June 19, 2012

Countdown to kickoff: Ranking the ACC's QBs



Ten starting quarterbacks return this year in the ACC, the highest total in league history. Only Miami and Maryland will be opening with new faces under center, although the Terrapins return junior C.J. Brown, who started five games in 2011.

Five of those returning quarterbacks threw for 3,000 or more yards last fall, which is also the highest total in league history. The previous high was two returning field generals who had surpassed 3,000 yards through the air. In addition to that fivesome, Duke signal caller Sean Renfree, who totaled 3,131 passing yards in 2010, also returns. The five who threw for at least 3,000 last year include Clemson's Tajh Boyd (3,828, 33 TDs), UNC's Bryn Renner (3,086, 26), NC State's Mike Glennon (3,054, 31), Wake Forest's Tanner Price (3,017, 20) and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas (3,013, 19).

Interestingly, half of the ACC's projected starting quarterbacks hail from Virginia, including Boyd, Renner, Glennon and Thomas. Florida State's E.J. Manuel and Virginia's Michael Rocco also call the Old Dominion state home.

Ranking The ACC's Quarterbacks


1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
After the year that Boyd enjoyed last season directing the Tigers' new spread offense, coupled with the fact that he may have the top receiver duo in the country with Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, there was no way that Boyd was not leading our list.
Boyd led the league, which boasted several successful aerial attacks in 2011, with 3,828 yards and 33 passing touchdowns, in addition to setting an ACC record for touchdown responsibility with 38. His passing touchdown total tied for eighth nationally, and he also paced the conference in total offense (289.0) and passing yardage (273.4) per game, while he was fourth in passing efficiency (141.2). The Clemson offense ranked among the nation's top 26 for passing offense (21st), scoring offense (24th) and total offense (26th).
The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder should improve on last year's 59.7 completion percentage in his second year as a starter. Boyd also rushed for 218 yards last season, even after lost yards due to sacks are taken into account, and was just the fourth ACC player to ever record at least 4,000 (4,046) yards of total offense en route to All-ACC first-team laurels.

2. Mike Glennon, NC State
Glennon was another first-time starter who thrived in 2011, when he completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 3,054 yards and 31 touchdowns. His completion percentage was second-highest among ACC quarterbacks who threw for at least 3,000 yards in 2011, while he also ranked second in the league with 31 touchdown passes (tied for eighth nationally).
The 6-6, 232-pounder lost a lot of his weapons with the graduation of tight end George Bryan and receiver T.J. Graham, but he's good enough to raise of talents of those around him. His 31 touchdown throws tied for the fourth-best single-season performance in league history, while his 32 touchdown responsibility mark is tied for the eighth-best ever in the ACC.
Glennon got better as the year went on and, over the final four games; he completed 66 percent of his attempts for 1,043 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Against the Pack's two nationally ranked opponents, No. 21 Georgia Tech and No. 7 Clemson, the field general was 39-58 (.672) for 416 yards, five touchdowns and one interceptions for a passing efficiency of 152.49.

3. E.J. Manuel, Florida State
Manuel would have seriously threatened the 3,000-yard passing mark if he did not miss one game and parts of two others with injuries. The 6-4, 245-pounder still threw for 2,666 yards and 18 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. He ranked second in the ACC and 18th in the FBS for passing efficiency (151.2) and has now started 16 games for the Seminoles, who are 12-4 (3-0 in bowl games) with Manuel opening under center.
He also rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns in 2011 and did not throw an interception in his final 121 passes of the season, a streak that spanned FSU's final five games; the Noles were 4-1 during that stretch, with a one-point loss to Virginia.
Manuel enters his second year as the full-time starter and could contend to be the ACC's top quarterback if his offense is able to stay healthy, something the team couldn't do in 2011. The unit returns four starting offensive linemen and a deep wide receiving corps that features Rashad Greene (596 yards, 7 TDs in nine games as a true freshman), Willie Haulstead (587 yards, 6 TDs in 2010, but missed all of last year with a concussion), Rodney Smith (561 yards, 4 TD), Kenny Shaw (418, 4) and Christian Green (450, 0). Each of those returning pass catchers, except the 5-11 Shaw, are at least six feet tall and the group also adds 6-6 redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin.

4. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
The 6-6, 254-pound Thomas has lots of talent and ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. lists him as the No. 4 player on his 2013 NFL Draft Big Board, but this isn't a ranking of NFL potential, it's about how these signal callers will produce next fall. Thomas has a great arm, but is not a finished product yet...which, at the same time, is also the scariest part about the Hokie quarterback. At the same time, he has the highest ceiling and is likely the best dual-threat on the list.
Thomas completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 3,013 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year while he rushed for another 11 scores and 469 yards. There is not a better dual-threat field general in the conference, but the junior is just one of three returning starters on the Virginia Tech offense.
He accounted for 30 total touchdowns last year, tied for the 11th-best mark in ACC annals, and really improved as the year went on. Over the final nine games, he accounted for an average of 274 yards of total offense per game, completed 61.4 percent of his passes and totaled 25 scores en route to shattering program records for total offense and touchdowns responsible for.
If the youngster continues to improve, he'll skyrocket up this list and be one of the top NFL Draft prospects in 2013, but playmakers need to emerge around him. Wide out Marcus Davis is a specimen, but will need to increase last year's production of 510 receiving yards and five scores.

5. Bryn Renner, North Carolina
Renner paced the ACC in passing efficiency (159.4, 10th nationally) and completion percentage (68.3, 14th) last year while throwing for 3,086 yards and 26 touchdowns. However, he also threw 13 interceptions, the most of any signal caller in the conference last fall.
The junior should find success in new coach Larry Fedora's hurry-up, spread attack, but the offense must find a replacement for last year's lead receiver, Dwight Jones. That is not to say the roster completely lacks pass catchers for the Tar Heels - senior Erik Highsmith had 726 yards and five scores through the air last year, while running back Giovani Bernard is a receiving threat out of the backfield - but they might not have enough options to satisfy Fedora's spread offense.
Renner should make strides in his second year as the starter, but the question is how quickly can he grasp the Fedora offense? He certainly looked like he handle a good handle on it at the UNC Spring Game, when he completed 23 of 28 passes for 295 yards and two scores.

6. Tanner Price, Wake Forest
Price had an impressive second year as the starter for the Demon Deacons, but, like Thomas, he is one of just three returning starters on the offensive side of the ball. The 6-2, 190-pound junior completed 60 percent of his passes last year for 3,017 yards and 20 touchdowns against just six interceptions. With 422 attempts, his interception avoidance ratio (.142) was the seventh-best mark in ACC history.
Price is a fairly athletic signal caller who will take advantage of the return of wide out Michael Campanaro (833 receiving yards, 2 TD in 2011), but another playmaker will have to emerge alongside the 5-10 pass catcher. He has thrown his last 173 passes without an interception, that streak is already the seventh-longest in conference history and covered the last five games of the season.

The Wildcards


- Sean Renfree, Duke
The Blue Devils' signal caller probably would've eclipsed the 3,000-yard passing mark if he had the benefit of 13 games like the other quarterbacks who surpassed the landmark, but Duke did not go bowling and Renfree finished with 2,891 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011. He ranked second in the league with an average of 240.9 yards per game, but he also tossed 11 interceptions.
The senior is the ACC's active career leader in passing yardage (6,352), total offense (6,235) and pass completions (601). However, Duke likes to rotate its quarterbacks, and sophomores Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette are both back.

- Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech
The 6-foot, 205-pound senior has 17 starts under his belt in coach Paul Johnson's spread option attack, but he returns as Tech's leading passer (1,652 yards, 11 TDs) and rusher (986, 14). Last year, he directed the Yellow Jackets to a No. 2 finish nationally in rushing offense, 18th in total offense and 21st in scoring offense while finishing fifth in the ACC for rushing yards per game (75.9).
He stands eighth among ACC signal callers all-time with 1,541 rushing yards and had a passing efficiency of 155.38 last fall, which would have ranked 13th nationally if he had enough attempts to qualify, but the offense does not return a receiver with a college reception to his credit.

- C.J. Brown, Maryland
The junior started five games last year, but had plenty of reps this spring, as he was the only scholarship quarterback on the Terrapins roster. He is another dangerous dual-threat under center and finished 2011 with 842 yards and seven touchdowns passing while he rushed for 574 yards and five more scores.
He must improve of his completion percentage of 49.4 percent and six interceptions in 166 attempts and is learning a new offensive attack under coordinator Mike Locksley.

- Stephen Morris, Miami
Morris won't be given the starting spot after missing the spring with a back injury, and he'll have plenty of competition from former Memphis transfer Ryan Williams, but he has shown flashes throughout his career while relieving an injured Jacory Harris. He started the season opener last year, and also opened four games as a true freshman in 2010. In his career, he has completed 108 of 190 attempts (.568) for 1,523 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions.


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