Takeaways from ACC Media Days 2022: Mario Cristobal lays foundation in Miami, coaches argue for divisions


CHARLOTTE — The second and final day of ACC football kickoff brought media attention to the Coastal Division, bringing coaches and players from Miami, Pitt, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke through the rotation to preview the upcoming season. This side of the rankings has more questions than answers, with more than half of the division’s coaches making their debuts at ACC media days.

The ACC’s four new recruits are in the Coastal Division — Mario Cristobal at Miami, Mike Elko at Duke, Tony Elliott at Virginia and Brent Pry at Virginia Tech — and Thursday’s event included plenty of talk about how these coaches plan to steer their new programs to success. Three of the four coaches are also in their first-ever head coaching positions at the FBS level (Elko, Elliott and Pry), taking their first run through the media days circuit in that position.

But despite being first-year coaches, there is a certain familiarity with the new faces. Tony Elliott has a long history with the ACC as a national championship-winning offensive coordinator at Clemson and Mike Elko was defensive coordinator for Dave Clawson at Wake Forest before taking jobs at Notre Dame and Texas A&M. Even Mario Cristobal had limited ACC experience as an offensive line coach under Larry Coker early in the Hurricanes’ ACC era.

On the other side of the four freshman coaches are two of the league’s most established voices in Mack Brown and Pat Narduzzi, the latter of whom went from rookie coach at this event in 2015 to one of the most established coaches. tenured. in the conference. These coaches didn’t have the same tone when discussing their expectations for 2022, as Pitt and North Carolina know who they are and are focused on chasing championships in the Coastal Division.

The collection of first-year coaches wasn’t the only thing catching the eye on Thursday when ACC football kicked off, as the division that produced seven champions in seven seasons from 2013-2019 s t’s gathered for one final run before the league abolishes splits in 2023. Let’s get into some of the notable talking points of the day.

“Early is on time” in Miami

Cristobal is ready for us get out of the turnover chain. The Hurricanes are going to remove the jewelry necklace that’s been on their sideline since 2017, and it doesn’t look like he or the players have given it much thought in their preparation for the season.

“Let’s put it this way. We worked so hard and paid attention to so many other things which I think are much more essential to winning football games and being successful than [the chain] really hasn’t been a subject or topic,” Cristobal added. “We won’t use it. Are you okay with that? Are we okay now? Everybody got the chain thing?”

Cristobal continued to echo the message of hard work and attention to detail. How to build a Miami football culture for this program has to start small, and divert attention away from things like the rotation chain falls into the notion of stripping everything down and starting from the foundation. He’s an intense head coach who demands the same kind of mental intensity from his players, and he says that’s a big part of their message to the team.

“We always hammer how you do anything, that’s how you do everything, and that early is on time,” Cristobal said. “It has to be the most important factor in being successful and being productive. You need to show up and showing up early also shows a level of mental intensity that something is important to you. What could be more disrespectful than showing up late? more disrespectful than not paying attention to getting ready to do your job? Something like that would show a lack of mental intensity. For us, there really are no small things.

Miami had one of the worst turnover margins in the ACC last season and ranked in the bottom three in penalties per game. The mental errors associated with these shortcomings played a part in the loss from the sidelines, which became evident with the three losses by a scoreline that could have gone from 7-5 to 10-2. If you want to know how Cristobal can quickly get the Hurricanes back to the ACC Championship Game, it starts with winning at the margins with mental intensity.

Coaches argue for the value of division play

Most coaches and many fans praised the future 3-5-5 scheduling model, which will eliminate splits and allow ACC teams to play everyone in the conference over a two-day period. year. However, on Wednesday, Dave Clawson mourned the end of Wake Forest’s annual rivalry with NC State that dates back more than a century. On Thursday, ACC Coast Division coaches provided another perspective.

Brown “loved” the title game with two division winners and said he “believes” in the Atlantic and the Coastal. The position of the North Carolina coach was echoed and even reinforced by Narduzzi, who explained that having a championship to win that is not the conference championship provides building blocks for the upward programs.

“I think Pittsburgh got to where we are today, winning the ACC championship a year ago, it grew out of our 2018 Coastal Division championship,” Narduzzi said. “I think there has to be a starting point. For me it’s okay because we’ve built something good over the last seven years, and it’s going to continue, but I feel bad that some of the other teams may not have’ I didn’t play in that league game, I wasn’t Coastal Division champion and they won’t have a chance here in the future if that remains true, because I really think it helped build us.

“When I was at Michigan State, we were beaten by Wisconsin in the championship. We were division champions, we got to the ACC championship and lost that game. 1 team in the nation in Ohio. Declare and play in the Rose Bowl. For me, it was all fuel. You take small steps as you go, and I think that’s a big deal to be a division champion. I think just like the AFC and NFC championships, they’re great games. There’s celebrations after that game. I think it’s the same with the Coastal and Atlantic.

Brent Pry wins Most Dressed of the Day award

Yesterday we saw Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham dazzle in a red suit with matching Prada sneakers. Virginia Tech coach Brent Pry also leaned into the school colors, wearing a maroon suit with a two-tone orange and maroon tie for the Hokies appearance on media days.

Many coaches wear their school colors, but what made Pry’s jacket stand out was the custom lining with the Hokie print.

How Pitt plans to replace Kenny Pickett

There are 10 ACC programs with returning starting quarterbacks, giving the league a strong presence when it comes to having the best flaggers in the country. The four teams that will have new starters this year are in the Coastal Division, and none seem as daunting to replace as Pitt’s next steps after Kenny Pickett. The ACC Offensive Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy finalist was a multi-year starter and key to unlocking the Panthers’ ACC Championship last season, so how will Pitt replace that production?

Narduzzi says the battle is up to Nick Patti, an established veteran who has been Pickett’s back-up for the past two years, and transfer from USC Kedon Slovis. But as much as Pitt can feel confident with the state of the position, it’s still a tough task to replace whatever Pickett brought to the table.

“Replacing Kenny is never easy,” Narduzzi said. “Kenny Pickett was an exceptional football player. He was the leader of our football team. Not only will we miss the leadership he shows on the pitch, but we will, of course, miss the competitiveness he brought to the game every day. Saturdays, so Kenny will be hard to replace.

“We have two young men fighting for this position at the moment. Nick Patti, who played in a bowling match, at least the first two sets of the bowling match until he was injured, and Kedon Slovis, a transfer from the University of Southern California. These two guys are fighting. They both had great springs. I think we can win a lot of games with them both. I think we’ll have a month of August very, very competitive at camp with them.

Pour one for the Coastal Division

While Brown and Narduzzi can share the praise of division play and competing for division champions, they cannot reverse course from the scheduling model that will be in place in 2023. The 2022 season is the end of the Coastal Division, which has evolved into a beloved and unique part of the college football world as it has produced seven different champions in seven years. The run started with Duke in 2013, ended with Virginia in 2019, and along the way produced plenty of crazy conference action in November with jaw-dropping tiebreaker opportunities.

So pour one for the Coastal, the only college football division anyone could enter the season with hopes of playing for a conference championship.


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