The ACC has an interesting mix of quarterbacks for 2013. Proven options like Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, North Carolina’s Bryn Renner, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas should be the conference’s top-three passers for all-conference honors. Miami’s Stephen Morris will have to adjust to a new coordinator to, but he could easily surpass last year’s numbers. Wake Forest’s Tanner Price should benefit from another spring practice to work with a revamped offensive line, along with the return of receiver Michael Campanaro to full strength.
While Boyd, Renner and Thomas appear to be the conference’s top three quarterbacks, there’s a group of wildcards waiting to rise in the rankings.
Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Georgia Tech’s Vad Lee could be breakout performers in 2013, and Syracuse picked up Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen to lead the offense this fall.
College football’s 2013 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about some of the top players in the nation. With spring practice coming to a close around the nation, Athlon will rank the top quarterbacks in each conference. One important note: This is just a ranking of starters and backups weren’t included for this article.
Ranking the ACC's Starting Quarterbacks for 2013
1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (SR)
Boyd turned down the NFL for one more season in Death Valley. The senior is one of college football’s leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy and is the overwhelming favorite to earn ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2013. In his first season as a starter in 2011, Boyd threw for 3,828 yards and 33 touchdowns and rushed for 218 yards and five scores. Boyd only got better in his second season under coordinator Chad Morris, throwing for 3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also became a bigger threat on the ground, rushing for 514 yards and 10 scores in 2012. One of Boyd’s best performances came against LSU in the bowl game last year, throwing for 346 yards and leading Clemson on the game-winning drive in the final minutes. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins will be missed, but the Tigers return Sammy Watkins and four starters on the offensive line. As long as Boyd stays healthy, the pieces are in place for Clemson to make a run at an unbeaten record in 2013.
2. Bryn Renner, North Carolina (SR)
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound quarterback was one of the top five pro-style recruits coming out of West Springfield (Va.) High School in 2009. He has lived up to the billing and has a chance to have a special senior season in Larry Fedora’s system. Renner already owns multiple school records, like the single-season (28) and single-game (5) school passing touchdown records. He capped his second year under center winning seven of his last nine games and throwing for at least 300 yards in each of his last four contests. The senior's supporting cast won’t be as talented in 2013, but he is efficient — he’s a career 66.7-percent passer and tossed just seven interceptions last year — and has a chance at rewriting the North Carolina record books before he leaves Chapel Hill.
3. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (SR)
Initially a top-100 tight end prospect who didn’t want to play quarterback when he signed with Virginia Tech out of Lynchburg (Va.) Brookville, Thomas is on the verge of becoming the most productive Hokies quarterback in school history. The massive 6-foot-6, 260-pounder set the single-season school record for total offense as a sophomore (3,482 yards) and then broke his own mark as a junior (3,500). He has accounted for 57 touchdowns over the last two seasons and brings a big, powerful running ability that is virtually unstoppable in short yardage or goal line situations. However, he threw 16 interceptions last year after just 10 in 2011, and his efficiency needs to improve across the board. If he eliminates the mistakes, he could easily be the ACC Player of the Year.
4. Stephen Morris, Miami (SR)
A mid-level local recruit from Monsignor Pace High School, Morris blossomed as a junior in 2012. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback set a Miami single-season total offense record (3,415) as well as the ACC’s all-time single-game record with 566 yards against NC State. In fact, he threw for over 1,000 yards (1,002) over a two-game span to finish the month of September last year (436 vs. Georgia Tech). Morris proved to be dependable as well, tossing just seven interceptions in a school-record 421 attempts. With the youth developing around him and the running game improving, the Hurricanes gunslinger is poised for a big senior season this fall.
5. Tanner Price, Wake Forest (JR)
After throwing for 3,017 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2011, Price took a step back on the stat sheet in 2012. In 12 contests, he threw for 2,300 yards and 12 touchdowns and tossed seven picks. The regression in stats was largely due to a struggling offensive line, along with an injury to star receiver Michael Campanaro. Although the Demon Deacons are still trying to find the right pieces on the line, Price should bounce back in 2013. In his career, the Texas native has thrown for 6,666 yards and 39 touchdowns and is completing 57.6 percent of his throws. Price isn’t going to post huge numbers, but expect him to help lead Wake Forest back into bowl contention in 2013.
6. Jameis Winston, Florida State (FR)
Winston hasn’t played a snap in a regular season game, but there’s no denying his potential. The redshirt freshman was locked into a tight battle with Clint Trickett for the starting job in spring practice, but Trickett decided to transfer to West Virginia in early May. Winston shined in Florida State’s spring game, completing 12 of 15 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. There’s a big difference between a performance in a spring game and actual game action in the fall. However, all signs point to Winston’s becoming a star, and the redshirt freshman should be one of the ACC’s breakout players in 2013.
