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ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2020

ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2019

ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2020

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 bulletin board 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 2020, Athlon asked coaches in the ACC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2020

Boston College

"(Jeff) Hafley has a lot of work to do here. Mediocrity was accepted in this program for a very long time."

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"Hafley did a fantastic job as DC at Ohio State, but that's not something you can apply in this situation. The Buckeyes ran about as simple a scheme as anyone in the country last year. If you do the same thing at BC, you'll lose every game by 50. You have to be complex, creative and different to make a difference with a roster like this."

"They're going to push NFL prep in recruiting, we think. They have a lot of ex-NFL guys on staff, so they'll push that to recruits. That might not work, but give them credit for doing something different."

"They've had some good running backs in the past, AJ Dillon played really hard and should have a shot at a pro career, but they need to find another one quick. The offense's strength is the line, so they can build off that."

"Defensively they don't lose a lot but they need to scrap it and start over. Go completely fresh with their scheme."

"The toughest part of the job at BC is that it's like Syracuse. There aren't enough local players to build off of. In this league, are they ever going to have enough to line up against the Southern schools? Is that the expectation?"

Clemson

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Clemson

"They're going to be a national title contender again this year, and they're still a good mile ahead of anyone in the conference. It's really that simple. They reload every year to where you aren't able to point an obvious weakness."

"Trevor Lawrence is a Heisman-caliber quarterback. That's obvious."

"Tony Elliot is a great play-caller."

"The offensive line is kind of simple; they're so skilled they don't have to do much in terms of scheme. They're losing a lot of starters, so if you're looking for a question mark, that's maybe one, but they're not going drop that far off."

"(Travis) Etienne is a showstopper, but he actually needs to work on some things to become a truly great back. He's always been a home-run guy because they've never had to lean on the running game with Trevor there."

"What people don't understand about Brent (Venables) is that they're stripping that thing down and rebuilding it year to year. It's really amazing."

"One year they have all those NFL defensive linemen and they go real simple. Last year they flipped their defense. Three safeties, three-down blitzes from the secondary. They changed so much. They'll do something fundamentally different this year, just wait. He'll look at the personnel and rewrite the plan."

"Year in and out, this is one of the four best programs in college football until further notice."

Related: College Football Top 25 for 2020

Duke

"Taking a transfer quarterback (Clemson's Chase Brice) was really out of character. This is a head coach and an offensive staff that might be one of the best ever at grooming quarterbacks, and they're taking a transfer to start? Kind of strange from the outside. Don't get me wrong, Brice is talented, he can command an offense. We saw that at Clemson. It's just out of character for a Cut QB not to be in the system for a while. And he won't have the weapons he had at Clemson. They need improvement at receiver."

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"Offensively, it's Cut's offense. It's the same terminology he used at Tennessee, even some of the calls. You know what you're getting, and they're not overly complex, they just execute their stuff."

"The kid on defense, Chris Rumph, the coach's son, he's as good as anyone in the league at the end position. They do a great job with him. He could really be a star. Otherwise, they're not going to overwhelm you with talent." 

Florida State

College Football Top 25 Rankings: FSU

"Everyone is a little bit nervous about Mike Norvell coming into the league. This won't be an overnight fix, but it is a big-name Florida school, and they can get talent in there faster than most places."

"You knew during the (Willie) Taggart era that they weren't going to be consistent or coached up. They didn't play hard, especially those last few games he was there."

"Right away, they can build on defense. The front seven is talented, and the secondary is good by other schools' standards but maybe not theirs."

"Offensively, we think (James) Blackman can fit what Mike likes to do. It's a versatile offense that wants to be able to bend and change around what the personnel can do. Blackman just made so many bad decisions last year. That's the improvement you can expect immediately."

"Everyone knew that Jimbo (Fisher) took the last years off in recruiting, but it's Florida State. You can only screw that place up so much and not be able to beat two-thirds of this conference."

"The downside could come in attrition. Taggart got a reputation for bringing in attitude guys. So now you're going to see some of those guys pushed out."

"Mike should get two years, but he might not even get that. They're desperate to win again. They want to show that they're not headed down that steady decline like Miami."

Related: Ranking the ACC Coaches for 2020

Georgia Tech

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"Geoff (Collins) has spent over a year managing the expectations in a very public way, which is divisive in the coaching community."

"On one hand, they're totally deficient at a lot of key positions, which is what you would expect from a team coming off the triple option. They don't have ACC-caliber receivers, their offensive line is a mess and they could only be very vanilla on offense."

"On the other hand, this was a successful program a few years ago. The defense has identifiable talent and some guys who would see time on other teams."

"They picked their QB (James Graham) and rode him good or bad, which is a smart move. They turned the ball over constantly, and they couldn't run. Fix those two things and they'll up their win total."

"Once they can get a little more consistent on offense, it allows them to get loose and fast on defense. Collins knows how to wreck you. You should see a jump this season in the front, they're going to play the run better, they're going to rush the quarterback better."

