In ACC offensive coordinator shuffle, new coaches debuted to mixed results
BOSTON (AP) — Clemson fired offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter after just one full season as the offensive play-caller and hired Garrett Riley away from Texas Christian, where he helped the Horned Frogs reach the national championship game.
Coach Dabo Swinney didn’t get the improvement he hoped for in a 28-7 loss to Duke that dropped the Tigers from No. 9 to No. 25 in The Associated Press Top 25.
“He never lost hope or anything like that. I like how he responded to the guys,” Swinney said. “He knows we’ve got a chance to be a good group. Not the start we wanted.”
An overhaul on Atlantic Coast Conference coaching staffs this offseason has forced teams to adapt to new systems. There are eight new offensive coordinators in the ACC this season — more than half of the league.
Although Riley’s offense produced more than 400 yards in the Labor Day loss to Duke, the Tigers’ streak of scoring at least 10 points in 72 straight ACC games was snapped. It was the second game in a row that they failed to score more than 14 points, including last year’s Orange Bowl loss to Tennessee under Streeter.
Clemson had three second-half drives inside the 10 – two reaching the 1. They came away with two fumbles, a blocked field goal and zero points.
“We got plenty of yards and stats and all that stuff, but we got our butts beat,” Swinney said. “And the name of the game is finishing when we have opportunities.”
Some ACC teams made changes to shore up offenses that were slipping; others had to replace coaches who left for better jobs.
North Carolina State brought in Robert Anae after he spent one year with Syracuse; the Orange replaced him internally, with quarterbacks coach Jason Beck. Miami fired Josh Gattis after one season and hired Shannon Dawson. Boston College replaced John McNulty after one year with co-offensive coordinators: Former Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski is sharing duties with Steve Shimko, who was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach last season.
New coaching staffs in Louisville and Georgia Tech meant new assistants: Brian Brohm is back at Louisville, which he quarterbacked to a No. 6 ranking in 2007, to work for his older brother, Cardinals head coach Jeff Brohm; Buster Faulkner jumped from quality control at Georgia, where he won two national championships, to O.C. at Georgia Tech.
North Carolina had more success in its season-opening win over South Carolina under offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, who was hired because Phil Longo left for Wisconsin. Instead of relying on the legs of star quarterback Drake Maye (four carries on Saturday), the Tar Heels leaned on running backs British Brooks (15) and Omarion Hampton (16) – the first time they had two running backs with at least 15 carries since a romp in the 2020 regular-season finale at Miami.
“We wanted to establish running the football,” Lindsey said. “That’s something we were really committed to doing.”
At N.C. State, Anae called on transfer quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who starred for him at Virginia two years ago. Armstrong ran 19 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns. It was the most rushing yards for a Wolfpack quarterback since Jacoby Brissett ran for 128 against North Carolina in 2014.
“I watched a lot of college football with us playing on Thursday night and seeing a lot of people’s first games, I thought we looked pretty clean,” coach Dave Doeren said. “So that compared to other people that are doing the same thing, you could tell that our coaches did a good job.”
BC coach Jeff Hafley said the Eagles’ play-calling will be a collaborative effort. Any confusion the arrangement causes should be for defenses, he said before a 27-24 overtime loss to Northern Illinois in the opener.
“We’re going do some other things that people haven’t seen or won’t be prepared for. I mean, what are they going to watch the first couple of weeks?” Hafley said before the game. “Whose film are they watching? That’s a challenge early in the season. If it is a new coordinator, you don’t really know what you’re going to get.”
Whoever winds up calling the plays, it will be quarterback Emmett Morehead’s third offensive coordinator in three years – if Morehead is in fact the starter. He split time on Saturday with Thomas Castellanos, who was more effective in the opener. The Eagles came in determined to establish the run; they rushed for 153 yards, but more than half of those came from Castellanos.
“I feel like it’s really halfway through spring ball that you start to feel comfortable. But it’s not really until early to midway through the season that you stop thinking so much,” Morehead said.
“There’s just so much new information that hasn’t become instinctual yet. And it takes some live reps and some big moments in games to solidify your process for certain plays, for certain concepts, the run game, whatever it is,” he said. “It just takes time.”
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard contributed to this story from Raleigh, North Carolina.