First-year Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch introduced himself to the players the best way he knew how -- he recruited them. He brought them into his office one by one and asked them about their families, their hometowns, and their high school situations.
“I never got to recruit any of these players,” he said in an interview on signing day. “It will be different in the future. I’ll know the players. I’ll know their families and their situations. Here, I really don’t know anything. So I asked our players to really introduce themselves to me, more than me introducing myself to them. It’s been really nice to talk to these guys, find out about their backgrounds, what made them choose the U. I didn’t know any of those answers.”
Nor did he know the personnel.
It wasn’t until after signing day that Miami’s staff finally had a chance to look at 15-20 clips of each player on the roster and evaluate them. The Hurricanes aren’t the only program in transition this spring, as five teams will have either a new head coach, new coordinator, or both. Al Golden replaced Randy Shannon at Miami, Maryland hired Randy Edsall, Clemson and Boston College both hired new offensive coordinators, and Duke will have its third defensive coordinator in as many years. Two hires -- Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown, who was retained by Edsall, and North Carolina defensive line coach Brian Baker -- didn’t even last a month before they left for other jobs.
The biggest changes, though, will be at Maryland and Miami. With the hires of Golden and Edsall, the ACC has now had head-coaching changes at 10 of the 12 schools in the past five years. Wake Forest and Virginia Tech are the exceptions, as Jim Grobe and Frank Beamer, who are entering their 11th and 24th seasons, respectively, are easily the most tenured in the league. Four coaches will either be in their first or second seasons this year.
“You look at Butch Davis and Tom O’Brien, and their tenure is beginning to look long in our league,” said ACC commissioner John Swofford. “There’s a lot of freshness, a lot of new coaches who are still early in their tenures. Hopefully with longevity and stability, those programs will grow and develop.”
The instability in the coaching ranks hasn’t helped the ACC gain any solid footing in the national college football landscape. Just when it seemed as if former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen had the Terps heading in the right direction -- a nine-win season led by the league’s coach of the year and rookie of the year -- the change was made.
Maryland AD Kevin Anderson said the expectations for Friedgen’s successor would be consistent appearances in the Top 25 -- exactly where the Terps left off in the final Associated Press poll of 2010.
“I’ll put more pressure on myself than what anybody can put on me,” Edsall said. “I know Ralph, I’ve worked with Ralph. Those things are unfortunate, but I’m here to do a job and get Maryland to the highest level we can. My whole goal and approach is to win the ACC championship. That’s what I want to do, and that’s what we’ve been striving to do since I got here.”
With rapidly-improving Florida State in the same division, it won’t be easy. Clemson will have some catching up to do, too. First-year Clemson coordinator Chad Morris is not only tasked with installing a new offense and terminology, he’s also got to do it with a first-year starting quarterback in Tajh Boyd.
“It’s based on a very fast paced style of play,” Morris said. “It’s based basically on being a run, play-action oriented offense.”
“We’re going to be multiple,” Fisch said. “We’re going to use a lot of personnel groupings and formations to our advantage. We’re going to be balanced in ways of trying to get the ball into all of our playmakers' hands. I’m not worried as much about run-pass ratio as I’m worried about are all of our players getting enough touches. Am I making sure I’m getting the ball in the hands of our guys who are dynamic? Our balance will come from the distribution of the football rather than the play call itself.”
Miami fans are less concerned with how the Canes win as they are how fast they can win. It takes time, though, to get acclimated to new philosophies, personalities and terminology. Both Edsall and Golden are also in new recruiting territories, and had to scramble to put their 2011 classes together. Golden came in at somewhat of an “awkward” time, as the program was still preparing for its bowl game under an interim head coach.
“It’s not like taking over something that was a smooth transition,” Golden said. “It was difficult.”
Apparently, staying in the ACC can be as difficult as joining.