Clemson's Tajh Boyd should be in for another big season in 2012.
The 2012 college football season is still months away, but it's never too early to preview. Athlon continues its countdown to the upcoming season and spring previews by ranking the quarterbacks in each of the BCS conferences. The rankings take into account last season's production, what each player is expected to do in 2012 and the surrounding personnel.
Here's how Athlon ranks the 12 quarterbacks in the ACC for 2012:
1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (JR)
Passing Stats: 3,828 yards, 33 TDs, 12 INTs, 59.7%
Rushing Stats: 218 yards, 5 TDs
The combination of coordinator Chad Morris, Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins quickly helped to turn Clemson’s offense into the best in the ACC last year. In his first year as the starter, Boyd threw for 33 touchdowns (best in the ACC) and averaged 273.4 passing yards per game. He posted at least three touchdown scores in seven games, but threw nine interceptions over his final six games. With another offseason to pickup Morris’ scheme, Boyd should be more comfortable with the offense in 2012. The Tigers also return running back Andre Ellington and the ACC’s top receiving corps. The offensive line has a few holes, but Clemson’s offense shouldn’t miss much of a beat in 2012.
2. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (JR)
Passing Stats: 3,013 yards, 19 TD, 10 INT, 59.8%
Rushing Stats: 153 att., 469 yards, 11 TD
This monster athlete enters his second full season under center after finishing No. 2 in the ACC in total offense a year ago (248.7 ypg). In fact, his 3,482 yards of offense broke Tyrod Taylor’s Hokie single-season mark set the previous year. Checking in at 6-foot-6 and 262 pounds, Thomas conjures up slightly less explosive visions of Cam Newton with his ability to move the pile on the ground — he might be the best QB sneaker in the nation. He will be breaking in a new offensive line and running backs, so if Virginia Tech is going to win its fifth Coastal Division in six years, the junior quarterback must be an ACC Player of the Year candidate.
3. EJ Manuel, Florida State (SR)
Passing Stats: 2,666 yards, 18 TDs, 8 INTs, 65.3%
Rushing Stats: 151 yards, 4 TDs
Injuries derailed Manuel from fully capitalizing on his potential last season. After tossing six touchdown passes in his first two games, he was injured against Oklahoma and missed the following game at Clemson. Manuel came off the bench against Wake Forest and started the remaining eight games, but he seemed to be dealing with the shoulder injury off and on throughout the 2011 season. Combine Manuel’s health, a shaky offensive line and young receiving corps, and you start to see why Florida State ranked eighth in the ACC in total offense. With a full offseason to recover and a full complement of emerging weapons at receiver, Manuel should easily surpass last season’s totals. Manuel has always had the talent and should put everything together to have a monster season in Tallahassee.
4. Mike Glennon, NC State (SR)
Passing Stats: 3,054 yards, 31 TDs, 12 INTs, 62.5%
Rushing Stats: -110 yards, 1 TD
Coach Tom O’Brien had to make a difficult choice entering spring practice last season. Although Russell Wilson was one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks, he spent the spring playing baseball, which allowed Glennon to get all of the work with the first team. Although Wilson decided to return to the gridiron, O’Brien made an interesting and risky decision, choosing to go with Glennon as the starter for the 2012 season. Although Glennon had zero career starts going into last year, O’Brien’s confidence in the 6-foot-6 passer was rewarded. Glennon ranked second in the ACC with 31 touchdown tosses and completed 62.5 percent of his throws. NC State loses receiver T.J. Graham and tight end George Bryan, but the offense is expected to get better with Glennon going through another spring practice as the No. 1 quarterback. It’s a tight battle between Manuel and Glennon for the third spot on this list – and both could be worthy of all-conference honors at the end of the 2012 season.
5. Bryn Renner, North Carolina (JR)
Passing Stats: 3,086 yards, 26 TD, 13 INT, 68.3%
Rushing Stats: 57 att., minus-88 yards, TD
The strong-armed junior enters his second full season as the starter in Chapel Hill after leading the ACC in efficiency a year ago (159.44). Renner was the only ACC passer to complete more than 66% of his passes and he finished second in passing yards behind only Tajh Boyd. Losing star wideout Dwight Jones will hurt, but right-hand man Giovani Bernard returns to the backfield to carry the football and take the pressure off Renner. In the face of NCAA sanctions, this Tar Heels team has a chance to push for the best record in the division, but much of it hinges on Renner’s continued — and expected — development in Larry Fedora’s new offensive scheme.
6. Tanner Price, Wake Forest (JR)
Passing Stats: 3,017 yards, 20 TDs, 6 INTs, 60%
Rushing Stats: -53 yards, 1 TD
Price showed tremendous progress in his second year as Wake Forest’s starting quarterback, throwing for 3,017 yards and 20 scores, while tossing only seven picks. He threw for at least 200 yards in each of the first seven games and completed 20 of 32 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-10 rout over Maryland. Price’s numbers were a big improvement from a freshman season that watched him throw for 1,349 yards and seven scores. There’s no question Price is one of Wake Forest’s best players, but his top target (Chris Givens) departed early for the NFL Draft. With four starters gone on the offensive line, Price may not have as much time to throw this year, and Wake Forest’s coaching staff has to be worried about him taking too much upon his shoulders. As long as Price keeps his completion percentage around 60 percent and keeps his interceptions under 10, the Demon Deacons figure to be in the mix for a bowl bid.
7. Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech (SR)
Passing Stats: 1,652 yards, 11 TD, 8 INT, 49.3%
Rushing Stats: 243 att., 987 yards, 14 TD
Washington got his first taste of the starting lineup at the end of the 2010 season when he filled in for the injured Joshua Nesbitt. He started off last season on a (relative) tear by throwing for over 200 yards per game in the first four contests. He then failed to top the 100-yard mark in five of his last seven games and completed no more than six passes per game until the final game of the season. However, he posted four 100-yard games over those last eight contests and showed signs of life in the passing game in the season finale (11-of-15, 137 yards, TD, 0 INT). Life will be tougher without wideout Stephen Hill, but this system only needs one or two big passing plays per game to succeed. As a senior in his second full season as the starter with four offensive line starters back, Washington should be poised for his most productive, most efficient season yet.
8. Sean Renfree, Duke (SR)
Passing Stats: 2,891 yards, 14 TD, 11 INT, 64.9%
Rushing Stats: 58 att., minus-58 yards, 4 TD
Tajh Boyd and Bryn Renner were the only two ACC quarterbacks who were more efficient than Renfree in 2011. And the Blue Devils quarterback did it with much less around him. Renfree only won three games a year ago, and certainly his stats might be padded by a few garbage-time situations, but Duke was competitive against bowl eligible teams North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. Renfree loses one of his top targets now that Donovan Varner is gone but will have leading pass-catcher Conner Vernon back for his final season. With QB guru David Cutcliffe drawing up plays, Renfree has a chance to top the 3,000-yard mark in his final season.
9. Michael Rocco, Virginia (JR)
Passing Stats: 2,671 yards, 13 TD, 12 INT, 60.7%
Rushing Stats: 40 att., 20 yards, 2 TD
In his first year as the starter, Rocco did one thing no Cavs quarterback was able to do since 2007: Get his team to a bowl game. His efficiency — both completion percent and TD-to-INT ratio — need to show marked improvement if the Wahoos expect to return to the postseason once again. Yet, coach Mike London has this team humming at a level unseen in Charlottesville in a decade and the talent around Rocco the junior is only getting better. Yes, it was a blowout against a horrible Auburn defense, but the UVa quarterback posted his best game as a passer in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl when he completed 26-of-41 for his only career 300-yard game (312) and a career-high two touchdowns.
10. Stephen Morris, Miami (JR)
Passing Stats: 283 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 70.2%
Rushing Stats: 11 att., -2 yards, TD
Morris lost the starting battle with Jacory Harris last season but still saw action in five contests where he completed over 70% of his passes. But most of his production came in the Labor Day night showing against Maryland where he threw for 195 yards and scored his only touchdown. Considering his lack of playing time last year, Morris really hasn’t seen the field much since 2010. As a freshman, Morris got plenty of action down the stretch in relief of the injured Harris. He threw for 1,240 yards in six games and many thought had done enough to earn the starting job in 2011. With Harris gone, and a very young roster around him, the job appears to be Morris’ to lose. The junior will miss most of spring practice with a back injury, but is expected to return 100 percent in time for fall camp.
11. Chase Rettig, Boston College (JR)
Passing Stats: 1,960 yards, 12 TDs, 9 INTs, 53.6%
Rushing Stats: -84 yards, 1 TD
Rettig has taken his lumps over the last two years and could be ready to climb higher on this list in 2012. As a freshman, Rettig threw for 1,238 yards and six touchdowns, but tossed nine picks. Last year, he threw for 1,960 yards and 12 touchdowns, but threw for less than 200 yards in 10 out of 12 games. New coordinator Doug Martin did a good job of resurrecting New Mexico State’s offense last year and should bring improvement to Boston College. However, a new scheme won't fix all of the issues, as Rettig also needs help from the receiving corps and rushing attack. Although the coaching staff expects a better year out of Rettig in 2012, backup Josh Bordner could figure more into the gameplan. Bordner is a better runner, but does not have Rettig’s experience.
12. C.J. Brown, Maryland (JR)
Passing Stats: 842 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INTs, 49.4%
Rushing Stats: 79 att., 574 yards, 5 TDs
Not much went right for the Terrapins last season. The offense ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring and passing and scored more than 21 points only once over the last six games. Brown made five starts last season and finished the year with 842 passing yards and seven scores, while adding 574 yards on the ground. His best performance came in a loss against Clemson, recording 339 total yards and four touchdowns. With Danny O’Brien transferring to Wisconsin, Brown is Maryland’s only scholarship quarterback this spring and any injury to him during the season would be costly. New coordinator Mike Locksley will incorporate more pro-style looks, which will require some adjustment on Brown's part for the upcoming season. Although Brown showed flashes of promise last year, he still has much to prove and begins the year ranked as the worst quarterback in the conference.
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