Ranking the ACC quarterback situations entering the 2018 college football season
With spring practice in the books and preseason camp still weeks away, we’re really in the doldrums of the college football offseason.
But it’s never too early to look ahead to next season, don’t you think? Quarterback is the most important position on the field, so let’s see how things are stacking up at the position across the country.
We’ll start with the quarterback situations for each ACC team.
14. Virginia – Bryce Perkins, Lindell Stone
With Kurt Benkert out of eligibility, it looks like Virginia will turn to junior college transfer Bryce Perkins in 2018. Perkins, who started his career at Arizona State and played at Arizona Western Community College last year, was atop the depth chart coming out of spring practice. With the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Perkins’ ability to run, Bronco Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae have made some changes to the offense and could use Perkins can be used a lot like BYU, Mendenhall’s former school, used Taysom Hill.
13. North Carolina – Chazz Surratt, Nathan Elliott
North Carolina brought LSU graduate transfer Brandon Harris in to be its starting quarterback in 2017. But Harris ended up splitting time with Chazz Surratt early in the year. Before long, Surratt was getting most of the reps, only to be supplanted by Nathan Elliott down the stretch. The team finished 3-9, and both Surratt (1,342 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INTs) and Elliott (926 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs) are back in a competition entering 2018. At the very least, the Tar Heels have two options with experience.
12. Louisville – Jawon Pass
Jawon Pass is tasked with replacing a legend at Louisville. Pass redshirted Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy-winning season and backed him up last year. Now a redshirt sophomore, Bobby Petrino has already penciled Pass in as Jackson’s successor. A four-star recruit in 2016, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Pass looked pretty good in limited action last year, completing 23-of-33 passes for 238 yards and two scores. He also rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown rushing, though he’s nowhere near as explosive as Jackson as a runner. Provided the UL line improves, Pass has a chance to keep the Cardinals’ offense running at a high level in 2018.
11. Pittsburgh – Kenny Pickett, Ricky Town
With Max Browne injured and Ben DiNucci proving to be ineffective, Pitt turned to freshman Kenny Pickett down the stretch. It proved to be a good move. Pickett showed a lot of gumption, especially in the Panthers’ upset over then-undefeated Miami. In a 24-14 win, Pickett completed 18-of-29 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 60 yards and two more scores. He is the No. 1 option entering 2018, with the well-traveled Ricky Town (yes, that Ricky Town) as his backup.
10. Boston College – Anthony Brown, E.J. Perry
Boston College has struggled offensively for much of Steve Addazio’s tenure as head coach, but the freshman combination of quarterback Anthony Brown and running back A.J. Dillon in 2017 injected some much-needed life. Before going down with a knee injury in November, Brown threw for 1,367 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Like most freshmen, he had his inconsistencies, but the Virginia game — 19/24 for 275 yards and three touchdowns — showed his potential. And if Brown’s knee isn’t ready for the start of the season, E.J. Perry would be the likely starter.
9. Georgia Tech – TaQuon Marshall
TaQuon Marshall started off his first season leading Georgia Tech’s option attack with a flourish, rushing for a whopping 249 yards and five touchdowns against Tennessee. It ended up being the best performance of the season for the junior, who finished the year with 1,146 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. The Yellow Jackets’ ground game can set up some potential big plays in the passing game. Marshall struggled in that facet of his game. He completed a measly 37.1 percent of his passes. Clearly, he needs to improve there in 2018.
8. Wake Forest – Kendall Hinton
Kendall Hinton will finally get his chance to be Wake’s full-time starter in 2018. He has four starts in his career, but was behind John Wolford on the depth chart the last three years. Wolford and the Wake offense finally broke out in 2017, leaving Hinton, a redshirt junior, big shoes to fill. He’ll have an experienced line and solid receiving corps to work with. Hinton, with 705 career rushing yards, can make things happen with his feet, too.
