The ACC will announce its All-ACC media selections later Monday. (The coaches’ team comes out next week.) If I had to guess, kicker Harrison Butker will be the Yellow Jackets’ sole representative on the team. Quarterback Justin Thomas, center Freddie Burden, A-back Clinton Lynch and defensive tackle Patrick Gamble could receive honorable mention and would deserve it. I think safety Corey Griffin merits recognition, also, but I’m not sure if he’ll get it.
What about coach Paul Johnson?
The Yellow Jackets have made a five-win improvement from 2015, the biggest jump in the ACC and the second most of any power-conference team. (Tech fans will be interested to know that the biggest year-over-year gain was made by Colorado, which is coached by Tech grad Mike MacIntyre and went from 4-9 to 10-2.) (If you’re wondering, Colorado got a 13th game last year because it played at Hawaii, an obscure NCAA allowance.) The “biggest gain from last year” stat is not an entirely fair barometer, as most teams didn’t have as much room as Tech or other 3-9 teams to improve by five wins. And, also, I think you could make the case that Tech wasn’t a typical 3-9 team last season. Still, plenty of teams did have the room to make that kind of improvement and did not.
That said, Tech was seen as a six- or seven-win team going into the season, and some would have guessed lower. ESPN’s metrics predicted 5.7 wins at the start of the season. Athlon forecast a 6-6 record, 3-5 in the ACC. One bookmaker placed Tech’s over/under win total at 6.5. The Jackets were picked to finish sixth in the Coastal in the preseason ACC media poll. Tech finished fifth in what proved to be a pretty deep and competitive division.
Further, Johnson’s leadership helped keep the team together and focused after losing three games in a row to drop to 3-3 and won two games most would not have expected them to, on the road against then-No. 14 Virginia Tech (without five offensive starters) and Saturday against Georgia in Athens.
My guess is that Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente will win handily. The Hokies were picked to finish fourth in the Coastal and won the division for the first time since 2011. They also improved by three wins in the regular season.
Other coaches who will receive consideration are Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi (wins over College Football Playoff contenders Clemson and Penn State), Louisville’s Bobby Petrino (tied for first in Atlantic, helped produce Heisman-caliber season for quarterback Lamar Jackson), Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (kept Tigers at the top of the ACC) and Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson (Deacons went from 3-9 and 1-7 in ACC to 6-6 and 3-5 and was 25th nationally in defensive points per possession).
A three-time ACC coach of the year already, Johnson almost certainly won’t win, but I suspect he’ll get some votes. Deservedly so.