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Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Take 2: Midseason ACC Coach of the Year

By Andrea Adelson and Heather Dinich

Cutcliffe-Edsall
Duke's David Cutcliffe, left, and Maryland's Randy Edsall have their teams off to fast starts.
In the spirit of midseason review time, Heather and I decided to debate who deserves ACC Coach of the Year at this point in the season.

For your reading enjoyment ...

Heather says: David Cutcliffe

Maryland coach Randy Edsall went from villain to hero in College Park in a matter of months.

It’s been almost two decades, though, since Duke has had such a promising start to the season.

At the midpoint of the season, there’s no question Duke coach David Cutcliffe should be the leading candidate for ACC Coach of the Year. You could make an argument for several coaches in the league, but none of them have had to overcome as many deficiencies in talent, facilities and tradition as Cutcliffe has over the past four years.

History has been working against the Duke program for a long, long time -- so long that it has been hard for many ACC fans to come to terms with the fact that Duke (5-2, 2-1 ACC) could still win the Coastal Division.

Duke started out 5-1 this year, its best start to a season since 1994, the last time the program went bowling. The Blue Devils were 2-0 in league play and ahead of Coastal Division favorites Virginia Tech in the ACC standings heading into Week 7.

Consider how rare that is: It is just the third Duke start of 5-1 or better in the past 30 years (5-1 in 2012; 6-0 in 1994; 5-1 in 1988). With home wins against FIU, NC Central, Memphis and Virginia this season, the Blue Devils have also opened the year with four consecutive home wins for the first time since 1994.

Duke is undefeated at home heading into Saturday’s game against rival North Carolina in Wallace Wade Stadium.

Edsall lost to his old team, Connecticut, in Byrd Stadium.

Don’t forget Edsall came to College Park and inherited a nine-win team two years ago. He SHOULD fare better than two wins. Larry Fedora should be considered, but with the talent he inherited, the Tar Heels should be expected to win, too.

The difference in Durham is that midway through the season, expectations for Duke have finally changed.

Andrea says: Randy Edsall

Coaches usually get more than a year to prove their worth.

Not Randy Edsall.

He got a few months before his seat started burning. Granted, he gave his critics plenty of fodder. You had the 2-10 record. You had players leaving en masse, including starting quarterback Danny O'Brien. You had questions about his prickly personality, his controlling ways, his decision to change coordinators after a year.

You had national columnists piling on, wrecking him for all that had gone wrong without giving him a chance to get his system in place. Nobody had much faith things would go better for the Terps this season, picked to finish last in the Atlantic -- a decision that seemed validated after the Terps lost quarterback C.J. Brown for the season.

But what do you know, Edsall can coach.

Pretty well, too.

He has his Terps (4-2) sitting atop the Atlantic Division at 2-0 with a true freshman starting at quarterback and 18 other first-year players seeing significant playing time. He has ACC Rookie of the Year candidate Stefon Diggs making plays left and right. His decision to hire Brian Stewart and install a 3-4 defense has paid off as well, as Maryland ranks No. 9 in the nation in total D.

But perhaps even better -- he has his players playing hard. Playing for him. That was not the case in the train wreck that was 2011, but Edsall has shed the problem children who did not want to be there. He has buy-in from everybody.

That is most evident in the way Maryland has competed each week. The Terps put a scare into West Virginia before losing, but the overall sentiment after the game was how Maryland fought every step of the way. It lost a heartbreaker to UConn, a game that went down to the wire. If we are comparing Edsall to Cutcliffe, then you have to note that Maryland has not gotten blown out this year. In fact, Maryland lost its two games by a combined 13 points; Duke lost its two games by a combined 56 points. Let us not forget the heavyweight nonconference teams Duke beat (FIU and Memphis have a combined two wins).

Not only that, before the year started, many folks thought Duke had its best shot in years to go to a bowl game, given all of the returning starters, and veterans like Sean Renfree, Conner Vernon and Kenny Anunike. I should remind Heather she had Duke in her ACC preseason bowl projections.

Maryland? Not included.

Edsall and Cutcliffe both are worthy candidates and deserve high praise for what they have done. I just think Edsall has done more with a younger team that had more doubters than the Blue Devils did this year.