It hurts these days to be an ACC quarterback.
After accounting for all four of his team’s turnovers on Saturday, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder arrived at his postgame news conference with his arm in a sling. Ponder had a bursa sac injury in his elbow, according to multiple news reports.
It was the three turnovers and lost fumble, though, that seemed to pain him more.
It’s hard to believe it was only a few months ago that Florida State unveiled the program’s first Heisman campaign in honor of Ponder. He’s not alone, though, in his struggles this year. As a group, ACC quarterbacks have fallen below expectations this year. They combined for 20 interceptions on Saturday. Ponder, Miami’s Jacory Harris and NC State’s Russell Wilson have combined for 25 interceptions. With seven veterans returning, the quarterback position was one of the biggest reasons for hope in the ACC this year. Instead, most of them have looked just like the league -- average:
At Clemson, Kyle Parker’s decision to turn down a baseball-only contract with the Colorado Rockies seemed to be an instant reason the Tigers could defend their Atlantic Division title. But without a deep downfield threat, Parker has been less than spectacular. He has thrown for seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
At NC State, Wilson has misfired one too many times, including on Saturday in the loss at East Carolina, when the last of his three interceptions sealed the win for the Pirates. He has 18 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
Instead of showing any measurable improvement, Harris has been measured by his interceptions. In all fairness to Harris, though, his teammates have dropped the ball. Literally. About 30 times. He has 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Boston College had higher hopes for Dave Shinskie, who was entering his second season as a full-time starter, but he didn’t even make it to the halfway point of the season before being benched in favor of true freshman Chase Rettig for the Oct. 2 Notre Dame game.
The bright spots have been in Blacksburg, where Tyrod Taylor has put his team in position to win the Coastal Division again. He still struggles with the deep ball, but it doesn’t matter. Nobody can stop him, and teams have tried several different ways. UNC quarterback T.J. Yates has only thrown one interception all season and is a big reason the Tar Heels are still in contention for the ACC title, despite the NCAA investigations. And Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt is the dependable rock in Atlanta, the heart of that offense, and he’s on his way to becoming the top rushing quarterback in the ACC.
Don’t be surprised if the ACC champion emerges from Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech or North Carolina. They’re the ones getting championship-caliber play from the quarterback position right now.