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Ranking the ACC's Quarterbacks for 2017

Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals Football

Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals Football

A year after the ACC featured one of its deepest quarterback groups in recent memory, the conference enters 2017 with turnover at several programs. Gone are standouts like Deshaun Watson, Brad Kaaya, Jerod Evans, Mitch Trubisky and Nathan Peterman. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson – the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner – and Florida State’s Deondre Francois are the top two quarterbacks, but question marks remain this fall at Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Miami. How quickly can these programs reload under center? 

NCAAF Rankings: FSU QB

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2017. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, previous production, 2017 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the ACC for 2017.

Ranking the ACC's Quarterbacks for 2017

14. Darius Wade, Boston College

In each of coach Steve Addazio’s four years in Chestnut Hill, four different players have led the team in passing yardage. Patrick Towles was the team’s No. 1 quarterback last fall and expired his eligibility following the Quick Lane Bowl victory over Maryland. The battle to replace Towles and bring some stability to the position is set to continue in fall practices with Wade and redshirt freshman Anthony Brown. Wade started three games in 2015 but suffered a season-ending injury in a 14-0 loss to Florida State on Sept. 18. Can Wade’s previous experience propel him to the starting spot? Or will Brown win the job this fall?

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13. Kendall Hinton, Wake Forest

Hinton was poised to take over the starting job for the Demon Deacons last year but a knee injury ended his 2016 campaign in September. In three appearances last season, Hinton completed 11 of 19 passes for 174 yards and rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries. The North Carolina native has three career starts and brings more of a dual-threat or-big play element to the offense than John Wolford. Can Hinton stay healthy and put together a breakout season for coach Dave Clawson?

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12. Kurt Benkert, Virginia

With a full offseason to work under coordinator Robert Anae, Benkert should be more comfortable in his second year as Virginia’s No. 1 quarterback. After transferring to Charlottesville from East Carolina, Benkert threw for 2,552 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2016. The senior did not eclipse 200 passing yards in four out of his final five appearances.

Virginia: college football picks against the spread

11. Brandon Harris, North Carolina

With Mitch Trubisky taking snaps with the Chicago Bears, coach Larry Fedora looked to the graduate transfer ranks for immediate help. Harris arrives in Chapel Hill after spending three years with the Tar Heels. Over 25 games (with 15 starts), Harris threw for 2,756 yards and 20 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. The Louisiana native also added 370 yards and seven scores on the ground. Harris was one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2014 signing class but never quite reached his potential in Baton Rouge. Can Fedora get the most out his talent in 2017?

North Carolina Football Schedule 2019

10. Matthew Jordan, Georgia Tech

Jordan is expected to take over the starting job for coach Paul Johnson after working as a backup to Justin Thomas last season. The Alabama native made one start in 2016, rushing for 121 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-20 victory at Virginia Tech. Over the last two years, Jordan has played in 14 games and completed 8 of 18 throws for 205 yards and rushed for 404 yards and eight touchdowns. Junior TaQuon Marshall is expected to claim the No. 2 job.

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9. N’Kosi Perry, Miami

The Hurricanes opened fall camp with Perry, Malik Rosier, Evan Shirreffs and Cade Weldon competing for the starting job. Rosier has the edge in experience with 13 career appearances and one previous start (2015). Over his two seasons of snaps, Rosier has completed 31 of 61 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 63 yards. While Rosier is the most experienced option, that may not be enough to hold off Perry. The true freshman from Ocala ranked as a four-star recruit in the 2017 signing class and is the future at this position for coach Mark Richt. If Perry starts all 12 regular season games, it’s safe to assume he will outperform this ranking.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Miami

8. Joshua Jackson, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente is one of the nation’s best coaches when it comes to finding and developing starting quarterbacks. While Fuente was at TCU, he was instrumental in the development of Andy Dalton and Casey Pachall and transformed Paxton Lynch into a first-round pick at Memphis. Fuente’s magic continued last season in his debut at Virginia Tech, as Jerod Evans averaged 314.1 total yards per game in his first year from the junior college ranks. With Evans departing Blacksburg for the NFL, Fuente has a three-man battle to replace Evans this offseason. True freshman Hendon Hooker and junior college recruit A.J. Bush are vying with redshirt freshman Josh Jackson for the starting nod. Jackson likely has an edge over the other two quarterbacks since he spent 2016 as a redshirt learning the offense. The Michigan native is a dual-threat option and ranked as a three-star recruit in the 2016 signing class. Even though Jackson is inexperienced, Fuente’s track record suggests the winner of the quarterback battle will have a productive (and breakout) 2017 season.

