The ACC is loaded with talent at the quarterback position going into the 2022 college football season. Wake Forest's Sam Hartman tops our ACC quarterback rankings, but a strong case could be made for NC State's Devin Leary, Virginia's Brennan Armstrong or Miami's Tyler Van Dyke at No. 1. Additionally, Louisville's Malik Cunningham, Florida State's Jordan Travis and Boston College's Phil Jurkovec all have the potential to play their way into the top four by the end of '22.
Ranking the quarterbacks by conference or nationally is no easy task. To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2022. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors — pure talent, supporting cast, having a clear hold on the No. 1 position, previous production, 2022 projection, and scheme changes (just to name a few) — were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the ACC for 2022.
Ranking the ACC Quarterbacks for 2022
14. Riley Leonard, Duke
New coach Mike Elko has a major rebuilding effort in Durham but solving the quarterback battle between Leonard and Jordan Moore could speed up how competitive this team is in ’22. Both players saw reps as true freshmen behind starter Gunnar Holmberg (later transferred to FIU) last season but are still largely inexperienced. Leonard completed 37 of 62 throws for 381 yards and a touchdown, while Moore connected on nine of his 19 attempts for 95 yards and a score. Both quarterbacks showed an ability to churn out yardage on the ground (Moore with 221 yards and Leonard with 173), but neither ended limited playing time with their average passing yards per attempt above 6.2. The Blue Devils return four starters along the offensive line, and receiver Jalon Calhoun (56 catches) is back on the outside. Those two factors will help to ease the new Duke starter into the lineup.
13. Grant Wells, Virginia Tech
Inconsistent quarterback play plagued the Hokies at the end of the Justin Fuente era, and new coach Brent Pry revamped the room with the additions of Wells (Marshall) and Jason Brown (South Carolina) from the portal. A pair of freshmen – Tahj Bullock (redshirt) and Devin Farrell (true) – are also in the mix, but all signs point to Wells holding the inside track for the No. 1 spot. The West Virginia native played in 23 games over the last two years with the Thundering Herd and connected on 64.4 percent of his throws for 5,626 yards and 34 touchdowns to 22 picks. Wells also averaged a solid 7.9 yards per attempt and connected on 28 throws of 40-plus yards from 2020-21. Transitioning to a tougher conference and adapting to a new scheme top the list of challenges for Wells in ’22 under play-caller Tyler Bowen, but he also has to do a better job at limiting mistakes.
12. Garrett Shrader, Syracuse
Shrader spent two years at Mississippi State before transferring to suit up for Dino Babers at Syracuse. The North Carolina native unseated starter Tommy DeVito for the final nine contests and provided a short-term spark, guiding the Orange to a couple of close losses to Florida State, Wake Forest and Clemson before posting wins against Virginia Tech and Boston College. Shrader threw for 1,445 yards and nine touchdowns to four picks, but his real value came on the ground (781 yards and 14 scores). Additionally, he had three efforts of at least 100 rushing yards and posted four games of at least two rushing touchdowns. However, after a fast start, Shrader cooled a bit in November. In Syracuse’s last three games, he completed just 35 of 62 passes for 326 yards. His accuracy (52.6) and quarterback rating (113.7) ranked near the bottom of the ACC. A full offseason to work under Babers and new play-caller Robert Anae is a plus, but Shrader has to be better as a passer for Syracuse to improve offensively in ’22.
11. Jeff Sims, Georgia Tech
It’s no secret coach Geoff Collins needs a big season after a 9-25 start to his tenure in Atlanta. For the program to push for a winning mark in ’22, Collins needs Sims to realize his potential and take a big step forward after showing flashes of promise in each of the last two years. Helping Sims’ cause is new play-caller Chip Long (previously at Tulane and Notre Dame), but the Yellow Jackets return only one starter along the offensive line and the team’s top two running backs departed. Sims was limited to eight games due to injuries last year and threw for 1,468 yards and 12 touchdowns and added 371 yards and four scores on the ground. Although his pass attempts were down (257 to 188), progression in completion percentage (54.9 to 60.1) was a positive sign for Sims’ development. The sophomore has talent and the upside to finish much higher on this list. However, Sims has to be more consistent as a passer and cut down on the interceptions after throwing 20 over the last two seasons.