7. Duke – Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones enters his third season as Duke’s starting quarterback. With Thomas Sirk injured, Jones emerged as the starter as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and had a good year (2,836 yards, 16 TDs, 9 INT, 62.8%). His numbers dropped off in 2017 (2,439 yards, 12 TDs, 11 INT, 55.7%), but the Blue Devils jumped from 4-8 to 7-6. If the rest of the offense steps up around him, Jones, only a junior, could emerge as one of the ACC’s better quarterbacks in 2018.
6. Miami – Malik Rosier, N’Kosi Perry
Malik Rosier led Miami to 11 wins in 2017, but has a host of underclassmen pushing him. Rosier threw for 3,120 yards and 26 touchdowns, but he also tossed 14 interceptions — including three in an Orange Bowl loss to Wisconsin — and completed only 54 percent of his passes. Mark Richt and the Miami coaching staff are looking for more consistency and fewer turnovers from Rosier as he enters his senior season. N’Kosi Perry, a four-star recruit who redshirted his first season, is Rosier’s main competition. And it will take a tremendous effort in preseason camp to supplant Rosier as starter entering 2018.
5. Syracuse – Eric Dungey, Tommy DeVito
If it feels like Eric Dungey has been around for a long time, it’s because he has been. The senior enters 2018 with 6,472 yards and 40 touchdowns passing and 1,239 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing in 25 career starts. When Dungey has been healthy, he’s been very productive for the Orange, who are entering year three under Dino Babers. But health has been an issue. Dungey has paid the price for fighting for extra yards to the tune of 10 missed games in three seasons. If Syracuse wants to make some noise in 2018, Dungey needs to stay healthy. And if Dungey is sidelined, Tommy DeVito, an Elite 11 finalist, is No. 2 on the depth chart.
4. Virginia Tech – Josh Jackson, Ryan Willis
Josh Jackson took the reins as a redshirt freshman in 2017 and had a pretty good year, throwing for 2,991 yards and 20 touchdowns. He has a ton of talent, but struggled with his accuracy. Hokies coach Justin Fuente would not definitively say coming out of spring that Jackson will be the starter on opening day, though he’s the clear favorite. If Jackson takes the necessary steps forward, he could become an All-ACC performer with Kansas transfer Ryan Willis serving as his backup.
3. Florida State – James Blackman, Deondre Francois
There’s no shortage of talent at quarterback for Florida State, but it’s anybody’s guess who will start for the team’s first game with Willie Taggart as head coach. Deondre Francois put up big numbers — 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns — as the starter in 2016, but often held on to the ball for way too long. He didn’t have much of a chance to show improvement in 2017 when he went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1. That opened the door for James Blackman to start as a true freshman. He showed flashes (2,230 yards, 19 TDs), but mostly looked like a freshman as he took his lumps. If Francois enters preseason camp healthy, he’ll have the chance to reclaim the starting role.
2. NC State – Ryan Finley
On the heels of consecutive 3,000-yard seasons, the 2018 season will be the third year starting for Ryan Finley at NC State. Finley, who started his career at Boise State, threw for 3,514 yards and 17 touchdowns while completing 65.1 percent of his passes last year and could have foregone his final season of eligibility for the NFL, but he decided to return for one last run. If he puts together another big season, he could become one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2019 draft. Finley’s consistency makes him the league’s best returning starter, but there’s not much behind him. Jalan McClendon, Finley’s backup the past two seasons, decided to transfer to Baylor. That leaves redshirt freshman Matt McKay and true freshman Devin Leary as the backups. Yikes.
1. Clemson – Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence
Kelly Bryant will enter preseason camp as Clemson’s starting quarterback, but Trevor Lawrence will be right on his heels. Bryant was pretty solid in his first year as the Tigers’ starter, succeeding Deshaun Watson. He threw for 2,802 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions while rushing for 665 yards and 11 scores, but finished the year with a dreadful performance in the College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against Alabama. Lawrence, the No. 1 recruit in the 2018 class, enrolled early and pushed 2017 5-star recruit Hunter Johnson out of the equation. If Bryant scuffles, it could be Lawrence’s show sooner rather than later.
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Sam Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!
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