Going into the summer, here are the ACC quarterback ranking for every team in the conference.
14. NC State
The Pack faces an unenviable task of replacing a third-round draft pick, Jacoby Brissett, with a couple of kids that have virtually no experience at this level. Up-and-coming rookie offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz is being tasked with coaching up sophomore Jalan McClendon and redshirt freshman Jakobi Meyers—and then deciding which unproven underclassmen to entrust the offense this season.
13. Boston College
The Eagles are lightyears ahead of where they were a year ago, which shouldn’t be read as a ringing endorsement. True, no one is expecting the second coming of Matt Ryan on the Heights in 2016. But, yes, the addition of Kentucky transfer Patrick Towles and the return to health of Darius Wade gives BC a much better shot of completing passes downfield in the fall.
Ugh. This position has been a problem in Charlottesville for what seems to be a lifetime. The silver lining for Bronco Mendenhall is that he inherited a starting quarterback, error-prone Matt Johns, who’s trying to fend off a pair of contenders who began their careers elsewhere. Connor Brewer is a Power Five vagabond, while Kurt Benkert was imported from East Carolina in early May.
Someone is going to get the keys to Dino Babers’ new up-tempo Orange attack. And that someone is likely to be Eric Dungey, who’s coming off a head-turning spring. Dungey flashed as a dual-threat in his rookie season, but he also struggled with concussions, which will need to be monitored. His health issues created reps for Zack Mahoney and Austin Wilson, so depth is less of an issue than it was in 2015.
10. Wake Forest
What the Deacons lack in next-level quarterback talent, they’ll make up for in experience. Wake Forest will enjoy a luxury behind center, multiple quarterbacks with extensive experience. John Wolford is a two-year starter, while Kendall Hinton appeared in 10 games last season. Oh, and the latter is a dynamic running threat, so the talents of both players could be employed by Dave Clawson.
9. Virginia Tech
New year, same old issues for the Hokies at quarterback. An inability to develop quality passers was the primary reason Frank Beamer slumped over the final years of his Hall of Fame Va Tech tenure. New head coach Justin Fuente is in a far better position to address the problem, but in Brenden Motley and JUCO transfer Jerod Evans it’s not as if there’ll be much resemblance to his last pupil, current Denver Bronco Paxton Lynch.
The Blue Devils would be ranked higher if not for the Achilles injury suffered by starting quarterback Thomas Sirk during February conditioning drills. Fingers are crossed that Sirk might still be able to return in September. Just in case, though, Parker Boehme spent the spring preparing as if he’ll be the 2016 starter in Durham.
By landing Nathan Peterman from Tennessee last season, Pat Narduzzi found a steady veteran around whom an offense can be built. Peterman efficiently took care of business in 2015, though his job is about to become a lot tougher now that WR Tyler Boyd is a Cincinnati Bengal. Peterman also ran Chad Voytik out of town, leaving the Panthers without the luxury of an experienced arm in the bullpen.
6. Georgia Tech
Which Justin Thomas emerges this year, the 2014 one that earned all-league honors or the 2015 one that slumped badly? The former seems more likely since much of last season was spent dealing with nagging injuries and trying to carry the offense without much help. Now that the backfield supporting cast has improved, Thomas is ready to resume being Paul Johnson’s trusted point guard.
5. North Carolina
The Tar Heels lost a three-year starter, Marquise Williams, to graduation, yet might be even better at the position this season. Mitch Trubisky has been itching for this opportunity for the past couple of years. And based on his offseason performance and complementary talent, he’s good enough to contend for All-ACC honors in his debut as the regular behind center.
4. Florida State
Jimbo Fisher has yet to officially name a starter, though senior Sean Maguire is expected to be the favorite now that he’s ready to return from offseason ankle surgery. Maguire has played in big games for the Seminoles, and he has the arm talent to earn looks from NFL teams. But if he leaves the door open in August, FSU boasts a couple of up-and-comers in redshirt freshman Deondre Francois and true freshman Malik Henry.
With all due respect to Trubisky in Chapel Hill, the Cards harbor the ACC’s rising star quarterback. Lamar Jackson cut his teeth as a true freshman last season, exhibiting the typical peaks and valleys for a young hurler. However, he played his best ball at the end of the year, rushing for 412 yards and four scores over the final two games. Louisville also has experienced players on the bench, important when the starter spends so much time outside the pocket.
Mark Richt inherits a sweet situation at quarterback, a chance to coach Brad Kaaya in what could be his final year as an unpaid amateur. Kaaya is going to play on Sundays, whether that begins in 2017 or 2018. The keys for Richt will be to fine-tune the overall play of his two-year starter and do everything possible to keep him healthy. The drop-off from Kaaya to the backups is a little steeper than the Canes would like.
Deshaun Watson will contend for this year’s top quarterback in all of college football, let alone the ACC. The junior is a dynamite all-around playmaker surrounded by dynamite skill position talent, so the prolific numbers are essentially already baked in. Fifth-year senior Nick Schuessler and sophomore Kelly Bryant will continue to battle this summer for the right to be Watson’s caddy.