10. Drake Maye, North Carolina
Sam Howell will be missed, but the cupboard isn’t bare at quarterback in Chapel Hill. Jacolby Criswell – a four-star prospect in the 2020 signing class – and Maye – the No. 56 prospect in the ’21 haul – are battling to replace Howell under center this fall. No starter was declared exiting spring ball, but the guess here is Maye holds an inside track to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. The North Carolina native played in four contests as the No. 3 quarterback last fall to preserve his redshirt season. In those limited snaps, Maye completed seven of 10 passes for 89 yards and a score and ran for 62 yards on six attempts. Criswell played in 10 games over the last two years and also posted a strong performance in the limited sample size. The Arkansas native completed 16 of 25 throws for 195 yards and a score and added 94 rushing yards in that span. Whichever quarterback wins the job inherits a receiving corps set to return No. 1 target Josh Downs (101 catches in ’21) but is also working behind an offensive line with major questions marks.
9. DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson
Uiagalelei is arguably the biggest wild card at quarterback in college football this season. As a true freshman in 2020, he showcased why recruiting services ranked him as a five-star prospect coming out of high school. The California native started two games with Trevor Lawrence out, throwing for 342 yards and two touchdowns against Boston College and 439 yards and two scores on the road in South Bend against Notre Dame. However, his strong stint in ’20 didn’t carry over once he assumed the full-time role last fall. Uiagalelei started all 13 games for the Tigers and only threw for 2,246 yards and nine touchdowns to 10 picks. Also, his yards per attempt (6.0), quarterback rating (108.65), and completion percentage (55.6) all ranked near the bottom of the ACC. Uiagalelei did not eclipse more than 241 passing yards in a single contest and also had five games in which he completed less than half of his passes. However, while Uiagalelei struggled, not all of the problems from Clemson’s offense fall on his right arm. The Tigers need better play up front and have to get more production and big plays from the receiving corps. Uiagalelei is talented, so a bounce-back season is certainly within reach. And if his level of play is closer to the '20 version, Clemson should return to the CFB Playoff.
8. Kedon Slovis, Pitt
Pitt’s offense is going to look quite a bit different this fall than the ’21 unit that averaged 41.4 points a game. Play-caller Mark Whipple now coordinates the offense at Nebraska, with Frank Cignetti Jr. hired for his old job in the Steel City. Also, the Panthers lost record-setting (and Heisman Trophy finalist) quarterback Kenny Pickett, and receiver Jordan Addison opted to transfer to USC. Nick Patti returns after completing 14 of 19 throws for 161 yards as Pickett’s backup in ’21, but coach Pat Narduzzi added Slovis from the porta. Neither signal-caller was named the starter exiting spring ball, but the guess here is Slovis – transfer from USC – will get the call for Pitt. Slovis had a promising debut with the Trojans in 2019, carving up defenses with lethal accuracy (71.9 percent) for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns. However, the last two seasons haven’t been as productive (4,074 passing yards and 28 touchdowns), and his completion percentage, quarterback rating and yards per attempt have dropped since ’19. Slovis has battled arm and elbow injuries over the last two years, but if he can return to 100 percent and stay healthy, a rebound performance should be in order. Also helping his cause for a bounce-back in the Steel City: Pitt returns all five starters along the line for ’22.
7. Phil Jurkovec, Boston College
After throwing for 2,558 yards and 17 touchdowns and adding 150 yards and three scores on the ground in his first year at Boston College, Jurkovec appeared poised to rank among the ACC’s top quarterbacks in 2021. However, the Notre Dame transfer had his season derailed due to a hand injury suffered in Week 2 against UMass. Although Jurkovec was believed to be out for the year, he returned for the final four matchups and guided the team to wins over Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Just how valuable was Jurkovec to Boston College’s offense? Consider this: In the four ACC matchups he missed, the Eagles scored only 40 total points. A return to full strength should give the offense and new play-caller John McNulty a chance to return to its ’20 production (27.8 points a game). And if Jurkovec's play resembles the level witnessed in '20, the arrow on his draft stock will only climb throughout the season.
6. Jordan Travis, Florida State
Could Travis be one of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks going into the 2022 college football season? In the four games Travis didn’t start last year, Florida State averaged 5.1 yards per play and 17 points a contest. However, in the eight matchups Travis started, the Seminoles averaged 32.8 points per game and 6.1 yards a snap. Also, Travis went 5-3 as the starter after the team went 0-4 in the four games McKenzie Milton started. The Florida native has made considerable progress as a starter since ’20 and connected on 62.9 percent of his throws (a career high) for 1,539 yards and 15 scores last fall. Also, Travis ranked fourth among ACC signal-callers in rushing yards (535) and scored seven times on the ground over 134 carries. The ACC is deep at quarterback, so Travis probably won’t get the preseason credit he deserves. However, his growth as a passer, along with his dynamic ability on the ground, makes the junior one of the ACC’s rising stars going into coach Mike Norvell’s third year in Tallahassee.
