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No surprise: Florida State's Jameis Winston is the ACC's No. 1 QB.
The ACC isn’t the deepest conference in terms of quarterback talent for 2014, but it clearly has the No. 1 passer in the nation in Florida State’s Jameis Winston. After a standout freshman season, Winston heads into 2014 with potential to lead the Seminoles to back-to-back national titles, as well as repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner.
While Winston is clearly the No. 1 quarterback, the rest of the rankings in the ACC are up for grabs.
North Carolina’s Marquise Williams and Duke’s Anthony Boone take the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in Athlon’s 2014 rankings, but there’s plenty of upside among Pittsburgh’s Chad Voytik, Clemson’s Cole Stoudt, Louisville’s Will Gardner and NC State’s Jacoby Brissett.
Miami is expected to turn to Kevin Olsen after Ryan Williams was injured in the spring with a torn ACL, while Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer could win Virginia Tech’s starting job this fall.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2014. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks based on accomplishments so far.
Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and over the next few weeks, AthlonSports.com will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the rankings that will shape preseason predictions for this year.
Writeups compiled by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven).
Ranking the ACC's Starting Quarterbacks for 2014
1. Jameis Winston, Florida State (SO)
After one of the best seasons by a freshman in the BCS era, the bar is set high for Winston in 2014. Despite losing receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, Winston should be one of the frontrunners to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner and will have Florida State back in the mix for the national title. In 14 games last year, Winston threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns and tossed only 10 picks on 384 attempts. He completed 66.9 percent of his throws and averaged 15.8 yards per completion. As if those numbers, a Heisman Trophy and All-ACC honors weren’t impressive enough, Winston connected on 25 passes of at least 30 yards and was picked as the offense’s most valuable player in Florida State’s victory over Auburn in the national championship. It will be hard for Winston to top last season, but here’s a scary thought for the rest of the ACC: He still has room to improve and can be a more complete quarterback in 2014.
2. Marquise Williams, North Carolina (JR)
It happened one calendar year earlier than Larry Fedora likely expected, but Marquise Williams got his feet wet as a starting quarterback in the ACC a year ago. And frankly, he showed more ability to produce and play efficient football than most first-year guys thrown into action by injury. He started six games and played in 11 as just a sophomore, and he brings a different dimension to fast-paced offense that Bryn Renner could not. Williams passed for 1,527 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air but added 490 yards rushing and six more scores on the ground. His 469 yards of total offense against Old Dominion was a school record and his five touchdown passes tied a school benchmark. With a year of off-season conditioning, preparation, study and development, Williams could be the ACC's best signal caller without a Heisman Trophy on his mantle. Of course, that's assuming he holds off a challenge from Mitch Trubisky this preseason.
3. Anthony Boone, Duke (SR)
There were some questionable showings for Boone in his first full season as the starter. Try 7-for-25, 104 yards, 0 touchdowns and four interceptions against Virginia Tech. But like the rest of the Duke squad, the Boone figured out a way to win that game and it catapulted the Blue Devils quarterback into an impressive stretch to the end the year. He threw eight touchdowns and just four interceptions over the final four games. With David Cutcliffe still leading the way on the sideline, Boone has a chance to take a major step forward. And backup (and touchdown vulture) Brandon Connette won't be breathing down his neck any longer on the depth chart after deciding to transfer, which should allow Boone to easily improve on last year's numbers.
4. Cole Stoudt, Clemson (SR)
With Chad Morris calling the plays, Clemson’s offense will be one of the best in the ACC once again. And yes, that’s even with the departure of quarterback Tajh Boyd and standout receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. Stoudt is set to replace Boyd, who guided Clemson to 32 wins over the last three seasons, including a No. 8 finish in the final Associated Press poll in 2013. In three years as a backup at Clemson, Stoudt has thrown for 742 yards and eight touchdowns. Although limited playing time or a backup role isn’t the best way to judge how a player will perform once he’s the starter, it’s important to note Stoudt has completed 72.2 percent of his passes over the last three seasons and has only one pick in 119 attempts. The senior also has good mobility and should serve as a mentor for incoming freshman Deshaun Watson. With Georgia and Florida State on the schedule early in the year, Stoudt’s experience will be valuable for Clemson as it hopes to record another 10-win season.
Listen to our staff discuss every team in the ACC as Athlon starts to look to 2014.
5. Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh (SO)
Many believed Voytik would be a perfect fit for Paul Chryst's offense when the four-star quarterback signed with Pittsburgh out of Cleveland, Tenn. The rising sophomore got very little experience behind Tom Savage a year ago, throwing just 11 passes during the 2013 campaign. That said, his quick release and elite high school pedigree give most confidence that is his fully capable of running Chryst's offense — especially, given the return of potential All-American wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Look for Voytik to be a pleasant surprise at quarterback in a league devoid of proven options under center.
