2019 ACC coach rankings: Dabo Swinney leads the way with many up-and-coming talents in tow
How the ACC coaches stack up according to the CBS Sports expert balloting
Last month, the CBS Sports college football braintrust submitted ballots that were compiled to create our annual ranking of the Power Five coaches. For the ACC, that meant a significant re-racking of the pecking order after four programs made changes at head coach following the 2018 season.
Mark Richt and Paul Johnson decided to step away from coaching after extensive and accolade-filled careers, Bobby Petrino parted ways with Louisville after a disastrous first season in the post-Lamar Jackson era and North Carolina swapped out Larry Fedora for a familiar flavor of coach and brought back Mack Brown. But while those programs are entering new eras in 2019, other recent hires like Bronco Mendenhall and Dino Babers saw major improvements in breakthrough seasons that led to a boost in their stock.
A clear-eyed look at the entire conference heading into the 2019 season reveals very little separation between most of these coaches and plenty of room for debate at every spot except No. 1. Complete Power 5 rankings: 1-25 | 26-65.
|Dabo Swinney: He's the only active coach in the country with multiple FBS national championships besides Nick Saban. When it comes to stacking up the ACC coaches, there's no debate for No. 1. At least not after the Tigers hung 44 on the Tide in the title game in January.|
|David Cutcliffe: Cutcliffe has a 46-32 record in his last six seasons with the Blue Devils and led the team to six bowl games in the last seven years. In the 89 years prior to that, the program appeared in just eight bowl games, and it speaks to his impact that it's only taken a handful of years to change the way the ACC, and the country, looks at Duke football.|
|Bronco Mendenhall: "Fit" is usually an important piece of the relationship between a head coach and a Power Five school looking to invest in the future of its football program. Mendenhall's decision to leave BYU and relocate to Charlottesville, with a couple of assistant coaches and several farm animals in tow, was initially confounding. Three years later, the Wahoos have seen a major payoff in that investment, winning as many ACC games in 2018 and they did in the previous two years combined. Bronco put down deep roots and invested his own energy in changing the culture, and it's shown on the field.|
|Dino Babers: Babers predicted the timetable of success for the Orange prior to the 2017 season, noting that in his long experience in college football, the "light goes on" for players in Year 2 with a coach. If that happens, then Year 3 is when you can expect some real breakthroughs. Midway through Year 2, Syracuse stunned Clemson in the Carrier Dome. By Year 3, the Orange were finishing with 10 wins and ranked in the top 15 of the polls. There's some turnover ahead for Syracuse, but the notion -- clearly felt by the experts here at CBS Sports as well -- is that Babers is one of the league's best coaches.|
|Dave Clawson: Like Doeren, Clawson had to grit his teeth through a tough start to his tenure before seeing a breakthrough, but the commitment to his plan has allowed the Demon Deacons to reach a level of sustained success with 22 wins over the last three seasons and three straight bowl wins against Temple, Texas A&M and Memphis.|
|Dave Doeren: The Wolfpack didn't win a single ACC game in Doeren's first season, and ever since that debut in 2013, the trajectory has pointed up for NC State football. Doeren and his staff have earned a reputation for elite talent development, bringing in solid (but not spectacular) classes every National Signing Day and consistently turning out a handful of NFL Draft picks.|
|Mack Brown: A national championship-winning coach with nearly a decade of double-digit win seasons at Texas is going to get some bonus points when it comes to splitting hairs, giving the Hall of Famer an edge on some of his peers in the coach rankings. Whether Brown can turn that experience, or his experience away from coaching as a member of the media, into wins in 2019 will play a big role in how much that Hall of Fame profile will count when we run the coach rankings back in 2020.|
|Justin Fuente: Early returns on Fuente signaled a seamless transition from Frank Beamer to his successor, but on-field struggles (like a loss to Old Dominion) and off-field turmoil resulted in a slight drop in the coach rankings. Personally, I'm in the boat of giving Fuente credit not only for early success in Blacksburg, but his work in reviving a Memphis program that was close to bottoming out prior to his arrival.|
|Scott Satterfield: Appalachian State made the jump from FCS to the Sun Belt and immediately became the class of the conference under Satterfield's leadership, going 34-6 in conference play before Louisville tapped him to take over for Bobby Petrino. Those three conference titles and three straight bowl wins have given Satterfield the reputation as one of the brightest coaches on the rise, and that success has anchored his ranking among his Power Five peers.|
|Steve Addazio: What do you make of seven-win Steve? Boston College has won seven games in five of the six years that Addazio has been head coach, carrying a perfectly balanced 38-38 overall record into 2019. That consistency at Boston College should be rewarded, particularly as he's seen plenty of staff turnover and rebuilt the offense on multiple occasions. Life in the ACC Atlantic is tough, with annual games against Clemson and Florida State while Syracuse and Wake Forest have been improving rapidly, so the ultimate test will be maintaining that consistency as the competition continues to get better.|
|Pat Narduzzi: I contend that Pitt's mid-to-late-season run in 2018 is worth a bigger bump in the rankings for Narduzzi, because that team's identity was built from the DNA of a football lifer. Picked to finish 5th in the ACC Coastal, Pitt started running the ball down team's throats and knocked off five eventual bowl teams on the way to a 6-2 conference record and an ACC Championship Game appearance.|
|Willie Taggart: At this point, Taggart is getting more credit in the coach rankings for his profile and previous history than specifically what's happening at Florida State. There's a lot of distance between championship expectations and missing the postseason, and it's up to Taggart to figure out how to bring the Seminoles back up to speed.|
|Geoff Collins: Dennis Doddthat probably could have increased his stock among this voting body that is so prone to outside influences and recency bias. The best way to approach Collins' ranking among his ACC peers is to take note of the creativity and vision while maintaining a wait-and-see status until we see results on the field.|
|Manny Diaz: Part of our internal debates doing these rankings focuses on whether coaches should get credit for efforts as a coordinator or start their head coaching career at the bottom of the list with an opportunity to move up with data points. I lean away from that notion, and had Diaz much higher on my ballot than many of my colleagues because of what he was able to prove as both a defensive coach and program leader across the last three years with the Hurricanes.|
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