Related: ACC Football Predictions for 2022
5. Malik Cunningham, Louisville
Cunningham ranking No. 5 on our list of ACC quarterbacks shows just how deep this conference is under center for ’22. The Alabama native turned in a dynamic ’21 campaign last fall, throwing for 2,941 yards and 19 touchdowns and running for 1,034 yards and 20 scores. Cunningham’s rushing yardage (1,034) was the most among quarterbacks in college football, and he led all ACC quarterbacks (conference-only games) in yards per pass attempt (9.4). He also tossed only three picks in league play and ranked first in quarterback rating (163.3). A good chunk of Cunningham’s touchdown passes (nine) came in two games (Syracuse and Duke), but there’s a lot to like about his development and overall progression entering ’22. All signs point to this fall being Cunningham's best all-around season at Louisville.
4. Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman, NC State’s Devin Leary, Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong and Van Dyke all have a claim to the No. 1 spot among ACC quarterbacks going into 2022. So while Van Dyke ranks No. 4 here, there’s very little separation between him and the top trio. Van Dyke wasn’t expected to play a ton of snaps last season but was pressed into the starting role after D’Eriq King was lost for the year due to injury. The Connecticut native made his first start against Central Connecticut State (270 yards and three touchdowns) but was held in check (203 yards and a score) in a 30-28 loss at Virginia the following week. However, Van Dyke got better with every snap, as he posted back-to-back strong performances against NC State (325 yards and four scores) and Pitt (426 yards and three touchdowns). He finished the year with at least 300 passing yards and three scores through the air in each of the last four contests, giving him 2,931 yards and 25 touchdowns in 10 appearances. Van Dyke led the ACC in completions of 50-plus yards (10) and yards per attempt (9.0), while connecting on 62.3 percent of his passes. Transitioning to new play-caller Josh Gattis and a revamped receiving corps are the only concerns for Van Dyke after a strong debut for the ‘Canes in ’21.
3. Brennan Armstrong, Virginia
Prolific is the easiest way to sum up Armstrong’s 2021 season. The Ohio native paced all Power 5 quarterbacks in total offense (427.3 ypg) and accounted for 40 of the 52 touchdowns scored by Virginia last fall. Armstrong’s right arm was active with 500 attempts in 11 games, as he threw for 4,449 yards and 31 touchdowns to 10 picks. Also, he connected on 65.2 percent of his passes, averaged a healthy 8.9 yards per attempt and collected six games of 400-plus passing yards. Armstrong wasn’t as dynamic on the ground (251 yards) as he was in ’20 (552) but certainly made up for the drop in production with more through the air. New coach Tony Elliott is likely to tweak Virginia’s offense and an attempt for more balance is expected. Armstrong’s numbers could drop under Elliott, but he’s still the best player on the roster and will need to carry the offense to another prolific year to push Virginia to a bowl.
2. Devin Leary, NC State
Leary showed no ill effects last year from a season-ending leg injury suffered in the fifth game of 2020. The New Jersey native quickly shook off the rust to emerge as one of the ACC’s top signal-callers and is a big reason why NC State can win the conference crown in '22. Leary threw for 238 yards and four touchdowns in an early upset of Clemson on Sept. 25, tossed four scores in three consecutive matchups (Louisville, Florida State and Wake Forest) and guided the Wolfpack to a last-minute victory against rival North Carolina (247 yards and four scores). Leary’s 3,433 passing yards ranked sixth in a single season in school history, while his touchdown tosses (35) set a new standard. His accuracy (65.7) and quarterback rating (157.1) also ranked near the top of the ACC. Also, Leary’s interceptions (five) were the fewest of any quarterback in college football with more than 400 pass attempts in ’21.
1. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
Hartman’s breakout season and overall play in 2021 was a big reason why Wake Forest won its first ACC Atlantic Division title since ’06. The Charlotte native threw at least three touchdowns in nine of the team’s 14 contests and ended the year with 4,228 yards (a school record) and 39 scores. Hartman’s 39 touchdown tosses pushed his career total to 72, which already ranks as the best mark in school history. He tied for the most completions of 40-plus yards (15) in the ACC and tacked on 363 yards and 11 scores on the ground last fall. Although Hartman tossed 14 picks, the bulk of the interceptions took place in three games (nine against North Carolina, NC State and Pitt) and he threw only 15 from 2018-20. With one of the ACC’s top lines and receiving corps at his disposal once again, Hartman should keep Wake Forest’s offense near the top of the league.