The reality is that the ACC doesn't have a true Heisman candidate entering this season -- not when Russell Wilson has taken his talents elsewhere and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck returns. Not when there are so many rookie quarterbacks throughout the league and when the ACC hasn't yet earned its place in the national spotlight.
That's not to say there isn't Heisman-quality talent that can earn recognition if certain teams (read: Boston College) win big. If the ACC is going to produce a legitimate Heisman candidate, it will most likely come from the ACC champion. So let's start there, with the league favorites, as we take a look at the ACC's top three darkhorse Heisman candidates for 2011:
1. Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel: He's not exactly a rookie, as Manuel led Florida State in completion percentage last year (69.9), and has already started in the ACC title game and won two bowl games. Expectations are soaring for the Noles in Year 2 under Jimbo Fisher, and if they live up to the hype, Manuel should be the face of not only the program, but the ACC.
2. Virginia Tech running back David Wilson: I knew this guy was a character, but after reading Kyle Tucker's story this morning on Wilson catching a bird, he's taken it to a whole new level. Wilson, also a track star, has the chance to be a two-sport All-American. There's no question he's going to get the bulk of the carries, and there's little doubt the Hokies will be a conference contender again.
3. Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly: He's got so many things going for him, and two major strikes against him: He's a defender and he plays for a program that's under the national radar. He's a unanimous All-American, though, and he is the real deal. Montel Harris has been the heart of BC's offense during his time there, but Kuechly is the best player on the team.