It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2012, Athlon asked coaches in the ACC to talk anonymously about their opponents.
ACC Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes
Opposing coaches size up the Eagles:
“Losing Montel Harris, that’s big. He is a really good player. I know he had some injury issues, but he was such a big part of what they did. Without him Boston College was a completely different team last year. They really were. You no longer had to worry about the running game and could just sit back and wait for quarterback Chase Rettig to make a mistake.
Fair or not, (Frank) Spaziani’s job security isn’t very good. Their fans don’t want to hear about injuries or excuses; all they know is they finished last in the ACC with, what was it, three or four wins (BC was 4–8).
Rettig is much less effective without the threat of a running game, so it’s imperative one of their other backs, (Rolandan) Finch or (Andre) Williams, can step in and produce. Both of those guys have talent.
Spaziani’s teams have always been strong on defense, but this year will be interesting. For the first time in three years they won’t have either a Mark Herzlich or Luke Kuechly anchoring the defense. Kuechly was awesome. Such a great player on the college level, and he will be a good pro.”
Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:
“Everyone is going to start with the Orange Bowl blowout. How in the world do you give up 70 points — in a football game? I think (Dabo) Swinney actually can use that game as a positive this year. Obviously it will be a major source of motivation, and he’ll certainly have to spin it the right way or the Tigers could regress this season.
Don’t feel too bad for Swinney: He’s gonna be just fine, especially with what he has back on offense. By no means is quarterback Tajh Boyd an unknown, but I really think he’s still vastly underrated. A terrific dual-threat that continues to get better and better and better.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins was a beast last year. It’s scary to think how much better he can get. With Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson’s got two of the nation’s top receiving threats. And don’t forget about running back Andre Ellington. The Tigers have some serious talent on the offensive side of the ball.
The defense had some issues last year, surrendering a ton of points late in the regular season. New coordinator Brent Venables needs to have an immediate impact.
The sad thing for Clemson is last year’s 8–0 start seems like it was five years ago. Has a conference championship ever felt so dissatisfying?"
Opposing coaches size up the Blue Devils:
“The Blue Devils seem so close to putting together a winning record, but for whatever reason just can’t get over the hump. Last year was a prime example: They lost close games to Richmond, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech on their way to another losing season.
(David) Cutcliffe is a helluva coach, but Duke has now put together back-to-back three-win seasons. Still I think better days are ahead. I might be in the minority, but I think they could surprise some people this year. They have a decent nucleus back starting with wide receiver Conner Vernon, who has set a bunch of records and is primed for a big senior year.
Like most schools, the key will be the play at quarterback. At 6'5", Sean Renfree has the size to get the job done, but he absolutely must cut down on his interceptions. This is his final year and he wants to go out a winner.
The defense is never going to scare you at Duke. They were serviceable for the most part, but it looked like they got worn down in the second half of the season, ending the year on a seven-game losing streak.”
Opposing coaches size up the Seminoles:
“Expectations again will be sky-high for (Jimbo) Fisher. Can the Seminoles finally live up to them this year? I’d hate to have those expectations to have to compete for a national title or bust every season, but I guess it’s better than the alternative.
If quarterback EJ Manuel can stay healthy this year, I think this is the year the Seminoles break through and make a national title run. Manuel is a very good quarterback in a league with a lot of nice quarterbacks.
The reason I like the Seminoles a lot this year is because of all the talent they return — nearly their entire offensive and defensive starting units are back.
What’s scary is that the defense can be even better than last season when they were dominating at times. After their midseason hiccup in consecutive losses to Oklahoma, Clemson and Wake Forest, they didn’t allow more than 19 points in their final eight games.
Defensive end Brandon Jenkins could have left early for the NFL, but instead returned for his senior season. That’s huge for them.
If FSU is ever going to live up to the lofty expectations, this is the year. They’ve got the talent. But we’ve heard that before.”
Opposing coaches size up the Yellow Jackets: