Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2018

Joined: September 4th, 2012, 1:50 pm

September 11th, 2018, 5:10 am #1

Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2018

 
Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn't have the resources of the nation's elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.
 
How did we compile the rankings for the ACC coaches? For starters, it's an impossible task. However, we tried to weigh every possible factor into this ranking. This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn't provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Clemson is different than winning 10 games at Syracuse.
 
Every team has different built-in resources available, and hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. Those factors, along with career biography/resume, success in developing talent and landing prospects on the recruiting trail factored into the ranking. Additionally, how well programs value staff (is the head coach better as a CEO or hands-on approach) and the facilities or program resources matter into forming an outlook of how coaches have performed at different stops throughout their career.
 
Again, wins and the overall body of work to this point are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they have accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for ACC:
 
Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2018
 
14. Steve Addazio, Boston College
Important to note: In any other league, Addazio would rank higher than 14th. That's how deep the ACC is this year in coaching talent. Consistency might be the best way to sum up Addazio's tenure at Boston College. In five years at the helm, he's recorded a 7-6 mark in four of those seasons. The Eagles have reached .500 in ACC play in three out of Addazio's five years and are 31-33 overall since 2013. Prior to taking over at Boston College, Addazio went 13-11 in two seasons at Temple. He also had a stint as an assistant at Florida under Urban Meyer (2005-10) and additional stops at Syracuse, Notre Dame and Indiana. After finishing 2017 with wins in five out of the last seven games, the 2018 version of Addazio's Eagles might be the best of his tenure in Chestnut Hill.
 
13. Dino Babers, Syracuse
Babers has recorded back-to-back 4-8 seasons to begin his tenure in Syracuse, but the pieces are beginning to fall into place entering 2018. The Orange have pulled off a couple of big upsets (Virginia Tech in 2016 and Clemson in '17) and had close losses to Florida State, Miami, LSU and NC State last season. With three signing classes and the progression of the roster to fit his schemes, Babers has Syracuse poised to improve in 2018. Prior to taking over with the Orange, Babers went 19-7 in two years at Eastern Illinois (2012-13) and 18-9 at Bowling Green (2014-15). He also has stops as an assistant from a handful of programs, including Purdue, Arizona, Texas A&M, Pitt, Baylor and UCLA. Babers is regarded as one of college football's top minds on offense and is 45-32 overall in six years as a head coach.
 
12. Pat Narduzzi, Pitt
After beginning his tenure in the Steel City with back-to-back 8-5 records, Narduzzi's third year resulted in a 5-7 mark. But the Panthers lost three games by six points or less and won three out of their last five contests, providing optimism for a rebound in 2018. Narduzzi is 21-17 overall and 14-10 in ACC play since taking over at Pitt. From 2007-14, Narduzzi worked under Mark Dantonio at Michigan State and was regarded as one of college football's top defensive coordinators. He also has stints in his career at Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio) and Northern Illinois.
 
11. Dave Doeren, NC State
NC State is coming off the best season under Doeren's watch. The Wolfpack finished 9-4 last fall, earning a 6-2 record in ACC play and finishing second in the Atlantic Division behind Clemson. Additionally, NC State finished No. 23 in the final Associated Press poll, which was the program's first top 25 finish since 2010. Prior to the 2017 campaign, Doeren posted three winning seasons and bowl trips from 2014-16. Doeren is 34-30 overall and 15-25 in ACC play since taking over in 2013. Prior to NC State, Doeren went 23-4 as the head coach at Northern Illinois (2011-12) and also had stints as an assistant at Kansas and Wisconsin. After taking a step forward in 2017, can Doeren continue to elevate NC State in the Atlantic?
 
10. Larry Fedora, North Carolina
Fedora heads into 2018 looking to get North Carolina back on track. After winning the Coastal Division and recording 11 victories in 2015, the Tar Heels are just 11-14 over the last two seasons. Additionally, the three-win campaign of 2017 represented the program's fewest victories since 2006. Fedora is 43-34 overall since taking over in Chapel Hill in 2012 and has four winning seasons in his six-year tenure. Prior to North Carolina, Fedora went 34-19 in four years at Southern Miss, which included a 12-2 campaign in 2011. He also has stops on his resume from stints as an assistant at Oklahoma State, Florida, MTSU, Air Force and Baylor.
 
9. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia
Virginia was arguably the biggest surprise in the ACC last season, as the Cavaliers finished 6-7 in Mendenhall's second year in Charlottesville. That represented a four-win jump from his debut in 2016. Mendenhall is no stranger to success. From 2005-15, he went 99-43 at BYU. The Cougars did not have a losing record under Mendenhall and won at least eight games in nine seasons. Mendenhall also has stops on his resume from stints as an assistant at Northern Arizona, Oregon State, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico.
 
Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Starting QBs for 2018
 
8. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Johnson has compiled a career record of 182-93 as a head coach at three different stops -- Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech. During his 21-year tenure as a head coach, Johnson has posted only four losing seasons. Johnson heads into 2018 at Georgia Tech looking to steer the program back on track following last year's 5-6 record -- the program's second losing mark over the last three seasons. However, Johnson has recorded only one losing mark in ACC play since taking over in Atlanta in 2008. Additionally, he's guided the program to an ACC title in 2009 and two Orange Bowl trips (2009, '14). Johnson previously went 45-29 at Navy from 2002-07 and 62-10 with two FCS national championships at Georgia Southern from 1997-01.
 
7. Willie Taggart, Florida State
Taking over as Florida State's head coach is a homecoming of sorts for Taggart. The Florida native starred as a quarterback at Bradenton Manatee High School and grew up a fan of the Seminoles. After a successful high school career, Taggart played quarterback at WKU from 1994-98. He transitioned to coaching with the Hilltoppers in 1999 under Jack Harbaugh and remained in Bowling Green until 2006. Taggart spent the next three years working with Jim Harbaugh at Stanford as the running backs coach from 2007-09, before returning to WKU as the program's head coach in 2010. Taggart inherited a program in need of major repair. After a 2-10 record in his first year, the Hilltoppers showed marked improvement, going 14-11 over the next two seasons. Taggart was hired at USF prior to the 2013 season and went 6-18 in his first two years. The Bulls went 19-7 over the next two seasons, which helped Taggart land the top spot at Oregon. In his only year in Eugene, Taggart went 7-5 in the regular season. Taggart is 47-50 overall as a head coach but didn't inherit the best situations at WKU and USF. He should have no trouble elevating Florida State back into contention for the ACC title in the near future.
 
Related: ACC 2018 All-Conference Team
 
6. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
Clawson arrived at Wake Forest in 2014 with a reputation of turning around programs. He landed his first head coaching job at Fordham in 1999 and went 29-29 over five seasons, including 19 wins over the final two years. Clawson took over at Richmond in 2004. After a losing record in his debut, the Spiders posted three consecutive winning records, including an 11-win campaign in 2007. After a one-year stint as Tennessee's offensive coordinator in 2008, Clawson was hired as Bowling Green's head coach prior to the 2009 season. The Falcons went 14-23 in Clawson's first three years but finished 18-8 from 2012-13 and won the MAC title in his last season. After four years in Winston-Salem, it's clear he has the Demon Deacons on the right path. Wake Forest went 9-15 in the two seasons prior to Clawson's arrival and went 6-18 over his first two years (2014-15). However, the Demon Deacons are 15-11 over the last two seasons, including a .500 mark (4-4) in ACC play last fall.
 
5. David Cutcliffe, Duke
Duke is one of the toughest Power 5 jobs in college football, but Cutcliffe has transformed this program into a consistent winner in the ACC. In addition to his success as a head coach, Cutcliffe is highly regarded for his work on offense, especially in developing quarterbacks. Cutcliffe joined Tennessee's staff in 1982 and remained with the Volunteers until 1998 when he was hired as the head coach at Ole Miss. The Rebels went 44-29 under Cutcliffe's direction, finishing 10-3 overall and No. 13 nationally in 2003. After another stint at Tennessee, Cutcliffe was hired as Duke's head coach prior to the 2008 season. He inherited a program in need of major repair. The Blue Devils won just four games over the previous four years. Duke finished 4-8 in Cutcliffe's first season and went 11-25 over the next three years. However, the Blue Devils showed marked improvement starting in 2012. The program has played in five bowl games over the last six years, won the 2013 Coastal Division title and finished No. 23 nationally that year. Following a 4-8 mark in 2016, Duke improved to 7-6 last season. Cutcliffe gets the most out of his players, which helps the Blue Devils close the talent gap with the rest of the Coastal.
 
4. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
The transition from Frank Beamer to Fuente has been seamless in Blacksburg. The Hokies are 19-8 under Fuente's two seasons at the helm and claimed the 2016 Coastal Division title. Additionally, Virginia Tech has finished in the top 25 in back-to-back years and is slated to begin 2018 ranked once again. Before taking over in Blacksburg, Fuente brought marked improvement to Memphis. The Tigers won five games in the three years prior to Fuente's arrival but claimed four victories in his first year (2012). After a 3-9 mark in 2013, Memphis won 19 games over the next two seasons and finished No. 24 nationally in the final Associated Press poll that year. In addition to his success as a head coach at two different stops, Fuente is one of college football's top offensive minds and has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks.
 
Related: ACC Football 2018 Predictions
 
3. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
In addition to his ability to produce high-powered offenses, Petrino continues to win at a high level, averaging nine wins a year in his 13 seasons as a head coach. The Cardinals are 34-18 since joining the ACC in 2014, finishing at least .500 or better in all four years. The 2016 season was the high point of Petrino's second stint at Louisville. The Cardinals won nine games, finished 7-1 in ACC play and quarterback Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy. Petrino previously worked as Louisville's head coach from 2003-06, compiling a 41-9 record and two finishes in the top 10 of the final Associated Press poll. He left for Arkansas in 2008, going 5-7 in his first year before recording three consecutive winning campaigns. The Razorbacks finished No. 5 nationally after recording 11 wins and a Cotton Bowl victory in 2011. Including an 8-4 record at WKU in 2013, Petrino is 117-48 overall as a head coach in the collegiate ranks.
 
2. Mark Richt, Miami
The U is a program on the rise with Richt at the controls. The Hurricanes are 19-7 over the last two seasons, with a 12-4 mark in ACC play. Miami won the Coastal Division title in 2017 for the first time since joining the league. Additionally, the Hurricanes were in the mix for a spot in the CFB Playoff deep into last season. Richt arrived in Coral Gables after accumulating a 145-51 record at Georgia from 2001-15. Under Richt's direction, Georgia won two SEC titles (2002 and '05), recorded at least double-digit victories in nine seasons and finished No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll in 2007. Richt has already made a difference in just two years at Miami. Look for the upward trend to continue in 2018.
 
Related: College Football Top 25 Rankings for 2018
 
1. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Clemson has joined the ranks of college football's annual contenders under Swinney's direction. The Alabama native was promoted to interim coach in 2008 following the dismissal of Tommy Bowden. After a 4-3 mark in the final seven games of that season, Swinney guided the Tigers to a 9-5 mark in 2009 and the Atlantic Division title. Clemson went 16-11 over the next two seasons but has not won fewer than 10 games in each of the last six years. The Tigers have claimed three consecutive ACC titles, won the 2016 national championship and have earned a trip to the CFB Playoff in each of the last three years. Swinney is 101-30 since taking over in Death Valley and has Clemson poised to challenge for the national title once again in 2018.


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Alabama: Heart of the South
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Joined: August 10th, 2017, 5:39 am

September 11th, 2018, 5:13 am #2

I can't believe the guys in the bottom half still have jobs.  Doern?  Paul Johnson?  Deep coaching talent in the ACC?  lulz.
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Joined: September 4th, 2012, 1:50 pm

September 11th, 2018, 5:15 am #3

brown dog wrote: I can't believe the guys in the bottom half still have jobs.  Doern?  Paul Johnson?  Deep coaching talent in the ACC?  lulz.
Paul Johnson is the one that puzzles me … is he a bad coach … or is he just set in his ways …. or is he a good coach at a poor football school ?
Alabama: Heart of the South
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Joined: October 3rd, 2013, 4:59 pm

September 11th, 2018, 5:28 am #4

I think Tech just does not care about football.  They are an engineering school with the goal to be one of the top engineering schools in the world.  Johnson gives them just enough wins that they are not embarrassed every year and that is good enough.  They will let the neanderthals in Athens have the football trophies, they are just glad to build UGA's stadiums for them.  
Being a Vol fan is great except for a few Saturdays in the fall.
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Joined: September 4th, 2012, 1:50 pm

September 11th, 2018, 5:31 am #5

Do you think Johnson is a good coach ?
Alabama: Heart of the South
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September 11th, 2018, 5:49 am #6

Yeah.  He is never going to win a national championship but he is old school and will get you above .500 with little talent.  If that is all you want then fine. 
Being a Vol fan is great except for a few Saturdays in the fall.
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Joined: August 10th, 2017, 5:39 am

September 11th, 2018, 7:51 am #7

Kentuckytoo wrote: Do you think Johnson is a good coach ?
He is a solid OC for a mid major, but he is a bad HC.  He might be the worst at recruiting in all of the power 5 conferences.  Special teams do nothing right.  He often comes off as a complete A hole and that matters because he is the face and voice of the program.  
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Joined: August 10th, 2017, 5:39 am

September 11th, 2018, 8:06 am #8

DocVOLiday wrote: I think Tech just does not care about football.  They are an engineering school with the goal to be one of the top engineering schools in the world.  Johnson gives them just enough wins that they are not embarrassed every year and that is good enough.  They will let the neanderthals in Athens have the football trophies, they are just glad to build UGA's stadiums for them.  
I took the 23 and me DNA test and I am high in Neanderthal.  :)

off topic, but.....
I've been spending a lot of time understanding colleges and what my eldest needs from them to have a successful life.  I'll be honest here and admit that I believe our country is about to go through a workforce shift equal to when manufacturing collapsed.  Because of that, I'm grinding on this.  

