While we’re still over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.
This week, we start with the quarterback position. Last year it was a strength — or at least it was supposed to be — and while it could be once again in 2013, that will rely on some new starters stepping up in a big way. Though it may not be as top-heavy as last year’s crop (especially after seeing EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib and Sean Renfree headed to the NFL), the ACC still possesses a really strong group of passers who all look to either start or end their careers on a positive note.
Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual quarterback is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of passers is. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.
ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
1. Clemson Tigers: Seeing both Tajh Boyd and offensive coordinator Chad Morris return was a godsend for the Tigers, who get one more year of the potent passing attack led by those two men. In 2012, Boyd broke out for over 4,400 total yards and now he has his eyes set on both a Heisman Trophy and a national title. Beyond Boyd, the team will lean mostly on Cole Stoudt in garbage time, after losing Chad Kelly tore his ACL in the spring. Stoudt, a junior, threw for 212 yards and three scores last season in relief of Boyd.
2. Louisville Cardinals: Teddy Bridgwater has all the hype and expectations anyone could possibly deal with in one season, yet I think he’ll still succeed. The Heisman contender and possible first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is the core of a young Cardinals team that’s aiming to be unbeaten this fall. For when games get out of hand, the ball will likely be handed to Jerry Arlinghaus, the 6’4″ sophomore from nearby Covington, KY with a nice arm.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels: Bryn Renner‘s ability to transition to Larry Fedora’s spread offense has made him a rising star in the ACC, and don’t be surprised to see him put up even more impressive numbers as he closes out his senior season at Chapel Hill. Behind him, Fedora’s also stock-piling players who fit right into his system, with big passers like redshirt freshman Kanler Coker and true freshman Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky was named as “the next Johnny Manziel” by ESPN’s Joe Luginbill back in December, which is quite the name to live up to.
4. Florida State Seminoles: The Seminoles’ open quarterback tryout named sophomore Jameis Winston the victor, but what’s most impressive for FSU is the depth they have at the position. Backups Jacob Coker and Sean Maguire could both contend for starting jobs at many other programs and will be ready to jump in if called upon this year. Based on what we’ve seen from Winston in practices though, I’m not so sure they’ll be needed.
5. Miami Hurricanes: Stephen Morris earned the job with some elite performances in 2012 (including a record-setting 566 yards passing against NC State), but don’t think it’s locked up for good should the ‘Canes struggle. Backup Ryan Williams has thrown over 300 passes for Miami since 2010, along with 14 touchdowns, and is capable of running this offense should they need him to.
6. Virginia Tech Hokies: After a breakout 2011, Logan Thomas struggled in 2012 — much to the Hokie offenses’ chagrin. He’s the starting quarterback and will remain so for the full season, but there’s plenty of talent waiting in the wings once he’s off campus too. In limited time on the field, junior Mark Leal‘s showed glimmers of future excellence, while hometown kid Trey Gresh possesses some breakaway speed and could provide plenty of value in a dual-threat role.
7. Duke Blue Devils: Duke doesn’t necessarily have proven depth at quarterback — starter Anthony Boone is the only player to actually see the field in his career yet — but for the Blue Devils, having four solid names is a great step, and a product of David Cutcliffe’s legacy of developing passers.
While he’s got a couple years to wait behind Boone, expect sophomore Thomas Sirk to start grooming himself for the job should he get some playing time this season. Coming out of high school he had great arm strength and athleticism, which Cutcliffe will be able to help him hone even as a backup. (H/T to @thedevilwolf: Sirk suffered a torn ACL and is out) However, keep an eye on Parker Boehme, who passed for 128 yards in the Blue Devils’ spring game. Some may also remember Brandon Connette, who can still play pivotal role in the passing game despite serving as a running back last season. Connette could very well be used in Wildcat-type formations as well as line up as a passer if called upon (definitely not out of the question).
8. Maryland Terrapins: Maryland ends up here based more on experience than anything else. After last year’s QB injury fiasco, the Terps now have three experienced starting quarterbacks on the roster (C.J. Brown, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe), plus transfer Ricardo Young. Brown and Young are slated to sit atop the depth chart, but as Maryland fans know, these things can change in a hurry. Barring another horrific bout of injuries though, I fully expect Brown to be back and much improved from his sporadic 2011 performance.
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Tanner Price sits alone atop the depth chart for Wake, now entering his fourth season as the Deacs starter. News is he’ll be incorporating spread-option elements into his repertoire, though regardless of the system, it’s tough to compete with someone that possesses this type of experience, even if wins have been a bit fleeting. After backup Brendan Cross transferred to UCLA too, there’s not much else on the roster in case of an injury — so it’s up to Price to both stay effective and healthy.
10. Boston College Eagles: Chase Rettig is another long-time starter entering his final season of eligibility, and admittedly, he presents a mixed bag when you attempt to analyze his career. After a mildly productive 2010, he fell off a cliff in 2011 (Spaz’d) before rebounding nicely last year due to a past-first offense. This year’s BC attack should be more balanced, but if the bottom falls out for some reason, I don’t see why you don’t hand junior Josh Bordner the ball and start building for 2014. Initially, there were thoughts Bordner would challenge Rettig once on campus, though that’s never really come to fruition.
11. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Don’t consider this a knock on new starter Vad Lee — I think he’s an upgrade from Tevin Washington in every way, and if he can throw the ball, the Tech offense may actually be much-improved from last season. But the quarterback position’s been less-than-stellar under coach Paul Johnson. Between Lee and the highly-regarded Justin Thomas, there isn’t a boatload of experience (Lee threw 56 passes last year), though the prospect of something different may be enough to power this unit through.
12. Syracuse Orange: Lots of question marks for Syracuse at quarterback, especially considering they have to figure out how to replace the productivity and leadership of departed senior Ryan Nassib. Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen should end up the starter, and if you ask OU coach Bob Stoops, nabbing him is a big victory for the Orange. If he’d played behind anyone but Sam Bradford and Landry Fields, he would’ve started — a fact that SU fans are already salivating over. Behind him, the athletic Terrel Hunt waits in the wings and could still see the field in some capacity this season.
13. NC State Wolfpack: State’s in an interesting situation, with three potential starters and no clear-cut winner just yet. Early on though, the future appears to be in sophomore Manny Stocker, while the quarterback of right now is a toss-up between Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas and Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell. if there’s little separating the two, the job may go to Mitchell, who can only play one year right away, versus Thomas who will have another season available to him. But also keep in mind Thomas has the more impressive resume thus far, passing for 4,200 yards and 18 scores in 2010 and 2011.
14. Pittsburgh Panthers: Tom Savage, the once-assumed starter, hasn’t played since 2010 when he was at Rutgers, so no one at Pitt’s really sure what to expect of him. That’s where Chad Voytik comes in. Early reviews on the sophomore’s performance in the spring game were extremely positive — he completed 27 of 33 passes for 358 yards and three scores and looked extremely crisp during the intra-squad game. This contest is likely to drag out into August now, which is why the Panthers drop a bit down the list.
15. Virginia Cavaliers: Losing Phillip Sims wasn’t the worst thing to happen to the Hoos, though it did put the entire quarterback position — and offense — in limbo. David Watford and Greyson Lambert are well-regarded in Charlottesville, but are both pretty green behind the ears and have zero experience to speak of. This is where Michael Rocco would’ve come in handy, had he not been pushed out in favor of Sims just six months ago.