There’s a case to be made that all 14 ACC teams fall into one of two categories this season: Teams with strong QBs and teams that think they’ll have one by year’s end.
Top to bottom, this might be the best quarterback season the ACC has seen in years. How do the ACC’s teams stack up? We’ve done our best to rank them.
Justin Thomas is perhaps the best pure playmaker in the ACC, but what makes him truly special is that he’s a perfect fit for Paul Johnson’s system. Add to that a terrific backup in Tim Byerly, and the Jackets narrowly take the top spot.
Health concerns are the only legitimate critique of Deshaun Watson at this point, but even as a true freshman playing with a torn ACL, he still thumped rival South Carolina last season. Project his numbers over the course of a complete season, and he’s a Heisman front-runner. If Watson can’t stay healthy though, Clemson’s QB situation is a major wild card.
Here’s the list of true freshman QBs who’ve thrown for 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in the last decade: Brad Kaaya. That’s it. He led the ACC in yards-per-attempt and passing TDs last season and expectations are even higher for 2015.
Marquise Williams accounted for more than 3,800 yards and 35 touchdowns last season despite playing much of the season with a nagging hip injury. Now he’s fully healthy and has nine returning starters surrounding him on offense. Add in Mitch Trubisky behind him, and there’s a strong case North Carolina has one of the best 1-2 punches in the country.
At midseason in 2014, Everett Golson was a legitimate Heisman candidate. The second half of the season had too many turnovers and too many Notre Dame defeats, and he ended up transferring to Florida State. That could be a boon for both Golson and the Seminoles as he takes over an offense that’s short on experience but loaded with talent.
The only Power 5 QBs in the country last year to account for 25 touchdowns, 3,000 yards and no more than five interceptions included Jacoby Brissett, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley and Cody Kessler. It’s an elite list, and Brissett proved during an impressive 2014 that he belonged.
Down the stretch last season, Chad Voytik was as good as any quarterback in the ACC. Now he’s got a year of starting experience under his belt and has two of the league’s best offensive weapons around him.
With a young supporting cast, a makeshift O-line and just two months on campus, Michael Brewer was thrown to the wolves last season. He struggled at times, but he did knock off Ohio State and finished the year with the eight-lowest interception rate among P5 QBs from Week 8 on.
Reggie Bonnafon hasn’t locked up the starting job, but there’s still so much optimism about Bonnafon’s future at Louisville that it’s hard to imagine him not contributing in a big way this year. Even if he doesn’t, Louisville proved it has plenty of depth with Will Gardner and Kyle Bolin both having starting experience, too.
10. Duke Blue Devils
Thomas Sirk's playing time is limited, but he takes over a Duke offense with playmakers around him and a solid offensive line. He also brings a dangerous level of athleticism to the table that should make him a tough matchup for opposing defenses.
Matt Johns shared playing time with Greyson Lambert last season but officially landed the full-time job this spring. He looked good in some games -- UCLA and BYU -- but struggled in others. The jury is still out, but Mike London was clearly convinced he has the right guy.
12. Syracuse Orange
We know Syracuse wasn’t very good without Terrel Hunt, but we still don’t know how good Hunt actually is. Against Power 5 foes in his career, Hunt has averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt with three passing touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Matching the production of Tyler Murphy is likely an impossible task for Darius Wade this season, but he can be a far more dynamic threat for BC, keeping defenses honest with his arm while using his athleticism to offset an O-line that could struggle early.
This ranking isn’t so much a knock on John Wolford, who showed real improvement and ample toughness as the season progressed last season. It’s just that he has very little to work with on offense, and he can’t do it all by himself.