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ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015

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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 or overused cliches used during the year.

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2015, Athlon asked coaches in the ACC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

ACC Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

Atlantic Division

Boston College

“They’re one of those teams that are real hard to read because on film, it’s like they have a bunch of slow, unathletic guys running around but those guys are smart kids.”

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“They don’t do anything to get themselves beat.”

“The coaching staff there has done a real good job, and they’ve gotten better every year, so I imagine they’ll continue to get better.”

“They’re mostly a zone team. Before Steve Addazio they were 100 percent zone, but they’ve started to play a little more man. Their defensive coordinator loves pressure, and from a preparation standpoint they’re probably the funkiest team we play because of how many looks they’ll give you. It takes a lot of time and practice just to get ready for the different blitzes and stuff you see on film that you’ve got to get right.”

“Personnel-wise, nobody really jumps off the page from the front seven and they’re nothing special in the secondary, but they do a real good job against the run and that will keep them in almost every game.”

“They’re starting over on the offensive line. They’re still going to try to run the ball and be physical up front because that’s Addazio’s personality, but they were a pretty mature team last season.” 

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Related: ACC All-Conference Team for 2015


“If Deshaun Watson comes back 100 percent, I think they’ll get back to being an explosive team offensively.”

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“They spread you out and based on your numbers in the box, they’ll run it or throw it and try to isolate you in space with their playmakers and get you playing at their pace. They weren’t as successful at it last year because they struggled at quarterback when Watson was hurt and their running game was average, but I think they’ll be improved across the board.”

“It’s really tough to measure up to guys like Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, but No. 7 (Mike Williams) was probably their best player and No. 3 (Artavis Scott) created a lot of big plays on the fly sweep and they’re both back. If (Charone) Peake is healthy, they’ll be as deep at receiver as they were a couple years ago.”

“They’ve never been great on the offensive line, but they’ve recruited some more talented players that should start to pay off for them.”

“They’re going to be talented on defense — I just don’t know how quickly they’re going to figure it out because of how much experience they lost.”

“Defensive line is probably the biggest question mark for them.”

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

Florida State

“Obviously they’ve lost some guys across the board, but they’ve got talented kids coming back and the way they recruit they’re still going to be one of the better teams in the country.”

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“That’s going to be a heck of a battle for them at quarterback. You know what you’re getting with (Sean) Maguire. I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked at (Deondre) Francois coming in as a freshman. He’s a real raw kid, but he’s got the ‘it’ factor. I don’t know if either of those guys is going to be as good as Famous Jameis, but they’re gonna be fine down the road.”

“It may be a little scary for them up front because they lost almost everybody but they’ve got one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. I’ve got a lot of respect for what (Rick Trickett) does with those guys.”

“I know they lose (defensive end) Mario Edwards, but I don’t think they’ll have much of a drop-off; I really don’t. They’ve always got defensive linemen. They may have a bigger drop-off in the secondary.”

“The biggest thing we’ve seen scheme-wise is I don’t think they’re as aggressive with Charles Kelly as they were with Jeremy Pruitt two years ago.”

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015


“They’re probably the best defense we played last year, no question about that, and I think everyone in the league would tell you the same thing. From a personnel standpoint as well as an athleticism standpoint, they were outstanding. They lost a couple guys up front and the safety who had an unbelievable year (Gerod Holliman), and we knew (Lorenzo Mauldin) was a cat daddy, so it’s good to see he’s gone.”

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“Will they be as good as they were? That’s tough to tell, but I don’t see a huge drop-off because they recruit pretty well and they’ve got some transfers they can plug in.”

“The safety from Georgia (Josh Harvey-Clemons) is going to help them big time.”

“There’s no question their secondary was probably the most physical we played, and top to bottom they gave us fits protection-wise. They really get after you.”

“The receiver (DeVante Parker) was as good as anyone we saw on film and was even better in person. They’ll miss him a great deal because he was the one guy who really jumped off the screen offensively. I think they’ll be OK at the skill positions.” 

“My question is how good they’ll be up front because they do lose three starters and it’s a different style blocking scheme.”

NC State

“Their quarterback (Jacoby Brissett) didn’t play great against us compared to what we saw on film, but he is a really good player. He can make a couple special plays a game just taking off and running with it if things break down, and he’s better than advertised throwing the ball. He wasn’t real consistent at times, but he’s one of the more dynamic players in the league. Now that they’ve seen him, I imagine they’ll do stuff schematically that will help him a little bit more and play more to his strengths.”

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“They were probably the most improved team in the league last year, and I think they’re only going to get more talented because that staff is doing a good job recruiting.”