6. Will Gardner, Louisville (SO)
Replacing Teddy Bridgewater is a difficult task for any quarterback, but it appears the Cardinals are in good shape under center with Gardner. It’s tough to read too much into spring performances, but Gardner’s numbers in Louisville’s spring game are certainly encouraging. The Georgia native completed 32 of 37 passes for 542 yards and four touchdowns in the Cardinals’ spring game and is poised to have a huge season with Bobby Petrino calling the plays. In his first taste of FBS action last year, Gardner threw for 112 yards and two touchdowns on eight completions. With a solid group of receivers – including likely All-ACC target DeVante Parker – along with a backfield that features former Auburn standout Michael Dyer, Gardner has a good supporting cast in place. Petrino always finds a way to maximize his talent on offense, so expect Gardner to have a solid overall year in his first season as Louisville’s No. 1 quarterback.
7. Jacoby Brissett, NC State (JR)
The Wolfpack offense is desperately looking for a spark after averaging only 16.9 points in eight ACC contests last year. Second-year NC State coach Dave Doeren won’t have to look far for an answer, as Brissett is eligible after sitting out last season as a transfer from Florida. During his two seasons in Gainesville, Brissett completed 41 of 74 passes for 455 yards and three touchdowns. The junior closed spring practice by throwing for 365 yards and two scores in NC State’s Red vs. White game. Brissett was regarded as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks coming out of high school, but he has only two starts under his belt. Considering this is his first year as a full-time starter, expect a few ups and downs. However, Brissett should be a major upgrade over Pete Thomas and Brandon Mitchell for NC State in 2014.
8. Terrel Hunt, Syracuse (JR)
Syracuse opened the Scott Shafer era with a quarterback battle between Hunt and Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen. Allen started the first three games before Hunt claimed the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, and the New York native finished the year on a high note by throwing for 188 yards and adding 74 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against Minnesota in the Texas Bowl. Hunt ended 2013 with 1,638 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, while adding 500 yards and seven scores on the ground. In a positive sign for Syracuse in 2014, Hunt was arguably playing at his best in the final three games and completed over 60 percent of his passes during that span. Hunt threw only three touchdown passes and tossed eight picks in ACC games, but he should improve on those totals in 2014 with a full offseason to work as the No. 1 quarterback.
9. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech (SO)
In one of the most bizarre exits to a program in history, Vad Lee inexplicably decided he didn't want to run the triple option any longer and left the team. Luckily for Paul Johnson, Thomas is not only talented but got plenty of experience a year ago behind Lee. He played in 10 games, rushing for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a backup. He will have to prove he is a capable passer, but his athletic ability should set up nicely as the next successful and productive Yellow Jackets' triple option spearhead.
10. Kevin Olsen, Miami (FR)
Stephen Morris is gone, and Ryan Williams is hurt. That leaves the highly touted but completely unproven Olsen as the frontrunner to win the Hurricanes starting QB job this summer. The four-star recruit from New Jersey enters his redshirt freshman season with loads of pressure but all the talent to make an impact right away. He is total unknown for Al Golden entering a critical year on the sidelines and the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder will have to beat out Gray Crow and touted freshman Brad Kaaya to earn the keys to the Miami offense.
11. Tyler Murphy, Boston College (SR)
Steve Addazio has plenty of work ahead this offseason as he hopes to get Boston College in another bowl game in 2014. Rebuilding the offense is the top priority this spring with the departures of quarterback Chase Rettig, running back Andre Williams and receiver Alex Amidon. Murphy transferred from Florida at the end of the 2013 season and is eligible to play immediately for the Eagles. Last season, Murphy threw for 1,216 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for three scores. The Connecticut native is a solid option for Addazio, especially until freshman Darius Wade is ready to take the No. 1 spot. Don’t expect huge numbers, but Murphy should be a solid starter for Boston College in 2014.
12. Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech (JR)
Mark Leal is the only returning player at Virginia Tech with any experience at quarterback, and he threw four passes (29 overall if you caount the bowl) during the regular season a year ago. Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer, who only threw 58 passes in Lubbock (but completed 70.7 percent of them), will arrive in Blacksburg this summer behind the curve when it comes to learning the Hokies offense. However, he is easily the most proven and talented pocket passer on the roster and it may not take long for him to pass Mark Leal and Brenden Motley — who is currently listed as the No. 1 on Frank Beamer's depth chart. Should the world be expected of Brewer right out of the gate? No. However, his pure throwing ability should give him a significant edge at earning the starting spot for the Hokies.
13. Greyson Lambert, Virginia (SO)
Mike London is in desperate need of a positive season in Charlottesville and that begins and ends with quality quarterback play. Lambert, a redshirt sophomore from Jesup, Ga.,
has the inside track on winning the starting job and will be faced with the pressure of a coaching staff squarely on the hot seat. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound passer played in seven games a year ago, throwing for 340 yards and on touchdowns on 33-of-75 passing. He got some college experience but needs to take major steps forward in his development process if he expects to lead Virginia to more than just two wins.
14. Tyler Cameron, Wake Forest (SO)
The No. 1 spot on the quarterback depth chart for new coach Dave Clawson is up for grabs. Cameron and junior Kevin Sousa are vying for the starting spot this spring, and this battle could extend into the fall. Both quarterbacks have limited game experience, as Sousa has yet to throw a pass on the FBS level, and Cameron completed only 7 of 24 passes for 85 yards and three interceptions last year. In addition to finding a quarterback, Clawson needs to find more playmakers at running back and receiver. All signs point to 2014 as a transition year for Wake Forest, and there could be plenty of growing pains at the quarterback spot unless Cameron or Sousa claims a clear hold on the starting job.