Best ACC Coach Not Jimbo Fisher
By Jason Bailey
Sporting News has anointed Florida State's Jimbo Fisher the ACC's best coach heading into the 2014 season. That's hard to dispute considering the fourth-year gridiron skipper denied the SEC an unprecedented eight consecutive BCS national championships en route to his first college football title.
Fisher won the ACC championship in 2012. He liked that so much he turned around and captured the coveted national title in 2014.
Very impressive for his first four years. Not even Nick Saban can one-up that timeline. But do Fisher's glowing credentials and instant success entitle him to such vaunted honors as the conference's best coach?
Yes, the 'Noles ran the table last season with decisive and respectable wins against conference foes Pittsburgh, Clemson and Miami. But while building a case for Fisher as the ACC's best, it is worth noting that the Seminoles struggled last season vs Boston College, committed execution hiccups against SEC titan and in-state rival Florida and battled to establish rhythm against a less-then-worthy Duke Blue Devils opponent during much of last season's ACC championship game.
The 'Noles continued their success in the Vizio BCS National Championship game by getting lucky when Jameis Winston fired a buzzer-beating touchdown pass against a relentless Auburn defense. Indeed, the Seminoles have struggled at times against marquee opponents, last year's unbeaten run aside.
Am I calling the Seminoles' ride to gridiron glory last season a fluke? Not necessarily. You have to earn your place among the nation's gridiron elite and most teams do. I am suggesting that Fisher's place as the ACC's best coach is a bit premature.
Consider, if you will, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
It's no secret that Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer habitually relies on a suffocating defense and clutch special teams play as a crutch for a consistently inconsistent offense. The man behind the defense is the determining factor for Beamer's long-standing gridiron philosophy in Blacksburg.
Foster haunts rival offenses, frustrates their offensive coordinator and persecutes reputable signal callers. And he still hasn't fully arrived. Though he is a defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach, "he keeps revealing new layers of brilliance to show why he is the best defensive boss in the country," according to Bleacher Report.
The defensive Houdini has presided the sidelines of Lane Stadium for 28 seasons and been hailed as one of the top defensive minds in the game. Foster's ferocious units have "finished fourth in the country in total defense (2013) and in the top 15 of six other major team categories," according to Hokie Sports.
Virginia Tech's defense suffered an off year in 2010 (by Foster's standards) but roared back to form the ensuing season, despite starting nine freshmen or sophomores.
In 2008, the Hokies lost an unsettling seven starters to the NFL Draft. No problem. Foster harvested a mind-blowing season of defensive fortitude that finished seventh in the nation.
From 2004 to 2007, Foster defenses finished with jaw-dropping statistics and finished among the nation's premier teams, leading the country in total defense, passing defense and scoring prevention.
The Virginia Tech '04 defense "ranked in the top five nationally in total defense, pass defense, scoring prevention and interception and turnover margins," per Hokie Sports, while Foster's '05 and '06 task forces boasted the No. 1 defense in America.
During the 1999 dream season, Foster's Lunch Pail defense induced throbbing migraines for rival quarterbacks. Virginia Tech's '99 unit "led Division 1-A in scoring defense and ranked third in two other categories," according to Hokie Sports.
Foster's reputation precedes him and he has been courted by multiple programs including West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Connecticut, Memphis and Clemson to assume charge of head coaching responsibilities. Though intrigued and flattered by each offer, Foster declined them all, opting to remain with Virginia Tech.
His loyalty to the Hokies is admirable. But Foster's Lunch Pail philosophy, which is recognized for its "aggressive, attacking style of play with the objective to pressure the offense by creating chaos with multiple front, stunts and coverages," per Play Book Exchange, is a scheme that is inherently more invaluable to the continuity of Virginia Tech's gridiron motto: "To Reach a Consistency of Excellence" and to Gobbler Country.
Foster is the best and most valuable coach in the ACC. Case closed.