The ACC Coastal has fallen on “hard times” as the late great American Dream Dusty Rhodes once postulated. Clemson, an Atlantic Division team, has dominated the conference and the Coastal has sent 7-7 Pittsburgh, 10-1 Miami, 9-3 Virginia Tech, and 11-1 UNC to face the Tigers the past four seasons. Clemson has emerged victorious in each of the past four years and won two College Football Playoff National Championships in that timespan.
In 2018, only Duke, Virginia, Miami and Georgia Tech finished above .500. The division looked battered and the ACC schools decided enough is enough. Coastal schools Georgia Tech, Miami, and North Carolina have found new head football coaches (as has Louisville in the Atlantic), and with those changes comes a time of hope.
Spring football 2019 is a time of promise in the Coastal and should make for a fun chase for The New Miami to return to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, NC.
The New Miami vs the Coastal
There’s talk all over college football about Manny Diaz and The New Miami. The ‘Canes finished 2018 ranked 27th in the S&P+ with a 7-6 record and bad loss to Wisconsin in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Miami has re-tooled their coaching staff replacing the strength and conditioning department and the offensive side of the ball. Diaz has also used the NCAA Transfer Portal to lure in new talent, and if Tate Martell is eligible, Miami might be a true contender for the Coastal.
According to the S&P+, Miami is ranked 19th by the S&P+ as of February 11th and is the highest rated Coastal team per Bill C’s analytics. The Virginia Tech Hokies are ranked 30th after finishing 2018 ranked 55th with a 6-7 record. UVA is ranked 41st, one step up from finishing 2018 42nd in the S&P+, while Pitt is 59th (61st a year ago), UNC is 61st (up from 88th), Duke is 65th (down from 51st in 2018) and Georgia Tech is 89th (down from 74th to close last season).
It’s a clear-cut battle between former BIG EAST foes Miami and Virginia Tech for who will be the Coastal representative in 2019. However, I have said that before and with Geoff Collins in Atlanta, Mack Brown in Chapel Hill (again) and Miami breaking in a first-time head football coach the division might be more interesting than the S&P+ would let on.
Geoff Collins might be the most intriguing new head coach after Manny Diaz. Collins, like Diaz, plays up the social media aspect of modern college football. He’s a young 47 years of age, he’s a Georgia native from Conyers, GA and will know exactly how to play up the local flavor. He’s already labeled a “Waffle House devotee” by Biz Journals and while at Temple the Owls put out a “Cheesesteaks with coach” special that was really fun.
At UNC, the Tar Heels admin went after a different approach. The Heels brought in elder statesman CEO-type in Mack Brown. Brown is sixty-seven years old and a former BCS National Champion during his tenure over the Texas Longhorns. Brown has hired in high profile coordinators in Phil Longo (offense) and Jay Bateman (defense). Brown will please administrators, parents, and boosters while letting his coordinators run their schemes.
Of course we’re familiar with Manny Diaz. Diaz almost took off for Temple full-time to replace Coach Collins but came back to the Hurricanes just in time. The New Miami is Diaz’s baby and it’s been led by a new emphasis on excitement, fun and personality. Diaz is the only new coach of the four in the ACC (three in the Coastal) who doesn’t have prior head coaching experience.
There will also be new stars in the Coastal in 2019. Duke quarterback Daniel Jones has entered into the 2019 NFL Draft and is a potential first round pick. Miami defensive tackle Gerald Willis III has graduated and is moving on the NFL, too. Miami defensive end Joe Jackson is another star leaving early for the league. That means new stars are going to have to emerge on Coastal rosters.
In Chapel Hill, I wouldn’t be surprised if quarterback Sam Howell doesn’t get the nod at quarterback. Coach Longo has already pushed out Nathan Elliott to coaching (he’s at Arkansas State as a G.A.) and Chazz Surratt to another position group. Howell is in line for a ton of reps in the spring as he’s an early enrollee.
At Miami cornerback Trajan Bandy should become a household name in 2019. He’s been overshadowed by Jaquan Johnson and Michael Jackson but he’s the star of the defensive backfield heading into spring football.
In Durham, the Blue Devils are replacing Jones at quarterback but the true offensive star should be running back Deon Jackson. Last season Jackson ran for 847 yards and seven touchdowns.
With or without Tate Martell, the ‘Canes should be the clear-cut favorites to win the Coastal and face the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game. The question remains whether Coach Diaz is ready for the task at hand of being a new head coach in a Power 5 program, and of handling the personalities and egos associated with the Transfer Portal. The Coastal should be improved from a year ago even if there are growing pains in Atlanta with the scheme and regime change from Paul Johnson to Collins.
Spring Game Information:
4/5 Duke - TBA
4/13 Virginia Tech - 4pm
4/13 UNC - 5pm
4/13 Pitt- TBA
4/20 (target) Miami - TBA
4/26 Georgia Tech - TBA
4/27 Virginia - TBA