Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
If people are content with the ACC being a defensive league, they will have to be content with it being an average league.
If the conference is going to take the next step, it needs to recruit better quarterbacks.
Yes, defenses win championships, but in college football there are two components essential to winning and winning big -- offensive and defensive line play, and a standout quarterback. Save for Matt Ryan last year, the ACC hasn't exactly been a quarterback factory. Michael Vick and Ken Dorsey don't count.
In this decade, you can count Ryan, Matt Schaub (Virginia, 2004 NFL draft), Philip Rivers (NC State, 2004 draft), Ron Curry (UNC, 2002 draft), Charlie Whitehurst (Clemson, 2006 draft), Adrian McPherson, (FSU 2005 draft), and Joe Hamilton (Georgia Tech, 2000 draft) as the best the ACC had to offer at the position. The last time Florida State was truly great, it had two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks in Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke.
Can Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor, Miami's Jacory Harris, FSU's Christian Ponder or NC State's Russell Wilson emerge as the league's next great quarterback? They're all good and have potential, but none of them seem to have the true wow factor that will bump them up to that elite level. Of course, they're not all running Mike Leach's offense, either. Some of the offenses in the ACC are so simplistic, it's hard for quarterbacks to flourish.
Many of the coaches in the league have committed to a defensive philosophy, and there's nothing wrong with that -- just look at how the Ravens, the Steelers and the Eagles advanced as far as they did. But an elite quarterback backed by, say, a Virginia Tech-caliber defense would do wonders to truly separate a team like the Hokies from the rest of the pack. Florida won the national title because it was ranked among the top 20 FBS schools in offense AND defense.
If you look at the teams that were in contention for the national title this year, they all had one thing in common -- excellent quarterback play. Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy -- all ranked among the top six in the country in pass efficiency. You have to scroll down the list to No. 41 until you find Russell Wilson, the first ACC quarterback listed.
Forget Heisman winner, the ACC needs to start with a legitimate Heisman contender at quarterback.