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College Football Top 25 Rankings: Virginia Tech

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7. Max Browne, Pitt

Will the Panthers have success with a transfer quarterback for the second year in a row? Under the watch of former coordinator Matt Canada, Nathan Peterman closed out his Pitt career by throwing for 27 touchdowns and 2,855 yards last season. Browne transferred to the Steel City as a graduate transfer after the emergence of Sam Darnold at USC in 2016. The former five-star prospect completed 69 passes for 650 yards and two touchdowns during his career with the Trojans. New coordinator Shawn Watson is tasked with helping Browne reach his potential in his final year in college.

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6. Kelly Bryant, Clemson

Deshaun Watson is going to be missed, but Clemson has three talented quarterbacks vying for the starting job this offseason. Bryant has the inside track over Zerrick Copper and true freshman Hunter Johnson for the No. 1 spot after spending 2016 as the backup to Watson. The South Carolina native has appeared in 12 games, completing 13 of 22 passes for 75 yards and adding 178 yards on the ground. Johnson holds the edge in overall talent, but the guess here is Bryant starts the first week of 2017.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Clemson

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5. Ryan Finley, NC State

Finley claimed the starting job in Raleigh after arriving from Boise State as a graduate transfer prior to fall practice. Under the direction of former Boise State assistant (and first-year NC State play-caller) Eliah Drinkwitz, Finley threw for 3,055 yards and 18 touchdowns and completed 60.4 percent of his throws last year. With a solid group of receivers and one of the ACC’s best offensive lines at his disposal, Finley could push for all-conference honors by December.  

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4. Daniel Jones, Duke

David Cutcliffe is no stranger to developing standouts at quarterback. And after one season as Duke’s No. 1 quarterback, Jones appears to be the next star pupil for Cutcliffe. The Charlotte native wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school and considered Princeton before choosing to head to Durham. After a redshirt year in 2015 and an injury to starter Thomas Sirk, Jones assumed the top spot on the depth chart. As expected, Jones had his share of ups and downs last fall but still finished with 2,836 yards and 16 touchdown passes. Jones tossed three touchdowns in a road win over Notre Dame and threw for 240 yards in an upset over rival North Carolina. Jones also possesses good mobility, as he recorded 486 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Look for Jones to be even better in his second year as the starter.

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3. Eric Dungey, Syracuse

Injuries have derailed Dungey’s 2015 and 2016 campaigns, but if he can stay healthy in 2017, the junior should contend for All-ACC honors in coach Dino Babers’ high-powered offense. In nine games last fall, Dungey completed 64.8 percent of his throws for 2,679 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also added 293 yards and six scores on the ground. In 17 career appearances at Syracuse, Dungey has passed for 3,977 yards and 26 touchdowns.

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2. Deondre Francois, Florida State

Francois was one of college football’s top freshmen last fall, as he started all 13 games for coach Jimbo Fisher and threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Orlando native never tossed more than one interception in a game last year and was named the ACC’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in December. Francois needs to get rid of the ball quicker and raise his completion percentage (58.8 last season), but both of those factors should get better with more snaps in 2017.   

College Football Top 25 Rankings: FSU

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1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

After winning the Heisman Trophy and accounting for 51 touchdowns and 5,114 total yards last season, what can Jackson do for an encore in 2017? The No. 1 goal for Louisville is to beat Florida State and Clemson on a path to the ACC Atlantic title and contend for a CFB Playoff spot. Even though the Cardinals have a few holes to fill on both sides of the ball, Jackson’s return at quarterback will ensure Louisville’s offense won’t miss a beat. And here’s a scary thought for the rest of the ACC: Jackson is likely to improve as a passer after an offseason of work with coach Bobby Petrino.  

College football rankings: Louisville