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Scouting the AP Top 25 teams: Opposing coaches unfiltered

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The numbers prove Alabama and Clemson's dominance (0:52)

It's hard to deny Alabama and Clemson's dominance, especially after crunching the numbers. (0:52)

By now, the teams in the AP preseason Top 25 have been examined from almost every angle. You know the depth charts, coaching changes, schedule superlatives and how the teams measure up in analytic tools like FPI and, thanks to ESPN colleague Bill Connelly, S&P+.

The Top 25 breakdown that follows is less data-heavy and more anecdotal, but it's still significant because of the sources: college football coaches. As I checked in with coaches from around the country during the offseason, I always asked their general thoughts on Team X or Player Y.

Most coaching staffs devote a chunk of the winter or spring to scouting upcoming opponents, as well as some potential foes in postseason play. They also know the opposing players, coaches and schemes better than just about anyone.

My conversations with coaches are almost always on background, to provide their most genuine views of other teams. We also stuck to the biggest topics -- quarterbacks, coordinator changes, key transfers and departures -- to get a macro view of each team.

Without further ado, here are brief scouting reports on the AP Top 25.


1. Clemson

Coaches discuss Clemson's personnel the same way they've discussed Alabama's for years, with great respect and a tinge of bitterness. "What do they have, 13 guys who are All-ACC?" an ACC defensive coordinator said. A Power 5 defensive coordinator said of quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receivers Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins, "The quarterback and the two wideouts, those are all slam dunk top-10 [NFL draft] picks." The coach called Lawrence "uniquely special." Although the Tigers lose their entire starting defensive line -- "When that many guys leave, you can't be that good," an ACC coach said -- coaches note the potential of outside linebacker Isaiah Simmons, defensive end Xavier Thomas and the next cast of stars. "I'm operating as if the next crew will be good," an offensive assistant whose team faces Clemson this fall said.