprise-in-the-acc-football-standings-this-fall