“I don’t know if they’re going to put it all together this year, but they’re definitely a team you have to play well against to beat. Even when they’re bad that’s always a tough place to play.”

“They don’t have anyone on defense that we said, ‘Uh oh, we’ve got to account for that guy,’ but they’ve significantly improved on defense. Their front seven was pretty good, fairly physical, but they did have a lot of seniors so that may be a little bit of a problem. They were decent in the secondary and they’ve got most of those guys back.”

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015


“They’re one of the most unique teams we play because defensively, it’s like they’re always just coming after you.”

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“They play a lot of zone and blitz a lot but whatever the book says, they’ll do the opposite. If it says you’re supposed to sit back and play coverage, they’re coming. As a play-caller, you’re trying to get in a rhythm and build one thing into the next, but they’re coming from everywhere.”

“I don’t want to say they’re unsound, but they’re just always turning guys loose and if you can get the ball out you have a chance to hit them in the mouth, and if they have a busted protection you’re going to hit them.”

“They struggled offensively before the quarterback (Terrel Hunt) got hurt and struggled even more after he got hurt.”

“Watching them on film, it seemed like they were trying to do way too much to compensate for the fact that they didn’t have enough playmakers. The probably outsmarted themselves a little bit.”

“What’s their bread and butter? If they can figure that out they may have a chance because their defense will keep them in some games but they’re probably not going to beat you throwing the ball.”

Wake Forest

“They’re just OK. We got after them pretty good on defense, but a lot of people did last year as much as they struggled to run the ball.”

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“They really had problems all over the place, but they just weren’t very physical up front and everything kind of spiraled from there. They were in 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long almost every drive with a freshman quarterback.”

“Under the circumstances, I don’t think the quarterback (John Wolford) was bad by any means. They’ve got to get better around him but that’s a tall order.”

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“Their skill against ours, I’d take ours and I’m not sure we’re that good. I think they recruited pretty well last year and a lot of those guys are probably going to play.”

“The two players that come to my mind that were really good were the two senior corners. Every scout that came to our place asked us about them. There’s probably going to be a drop-off there because they were pretty good on the outside.”

“Under Jim Grobe they were a 3-4 and now they’re a 4-3, more multiple-look-type of defense which probably helps them a little bit, because if you’re playing a three-man front you better have linebackers who can move, and their backers are big, but they can’t really move that well.”

Coastal Division


“I think they do a great job of coaching.”

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“They have some pretty good players that always play hard and they make the right plays. They don’t give up a lot of explosive plays and don’t have blown coverages defensively. They’re just very sound in what they do.”

“They’re probably starting over a little bit on offense losing the quarterback (Anthony Boone) and the receiver (Jamison Crowder), who was probably one of the more underrated players out there.”

“Probably the best thing they do defensively is their third-down and red-zone attack. That kept their scoring defense numbers pretty good. You get in the red zone and they’ll mix up their pressure — they’ll all-out blitz and play straight cover-zero at times. There’s good variations in the timing of how they do that. To hurt them, you’ve got to do it early in the count and get some explosive plays on first and second down. When they got to third down or play on a small field, that’s when they were able to create some negatives for offenses.”

“Personnel-wise I don’t recall a lot of standouts, I just know they do a really good job in their third-down packages defensively and that can really have a big impact on the game.”

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

Georgia Tech

“The quarterback is their engine and the guy they’ve got now (Justin Thomas) is probably as good in the triple-option as Paul (Johnson) has had since he’s been there. By the end of the year, nobody was stopping him. He doesn’t necessarily scare you throwing the ball, but they can pick their spots with him.”

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“They’re not going to do anything defensively that jumps out at you, but they’re opportunistic and their offense helps them out. They played a lot of zone, which is pretty much the same thing they’ve done for awhile.”

“I thought some of their guys in the secondary were decent. The nose tackle (Adam Gotsis) is a guy you have to account for and make sure you know where he is.”

“It’s one of those offenses where if it’s clicking that day and you’re a little bit off, it’s going to be a long day because they’re capable of scoring just about every time.”

“If you’re an offense that makes a living on the fast-paced stuff, playing them can be brutal because your mindset as a play-caller is you want to go, go, go and hit the big play, and if you don’t do it against those guys you’ve got to go to the sideline. And then it’s in your head a little bit because you’re not getting the ball back for 10 or 12 minutes and you can’t get into a rhythm.”

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015


“They’re really, really talented. I’m not exaggerating: Every play they run could be a house call because they’ve got so many explosive skill players.”

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“You do look at it sometimes and wonder how that bunch didn’t dominate the Coastal last year.”

