Coach of the Year: Early Frontrunners

 

(Pictured: Virginia's Mike London. Photo by Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)


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Four weeks of games have passed, providing early insight into the three-month race for this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. Of course, nothing will be decided in September, especially since five programs have yet to even play a league game. But the following coaches have gotten off to quick starts by having their teams ready from the moment the 2014 season began.

7. Paul Chryst , Pittsburgh
Chryst is one stinking blown fourth-quarter lead to Iowa from ranking among the top three coaches. This is his most competitive team in three years in Pittsburgh. The Panthers are beginning to meet the staff’s blue-collar, no-nonsense expectations on both offense and defense. The O-line has blocked well, even after C Artie Rowell was lost for the season, and the D is overachieving in a post-Aaron Donald world.
Signature Moment: Handling Boston College in Chestnut Hill

6. Dave Doeren , NC State
This is a very different Wolfpack team than the one that won three games in 2013, and was winless in ACC play. Sure, NC State was supposed to win all four games of a cushy non-conference slate. But Doeren, with help from QB Jacoby Brissett and the Pack backs, has his offense humming to the tune of 40 points per game. With Florida State visiting Raleigh this weekend, Doeren gets a watershed opportunity to gain national notoriety.
Signature Moment: Routing South Florida, 49-17, in Tampa

5. Jimbo Fisher , Florida State
Don’t underestimate the difficulty of keeping a defending champ focused and motivated, especially when off-field distractions exist. Florida State has twice been tested and pushed to the wall, yet remains unbeaten and top-ranked in both major polls. In their most important conference game of 2014, the Seminoles found a way to defeat Clemson, with a first-time starting quarterback, Sean Maguire, taking snaps.
Signature Moment: Beating Clemson without Jameis Winston

4. Steve Addazio , Boston College
In what was being labeled a rebuilding year on the Heights, Addazio has the Eagles two games over .500, with a chance to move to 4-1 this week versus Colorado State. The Sept. 13 upset of USC, which had knocked off Stanford just a week earlier, was quintessential Addazio. The master motivator’s kids ran for 452 yards in the victory, showing that BC is going to run with authority, even after Andre Williams’ graduation.
Signature Moment: Shocking USC in Week 3

3. David Cutcliffe , Duke
Those expecting the Blue Devils to slink back to ACC irrelevancy are going to be disappointed this fall. Duke isn’t going away, as evidenced by its four wins by no fewer than 17 points each. Now, the Devils have not been tested like other ACC teams, but they’ll get their chance beginning this Saturday in Miami. Cut’s offense averages over 43 points per game, while the D has so far withstood star LB Kelby Brown’s season-ending knee injury.
Signature Moment: Coasting against Kansas and Tulane the last two weeks

2. Paul Johnson , Georgia Tech
At times, a coach’s grade can pivot on one game, or even one crucial quarter. Last week in Blacksburg, for instance. Johnson entered Week 4 fielding criticism after his Yellow Jackets struggled to escape Georgia Southern. But after upsetting Virginia Tech on the road, Georgia Tech is unbeaten and firmly in contention in the wide-open Coastal Division. Johnson has done a terrific job coaching up first-time starting QB Justin Thomas, who’s accounted for nine touchdowns and more than 1,000 total yards.
Signature Moment: Rallying to beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last Saturday

1. Mike London , Virginia
It’s been a long and painstaking process, but London and his staff have the ‘Hoos pointed in the right direction. Sure, other teams have better marks, but only Virginia has faced three ranked opponents in the first four weeks. The Cavs have been oppressive on defense and evolving on offense, beating Louisville, while putting scares into UCLA and BYU. While London knows moral victories get a coach only so far, he’s clearly changing the culture and expectations in Charlottesville.
Signature Moment: Upsetting Louisville in Week 3