The ACC often gets a bad rap when it comes to college football. But if you look ahead to this season in this league there should be a lot of optimism, especially with the quarterback situation for most of the 14 teams.
Deshaun Watson from Clemson is the top ranked quarterback in the ACC. Hot on his heels are a handful of signal callers like Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas, Miami's Brad Kaaya, North Carolina's Marquise Williams and N.C. State's Jaboby Brissett. All of these quarterbacks are primed to have huge 2015 seasons. Then you have other quarterbacks like Pitt's Chad Voytik, Virginia Tech's Michael Brewer and Louisville's Reggie Bonnafon. How will Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson adjust to FSU and their offense under Jimbo Fisher? And of course you can't sleep on Duke, David Cutcliffe and their new quarterback, Thomas Sirk.
I like this group from the ACC.
Projected Starter: Deshaun Watson
QB Depth Chart: Watson, Nick Schuessler, Tucker Israel, Kelly Bryant
Watson played in eight games and started five times in 2014 and was impressive. He finished with 1,466 yards, 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions in 330 snaps. Now it’s completely his show and barring injury I expect Watson to set the ACC on fire this season and beyond. I remember thinking when he committed to the Tigers in high school that Clemson/Watson couldn’t be a better fit and football marriage. He’s ideal for their offense in every way and I expect him to make a run at many school records before it’s all said and done. As you can tell, I think the world of Watson and his upside from here. I believe he will set himself apart from the ACC pack as the clear cut top quarterback in the league this fall.
2) Georgia Tech
Projected Starter: Justin Thomas
QB Depth Chart: Thomas, Chase Martenson, Matthew Jordan, Tim Byerly
For what Georgia Tech does offensively they may have the perfect quarterback for their system in Justin Thomas. He was absolutely terrific last fall, guiding the Yellow Jackets to the ACC title game. Thomas is a big time athlete who can whip a defense running that triple option attack. But where he’s scary [good] is his ability to throw the ball. Last season Thomas led the team in rushing with 1,086 yards and eight scores and passed for 1,719 yards, 18 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He and Georgia Tech should be better in 2015. It may surprise some to see him at No. 2 here but this kid is a terrific football player running a very unique offense in today’s game.
Projected Starter: Brad Kaaya
QB Depth Chart: Kaaya, Malik Rosier, Vincent Testaverde
As long as he stays healthy the University of Miami is in great hands with Brad Kaaya running the show. For a true freshman in 2014 he played pretty darn well, starting all 13 games. Kaaya threw for 3,198 yards, 26 touchdowns and a dozen interceptions and was named ACC Rookie of the Year. Kaaya has to continue to work on being more consistent and taking care of the football, as Kaaya year two will be a pressure packed one for this program. Miami needs to win big this season and much will fall on the shoulders of Kaaya, as he guides the Hurricanes offense. 6-7 in Coral Gables is not going to cut it anymore. Kaaya should be more comfortable running the offense and knowing more of the playbook this fall.
4) North Carolina
Projected Starter: Marquise Williams
QB Depth Chart: Williams, Mitch Trubisky, Caleb Henderson, Kanler Coker, Anthony Ratliff-Williams
The North Carolina offense should light up the scoreboard this fall returning just about everyone including quarterback Marquise Williams. All Williams did last year was throw for 3,068 yards and 21 scores and rush for 788 yards and 13 touchdowns. On the downside Williams didn’t participate in spring ball because of a hip injury. That gave Mitch Trubisky a ton of reps and he’s coming off the 2014 season where he saw playing time in a dozen games. The Tar Heels have to feel good knowing that they have two good quarterbacks to run Larry Fedora’s fast break offense.
5) N.C. State
Projected Starter: Jacoby Brissett
QB Depth Chart: Brissett, Josh Taylor, Jalan McClendon
There are big expectations on the shoulders of Wolfpack signal caller Jacoby Brissett. After three spring practices under his belt things have slowed down for him and he’s ready to take his game to the next level. There’s no question that Brissett showed flashes of brilliant play in 2014 after throwing for 2,606 yards, 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He also rushed for 529 yards and three touchdowns. Now Brissett says he’s “seasoned” and ready to go. This quarterback from South Florida has a lot of arm talent and could/should have a terrific 2015.
6) Florida State
Projected Starter: Everett Golson
QB Depth Chart: Golson, Sean Maguire, John Franklin, J.J. Cosentino, Deandre Johnson, Deondre Francois
It’s all about ball security for Everett Golson. This is an issue that has plagued him over his last two starting seasons. Last year he had 14 interceptions and eight fumbles. In 2012, he only had six interceptions but fumbled eight times, losing four. There is no question that this quarterback has talent and experience but he needs to clean up this part of his game and make much better decisions under Jimbo Fisher and his new home at Florida State. If he does, the Seminoles will be in prime position to win another ACC title. They are so talented everywhere else. But first Golson will have to learn a complicated pro-style playbook and then beat out what’s already there on campus, namely Sean Maguire.