“They did lose a lot of big-time players; obviously Duke (Johnson) is one of them, but Clive Walford gave us all kinds of problems and (Phillip) Dorsett was dangerous on the outside. But one thing you know about Miami is they’re going to have athletes all over the place.”

“Schematically, they’re going to do things to protect the quarterback and keep him back there and isolate their skill on yours and hope to get the right matchup.”

“Brad Kaaya is a guy I think they limited what they were doing with him in the passing game, maybe a little too much. He can really spin it. Their approach was pretty much run the ball to set up their play action and take a deep shot every now and then. I think that’s who they want to be: a team that plays with a tight end or two and can run the ball when they want to run it. They had enough skill last year to be a spread-it-out type of team, but that’s just not really who they are.”

Related: 5 Areas of Concern for Miami in 2015

North Carolina

“Obviously they were not good defensively, but I thought personnel-wise they had really good athletes; I just think the scholarship losses caught up to them.”

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“They had no depth defensively, and I think it really showed up in the front seven with how much they struggled to stop the run.”

“They really should be better because I think they’re close to full strength from a numbers standpoint and obviously they’ve got a new (defensive) coordinator who’s won national championships in Gene Chizik. The unknown is how the kids are going to adapt because they’re going from a defense that was a little more unconventional to the 4-3 he’s going to want to put in there.”

“They’re going to be prolific offensively with everybody coming back. They have great skilled athletes all over the field, and the offensive system they run fits their personnel.

“They go as fast as Clemson, if not faster, and they’ve probably got the deepest group of receivers in the league. They’ve got four or five guys who could go for 100 yards on a given day.”

“The quarterback is a little bit hot and cold, but when he gets hot he’s really, really good. You can’t let him get into a rhythm.”

Related: The ACC's Top 15 Heisman Contenders for 2015


“I imagine with the new staff it’s going to be similar offensively with a physical style of ball, ball-control offense and try to hit you in the play-action game.”

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“James Conner is a load, but they gave him a ton of carries early in the season and he might have worn down a little bit. I don’t blame them because they weren’t real consistent at quarterback, but they weren’t as effective running the ball from mid-October on.”

“Tyler Boyd is a home-run hitter and if you add safeties to the box, it’s tough to double him. He finds a way to get open and he sort of looks effortless in how he can go up and get it, which is how the really good ones do it.”

“I think last year was a learning experience for their quarterback (Chad Voytik). They tried to make it simple and straightforward, and he did a good job staying away from turnovers, made some plays here and there. He played better at the end of the year.”

“We’ll look at what Pat Narduzzi did defensively at Michigan State because I don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to the same team from a scheme standpoint. He’s a guy who likes to aggressively pressure you, and the last staff had a completely different philosophy.”

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“We thought they were pretty talented, especially on defense.”

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“They’ve recruited extremely well.”

“Instability at quarterback has been their No. 1 issue, no question. Very little continuity from year to year. If you can’t settle on one guy and get him to perform, it’s hard to get over the hump. Both of their young guys got experience last year, but they were nothing special. I think they’re really just hoping one of them improves enough to grab a hold of that thing because they were still very limited offensively.”

“Their pass rush last year was phenomenal, which is what you expect from Jon Tenuta. He’s going to bring guys from everywhere and mix up his blitzes and make it tough for your offensive line to block everybody. It’s tough to prepare for.”

“I know a couple guys turned pro early, but they’ve recruited some long, talented guys on defense. They’re probably one of the most athletic defenses we faced all year.”

“We tried to recruit Quin Blanding a little bit early on, and he’s everything we thought he could be watching him in high school. You can put him in the box or drop him. He takes great angles, he’s a good tackler, very cerebral player.”

Related: The ACC's Top Players Returning From Injury in 2015

Virginia Tech

“You know, I think they were more talented than their record.”

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“They’re just probably looking to put it all together because they haven’t really had an identity offensively and that’s hard to overcome. They’ll have a chance because they know who the quarterback is, they’ve got stability with the coaching staff and the system, and they bring all their skill guys back. But it’s still all about execution.”

“We watched the Ohio State game on tape and (Michael) Brewer was rolling. He can make all the throws, extend plays with his feet. We thought he was good. But obviously in other games he was pretty inconsistent with his decision-making and he took a lot of sacks. It’s one of those deals — you just hope to play him when he’s not playing well.”

“It’s tough to prepare for their defense because where they’ve got guys playing is just a little different. They’re going to play that robber coverage, which is something Bud Foster has been doing for 30 years.”

“They’re deep in the secondary, and they recruit that way to fit their scheme, but they’ve also got elite guys in the secondary. They almost always do, but when (Brandon) Facyson and Kendall Fuller are healthy that’s maybe as good a pair of cornerbacks as they’ve had.”

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015