7. Vad Lee, Georgia Tech (SO)
Lee is the next in line to pilot Paul Johnson’s triple option attack. Like Josh Nesbitt and Tevin Washington before him, Lee’s physicality and athletic ability are a perfect match for the Yellow Jackets’ offensive scheme. The Durham (N.C.) Hillside three-star prospect saw his playing time steadily increase last season, as Johnson got more comfortable going to the sophomore. He got 19 carries and threw nine passes in the first six games but carried 77 times for 358 yards and six touchdowns, while throwing 47 times over the final eight games of the year. His playing time last year should help the 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior-to-be immensely as he takes over as the leader of the Ramblin’ Wreck in ‘13.
8. Chase Rettig, Boston College (SR)
Rettig quietly had a solid 2012 campaign. In 12 starts, he threw for 3,060 yards and 17 touchdowns – all career highs. In three years with Boston College, the California native has thrown for 6,258 yards and 35 touchdowns. Rettig played well under coordinator Doug Martin’s tutelage last season, but Martin wasn’t retained by new coach Steve Addazio. With the change in coaching staffs, the Eagles will operate a different offensive scheme in 2013, which is expected to lean slightly with the run. Rettig is a better fit in a pro-style attack and isn’t much of a runner (-296 yards in three years). Considering he may not be a good fit in Addazio’s offense, Rettig may have trouble matching last season’s numbers. Although Rettig is coming off a solid season, the potential of Florida State's Jameis Winston and Georgia Tech's Vad Lee pushes him down the ACC quarterback rankings for 2013.
9. Tom Savage, Pittsburgh (SR)
The burly passer from Springfield (Pa.) Cardinal O’Hara was an elite prospect when he signed with Rutgers in 2009. Not only did he start as a true freshman but he was the Scarlet Knights’ Most Valuable Player. However, it didn’t translate to success as a sophomore, and eventually, he transferred to Pitt. Offensive whiz Paul Chryst, however, might have found himself a steal with the large 6-foot-5, 230-pound passer. With a void under center, the strong-armed signal caller has all the tools to take advantage of the opportunity to run Chryst’s offense.
10. Anthony Boone, Duke (JR)
David Cutcliffe has built a sneaky good quarterback tradition in Duke with Sean Renfree and Thaddeus Lewis combining for nearly 20,000 yards between them (19,530). The 6-foot, 230-pound quarterback from Monroe (N.C.) Weddington is charged with continuing the Blue Devils aerial success. The redshirt junior-to-be has a big arm and flashed big-time ability in spot duty against Virginia a year ago by throwing for 212 yards and four touchdowns in the 42-17 win. There is no reason to think Boone won’t maintain Duke’s recent run of solid quarterback play.
11. Pete Thomas, NC State (JR)
The race to replace Mike Glennon is a tight battle between Thomas and sophomore Manny Stocker. Thomas started for two years at Colorado State before transferring to NC State. In two years with the Rams, he threw for 4,269 yards and 18 touchdowns and completed 64.7 percent of his throws as a freshman. Stocker played in five games last season and threw only two passes. New NC State coach Dave Doeren hired a solid offensive coordinator in Matt Canada, and the receiving corps has plenty of proven options. Thomas was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and if he beats out Stocker, the California native should have a solid season.
12. C.J. Brown, Maryland (JR)
Brown was a victim of bad luck last season. The Pennsylvania native was poised to be Maryland’s starting quarterback but suffered a torn ACL in fall practice. After a year of rehabbing his injured knee, Brown is slated to start 2013 as the Terrapins’ No. 1 quarterback. In 10 games in 2011, Brown threw for 842 yards and seven touchdowns and added 574 yards and five rushing scores. Considering he is coming off a knee injury, Brown may not be asked to run much early in the season. And if he struggles, New Mexico transfer Ricardo Young or sophomore Perry Hills could overtake him for the top spot.
13. David Watford, Virginia (SO)
The 6-foot-1, 200 pounder hails from Hampton (Va.) High School in one of the most talent-rich areas of the nation. From the same area as other elite ACC quarterbacks Michael Vick, Tyrod Taylor, Ronald Curry and E.J. Manuel, Watford is expected to rejuvenate the Cavaliers offense. He got playing time as a true freshman, throwing 74 passes in 2011, before redshirting in 2012. He will have to hold off former elite recruit Phillip Sims and redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert to keep the starting job in Charlottesville this year. But Watford has some intriguing upside for a team that finished 93rd in total offense a year ago.
14. Drew Allen, Syracuse (SR)
The Orange received a late boost this spring, as Allen chose to transfer to Syracuse and will join the quarterback competition this summer. The San Antonio native is eligible immediately since he graduated early and is expected to start over Charley Loeb and Terrel Hunt. Allen did not start a game with the Sooners during his three years in Norman but ranked as the No. 15 pro-style quarterback in the nation in the 2009 signing class. In three years with Oklahoma, Allen completed 18 of 30 passes for 160 yards and no touchdowns. At 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds, the senior has the size and intangibles to keep Syracuse’s passing attack performing at a high level. However, Allen does not have any starts under his belt and is a wildcard to watch in the ACC quarterback rankings.
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