"Yeah, they're in Atlanta, but Tech has never had a modern identity. So far they haven't exploded in recruiting or anything."

"They will likely end up a better team with the same record."

Louisville

College football rankings: Louisville

"Scott (Satterfield) did an amazing job with one of the least talented rosters in Power 5. Those kids quit on (Bobby) Petrino and came alive last year. They want to play for Scott."

"They're still pretty awful on defense, and they want to lead with offense first, but there's a long road ahead if they're going to be a program in that tier just below Clemson."

"They need talent on defense at every position. Schematically they're OK, pretty simple, it looks like they want to be the kind of staff that throws everything into signing athletes and scheming simple concepts around that, not necessarily fitting talent to a style or scheme."

"Micale Cunningham has a lot of upside and should only get better, so long as they can keep the offensive line serviceable. Think of him right now as the poor man's Lamar Jackson for them. They have to place better athletes around him."

"Scott is calling the plays and doing a good job of it. They do great stuff out of play-action, and they can take some shots on you when you aren't expecting it."

We're curious what the ceiling is here. Bobby fell apart before they could figure it out there, because it's not the old Big East job. How far can you take this program in this division? They're really going to have to work overtime to get the talent you need to be better than third in this division year in and out." 

Miami

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Miami

"They really looked embarrassing at times last season. Losing to that Georgia Tech team is inexcusable."

"They're still super talented on defense because they're still Miami. I think Manny (Diaz) got caught trying to be too smart a few times. Like, with those athletes, why are you overthinking this thing? Just go play man coverage! Go let them loose."

"They looked so bad in the bowl game on offense. They gave up and didn't care at all. You saw it on the tape. That's a case of them not being as good as they think they are."

"The offensive line was embarrassing against Florida, and then they got worse because they didn't scheme to help themselves. By the time they got to conference play, you kept thinking they'd change things up to bail out the line. They didn't."

"(D'Eriq) King is a freak show player, but he can't be the sole threat. If (new offensive coordinator) Rhett (Lashlee) runs what he has at his previous places, they're gonna get him killed without some help. They could be all over the portal again this summer."

"This program needs to get serious about itself. They're out in recruiting talking about the swag and the smoke like it wasn't 30 years ago."

"I think you're going to find out really fast if this regime is going to work out. They could end up a mess just like Florida State last season."

NC State

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"They could be in trouble. There's some bad mojo around the program. They've turned over a lot of people in the building."

"They're very physical on the line, and that's the identity here. They must preach that to the kids because on film it looks like physicality is more important than technique or scheme."

"The wide receivers are OK, but no one stands out. The play-calling was uninspired; they could use some creativity here because they aren't going to out-talent the top-half teams."

"Defensively they're interesting. They ran a 3-3 stack a year ago, you need good corners for that which they had, then they went in Tampa 2 and couldn't stop anyone running."

"They're not doing well in recruiting; that's something the rest of the conference has noticed. It used to be that they would be able to fight for any kid that wasn't a national prospect; now they're getting shut out as soon as UNC or Clemson starts recruiting, let alone an SEC school."

"We saw a lot of contributors on their defense in the portal. That's caused some suspicion."

"Dave (Doeren) was a guy who almost had an SEC job, and now it looks like he won't be able to keep it together. They're far from those nine-win teams."

"If they make a move, it's a job a lot of coaches would jump at. You can figure it out there."

North Carolina

North Carolina Football Schedule 2019

"It seems like the Mack Brown project is working so far. They're recruiting exceptionally well and drawing more interest than the program has seen in a long time."

"Mack is the CEO. He's not Nick Saban, but he's not an idiot either. He's letting the coordinators run their systems, that's evident, but he knows a lot more than he gets credit for."

"Where you're really seeing his impact is in the personnel. Look at what he did with Chazz Surratt. You've got a backup quarterback at best who might end up being an NFL linebacker."

"They're going to be better on defense; they have some real talent in the backfield now with the transfers. They'll be young but bigger and faster. They're more talented defensively than people think, they just changed systems and coordinators so often that there was no consistency."

"The offensive line needs improvement over last year, but they looked better. Otherwise the offense might be the second best in the entire league behind Clemson."

"Sam Howell is only going to get better, and almost everyone around him is back."

"They're in line to make a run in the near future if they land the caliber of recruits they're chasing now. This is the program that's changed their identity in recruiting the most in our league. Outside of the Florida schools, this is a team built to chase Clemson."

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Pittsburgh

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"You know what you're getting here. This is the team that looks basic on film and then you get into a fight before the game, a fight during the game and they try to fight you after. That's all Pat (Narduzzi). He is that team."

"That personality is how they carry themselves. They're gonna hold you, press man coverage, get personal fouls, goad you into it, all of it. Pat is a great defensive mind, but he needs to learn that the team reflects the head coach. They ride too hot and cold; they swing too much because that's how he's acting on the sideline."