Projected Starter: Chad Voytik
QB Depth Chart: Voytik, Adam Bertke, Nate Bossory, Ben DiNucci, Nathan Peterman
Junior Chad Voytik started 13 games last season, completing 61% of his passes for 2,233 yards, 16 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He also finished second on the team in rushing with 466 yards and three scores. It was his first season as the Pitt starter and this is a signal caller that got better each week. In fact, Voytik only threw one pick over the course of the second half of the season. He’s surrounded by some of the league’s best players in runner back James Conner and wide receiver Tyler Boyd. There’s also a new head coach (Pat Narduzzi), new schemes and lots of optimism surrounding the Panthers program.
Projected Starter: Reggie Bonnafon
QB Depth Chart: Bonnafon, Will Gardner, Tyler Ferguson, Pat Thomas, Kyle Bolin
As a true freshman, Reggie Bonnafon finished with an impressive 4-1 record as a starter. He threw for 864 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 164 yards and five scores along the way. Will Gardner and Kyle Bolin also saw significant time and starts for Bobby Petrino and his offense. Gardner made the first seven starts before injuring his knee. He was pretty efficient, passing for 1,169 yards , 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Bolin played in four games as well. Bonnafon had a terrific spring and even better spring game. He will have a chance to have a big sophomore season and looks to have a bright future under Petrino.
9) Virginia Tech
Projected Starter: Michael Brewer
QB Depth Chart: Brewer, Brenden Motley, Dwayne Lawson, Andrew Ford, Chris Durkin
Michael Brewer transferred from Texas Tech and started all 13 games for the Hokies in 2014. He passed for 2,692 yards and 18 touchdowns but also threw 15 picks. In all fairness to Brewer he didn’t have a full understanding of the offense or ever feel comfortable. That’s different now. He battled Brenden Motley during the spring and looked more at ease. In fact, Brewer didn’t commit a single turnover over three scrimmages and the spring game. Virginia Tech has a talented freshman coming in named Dwayne Lawson. He should be their future guy running the show in Blacksburg.
Projected Starter: Thomas Sirk
QB Depth Chart: Sirk, Parker Boehme, Nico Pierre, Kane Banner
Anthony Boone is no longer there at Duke so it’s the next man in line for David Cutcliffe. He’s certainly one of the top quarterback coaches and minds in the game and he has a lot to work with in Thomas Sirk. Sirk is one of the better athletes on the roster and a good runner with the football. He’s big (6-4/215) and strong as well. The biggest question mark with Sirk is what kind of passer will he become for the Blue Devils?
Projected Starter: Matt Johns
QB Depth Chart: Johns, Greyson Lambert, Andrew Mackay, Joe Spazani, Corwin Cutler
Matt Johns and Greyson Lambert were locked into a spring fight for the starting quarterback position in Charlottesville. Many thought Lambert would get the nod, especially after having nine starts under his belt in 2014. But Johns was the better and more efficient signal caller of the two. He’s now Virginia’s No. 1 quarterback.
Projected Starter: Terrell Hunt
QB Depth Chart: Hunt, AJ Long, Austin Wilson
Hunt has seen a lot of playing time over the last two years, playing in a dozen games in 2013 but only five this past season after fracturing his fibula. Hunt passed for almost 1,000 yards and one score and rushed for another six touchdowns. He returned this spring and the senior is in full command of this team again.
13) Wake Forest
Projected Starter: John Wolford
QB Depth Chart: Wolford, Kendall Hinton, Kyle Driscoll
True freshman John Wolford was thrust into live action in 2014. He started a dozen games, throwing for 2,037 yards, 12 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and completing 58% of his passes. I would expect Wolford to be more comfortable and have better command running the Demon Deacons offense in 2015. Freshman Kendall Hinton was an early enrollee that participated in spring ball in Winston-Salem.
14) Boston College
Projected Starter: Darius Wade
QB Depth Chart: Wade, Troy Flutie, Elijah Robinson, Jeff Smith
As a true freshman last season Darius Wade appeared in three games and comes back to the Eagles as their most experienced signal caller. Wade complete 3/8 passes for 23 yards. Wade’s the starter right now but will still have to earn that distinction through fall camp. He needs to stay ahead of Troy Flutie and Elijah Robinson. Incoming freshman Jeff Smith reports in July. I saw Smith play a lot over the last two seasons and this kid has a big arm and can run like a deer.
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