Recently I had lunch with 3 google software engineers, to ask for advice and where they think things are going.  They said STEM with a liberal arts base.  MIT, Stanford, and a few of the Ivies were their examples.  I never mentioned my background, but they specifically mentioned GT as the place to avoid.  All math and problem solving, but no soft skills.  They're never the future leaders.  

So, y'all probably think I'm crazy to be this focused on colleges, but it's because Colorado doesn't have the options so we have to look at the entire country and whittle the list down.  US News released their college ranking yesterday.  It's not perfect, but they're probably in the ball park.  How many top 50 schools are there for a Georgia HS kid vs a Colorado kid?  Number of top 50 schools within an 8 hour drive of Denver= 0.  Atlanta=11,  In the next 50 we have BYU (66), Mines (80),  and CU and Denver (both 96th).  So, if my daughters don't want to go to a LDS school (sorry Basc) or study mining they are down to the 96th best schools as their best option.  They might end up there, but they need options.
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Joined: October 3rd, 2013, 4:59 pm

September 11th, 2018, 8:19 am #9

 I never mentioned my background, but they specifically mentioned GT as the place to avoid.  All math and problem solving, but no soft skills.
I feel like I mentioned this before but my brother who went to Tech took a few summer classes at UT Chattanooga to knock a few credit hours out.  He has consistently stated that was the best experience of his engineering training.  He just always felt like Tech was trying too hard and beating up the students where at UTC the professors were nurturing, much more practical and (not to sound racist) spoke English.  He obviously finished at Tech and got the degree from there which did open many doors for him but he has never been their best cheerleader.  
Being a Vol fan is great except for a few Saturdays in the fall.
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Joined: September 6th, 2012, 7:13 am

September 11th, 2018, 11:40 am #10

I don't see depth in the ACC..it really is Dabo..and the rest. Richt does less with more at Georgia...and now Miami. Fuente might be something..but not now. Taggert is already in over his head.
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Joined: September 4th, 2012, 11:23 am

September 14th, 2018, 5:35 am #11

Clawson is vastly underrated. He is a damn good coach...Petrino is too high...

outside of the one FSU win with Lamar, name other big wins he has? He puts up big numbers against lesser opponents.

Tier 1

Dabo

Tier 2
Fuente
Clawson
Cutcliff
Richt
Bobby

Tier 3
Taggart (think he could move up to tier 2 if he can fix roster but time will tell)
Dino Babers (not sure he gets enough credit as a coach. He's been unfortunate with lots of injuries)
Doeren

Tier 4
Bronco (maybe tier 3)
PJ (his recruitment and constant up and down seasons I cannot put him higher)
Addazio (BC looks legit right now so could climb back. Also been unlucky with injuries over the years)
Narduzzi

Tier 5

Fedora (he is leaving that UNC program in serious disarray. NCSU and even Wake are out recruiting him. They are sitting at 64th with an under 3 star average. Program is a dumpster fire)
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Joined: August 10th, 2017, 5:39 am

September 14th, 2018, 7:10 am #12

I think Richt and Cutcliffe are the only tier 2 coaches right now.  
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Joined: September 4th, 2012, 11:23 am

September 16th, 2018, 5:24 am #13

brown dog wrote: I think Richt and Cutcliffe are the only tier 2 coaches right now.  
No way I wouldn’t have Fuente there at a minimum

I really like Clawson too
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Joined: August 10th, 2017, 5:39 am

September 17th, 2018, 7:47 am #14

nmerritt11 wrote:
brown dog wrote: I think Richt and Cutcliffe are the only tier 2 coaches right now.  
No way I wouldn’t have Fuente there at a minimum

I really like Clawson too
I like both of them too.  I need to see a bit more from Clawson and Fuente needs to only lose 1 or 2 games a season for me to fully buy in.  VT could definitely do that this year.

The funny thing is I think Clawson and Fuente have a higher ceiling than Richt and Cutcliffe.   
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Joined: August 10th, 2017, 5:39 am

September 17th, 2018, 7:48 am #15

btw, There is a lot of chatter about Paul Johnson getting fired.  His buyout is supposedly only $2 million.
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Joined: October 3rd, 2013, 4:59 pm

September 17th, 2018, 8:52 am #16

brown dog wrote: btw, There is a lot of chatter about Paul Johnson getting fired.  His buyout is supposedly only $2 million.
It is time.  If they want to stick with Paul Johnson type football but have someone nicer and more relatable to the athletes they could hire Ken Niumatalolo from Navy.   It might make for an easier transition too for Paul to hand it off to one of his proteges.  
Being a Vol fan is great except for a few Saturdays in the fall.
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