"They're not as good running the ball as they think they are. They're going to have to get better and more creative there, even in the new offense. It has to work when they hit you with that change-up after the passes."

"(Offensive coordinator Mark) Whipple is a really good schematics guy; they just didn't have what they needed last season. Schematically they give you problems no one else in this conference does."

"Their upside is that front seven. They're gonna disrupt you. They can get after it, they can confuse your protections and they can fight through you."

"They really could be a nine- or 10-win team this season if the offensive line gets better and they fix the scoring problems. The pieces are there."

"(Kenny) Pickett is a solid game manager but could maybe develop into something more."

Related: ACC Football Predictions for 2020

Syracuse

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"It could be a long year. They looked more talented in past years than in 2019, and the supply is only going downhill."

"That system pressures the quarterback to be such a smart, good player, that when the right talent isn't in there they automatically put themselves in trouble."

"What (offensive coordinator) Sterlin (Gilbert) should be able to do is help (Tommy) DeVito read things a little better, maybe simplify some decision-making."

"Their offense needs to do something different. The general perception in the P5 is that tempo isn't as difficult to defend as it was five or six years ago. It feels like a novelty now, at least the way they run it."

"The one bright spot in their recruiting is that they have some big, athletic receivers and some more behind them. They're losing their top production guys, but this is their one real depth position."

They have to change their approach to recruiting if they're going to survive in the ACC. The level of talent they're bringing in isn't going to be able to run this system effectively enough to win consistently."

"Right now you can define (Dino Babers') time there as a single breakout season where he had a quarterback that was a unique talent in (Eric) Dungey. You can't make a pattern of that. The defensive and offensive quality hasn't really shown improvement outside of having a hot hand one year."

Virginia

"There are a lot of questions about how Bronco (Mendenhall) can keep that momentum going from beating Virginia Tech and going to the Orange Bowl."

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"Looking back, I'm not sure they have that kind of year if the quarterback is anyone other than Bryce Perkins. He was such a force for them. He was their entire offense in a lot of key situations."

"So now Perkins is gone, plus their two best receivers. I wouldn't be shocked if you saw transfers come in and play immediately."

"Defensively they've done a really good job these last few years. They're not going to be able to replace (cornerback) Bryce Hall this year. He was a standout, a big part of their leadership. They were noticeably different after he went down in the Miami game."

"They're recruiting OK. They're also recruiting nationally, maybe a little bit from Bronco's BYU days. They might have a better idea on how to do that nationally and not get lost trying to find your type of guys. You see them out across the country, treating UVA a little bit like Stanford or Northwestern."

"The positive here is the coaching staff. They have earned a ton of respect across this league for how they've built that roster up. Bronco is also a tremendous football coach, schematically, in the details. They've got a fantastic culture; we never hear anything negative from that program."

Virginia Tech

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Virginia Tech

"The most interesting team in this conference going into 2020."

"Why are they continuing to bleed guys into the portal? Where is the offensive identity?"

"What are they going to look like without Bud Foster, and how is that going to affect them with their fan base?"

"This is a hell of a year coming up for Justin (Fuente)."

"We're really interested in that defense's identity without Foster. That's maybe the toughest job to take in the FBS, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator after Bud Foster."

"There's a lot of respect for Justin, but they seemed really dysfunctional on the field last year. The front and back ends were out of sync; there seemed to be some issues off the field."

"The front seven is just OK. There isn't a war daddy anywhere on the defensive line."

"There's been a step back in recruiting defensive players over the last five or six years, and it's really starting to show. This isn't the fast, long team that could create problems."

"Why are they losing so many skill position guys on offense? Their slot and their X receiver went into the portal. How many offseasons now have we seen them lose offensive guys to transfer?"

"They need a big year. This should still be one of the best jobs in the league and one of the most talented teams. Right now it's neither."

WakeForest

Wake Forest: college football picks against the spread

"They're consistent, year in and out. (Dave) Clawson does a fantastic job putting those players through a process. They have a style, a method to how they develop their guys."

"Defensively, they're doing a solid job. It's still (former coordinator) Mike Elko's scheme more or less. They don't stress their secondary too much; they're able to show a lot of looks and play smart to cover their gaps in talent."

"They're really great with zone read. Sometimes it gets them in trouble because it develops slowly, and a smart, fast defense can jump on it. But if you aren't careful, they'll kill you because they draw it out and read it and read it until the last second."

"The receiver (Sage) Surratt was one of their best players; they were limited without him. Provided he's healthy, that could be big for them. He can do a lot of things in that offense."

"You question how often they smash up that quarterback. He's a skinny kid, about 220 maybe, and it's QB iso and reads a lot. They better have depth at the position to do that kind of stuff. The (Sam) Hartman kid could be really talented, but he's been hurt a lot."

"The margins are thin at Wake, but Dave has it down to a science. They're always a frustrating team to play because they won't quit, and they make you work for it."