Five years from now, we’re going to look at 2013-14 as the Golden Era of quarterbacking in the ACC. I know that sounds absurd, but this conference is stacked at the position even after losing E.J. Manuel and Mike Glennon, the resident studs. Part of that is because there are so many seniors; Tajh Boyd is a Heisman candidate, Bryn Renner is already an elite passer, Stephen Morris is the underdog who can really air it out, Then there are the mercurial potential ACC Player of the Year types, like Logan Thomas, who is..well, who knows what Logan Thomas is. Not to mention a guy who people are hailing as the second coming of Zeus himself in Jameis Winston and electric guys coming off injury like CJ Brown.
This year has the potential to shatter so many quarterbacking records, but enough with the intro, onto the rankings:
1.) Tajh Boyd, Clemson (Senior)
Any list involving elite ACC college quarterbacks has to include Tajh Boyd. Heck, any list of elite national college quarterbacks has to include Tajh Boyd. The guy just continues to improve, but he has been a talented player since he came onto the scene as a starter. Two straight seasons of 33+ touchdown passes and 3,800 yards through the air. Only last year, he started to use his legs even more, picking up 514 yards on the ground and ten touchdowns and upped his completion percentage. Those weren’t even easy yards to come by, as he got pounded anytime he ran the ball up the middle and showed he could take a pretty hard lick and remain healthy in the process.
And he’s proving that he can win against top competition, too, when he won the Chik-Fil-A Bowl against LSU with a nice game winning drive. With Sammy Watkins and an O-Line that returns four starters, the sky is the limit for Boyd.
2.) Bryn Renner, North Carolina (Senior)
Renner was a pretty highly ranked recruit coming out of West Springfield in Virginia to play for Butch Davis, and he has largely lived up to that billing as an elite passer. There’s also a lot to be said about a guy who can maintain consistency at the quarterback position despite having three different coaches during his career (Butch Davis, Everett Withers, and Larry Fedora). After throwing 28 touchdowns last year, you have to consider him a prime candidate for a spectacular senior year, one which will probably place him in the same category as UNC greats Darian Durant and T.J. Yates when it’s all said and done.
Renner’s best attribute is his deadly accuracy. He may not have a hand-cannon, but Renner nearly halfed his sophomore year total for interceptions (13) to seven. At the same time, he threw way more passes and still managed to keep his completion percentage at a phenomenal 66%. Renner loses some very good offensive weapons, like Giovanni Bernard, but rest assured he’s probably going to be able to compensate as he is asked to take on a bigger role.
3.) Stephen Morris, Miami (Senior)
Even if you don’t like Miami, you have to at least appreciate Stephen Morris. Coming out of high school, he wasn’t really in the future plans for the Miami Hurricanes as the #25 dual-threat quarterback in his class. And yet, here he is, the guy who now owns multiple records for both Miami and the ACC. Most passing yards in a single ACC game all-time? He did that last year with 566 yards. Most all purpose yards in a season for Miami? He actually broke that two years ago, then shattered his own record his junior year.
Morris, as incredible as it may seem, is an elite gunslinger in the ACC. He may not have the deadly accuracy of Bryn Renner or Tajh Boyd, but he has moxie, or whatever you want to call it. Morris only threw seven interceptions last year, and he’s going to have plenty of options around him to score with, including perhaps the best runningback in the game. His senior year should be even better than his junior campaign.
4.) Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (Senior)
Logan Thomas is probably the only guy on this list who could become the worst quarterback in the ACC or one of the best in the country, depending on which Logan Thomas shows up. That’s the definition of mercurial, and it’s exactly what Frank Beamer will be getting with Thomas next year. His sophomore year, he showed a lot of promise with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and an absolutely lethal red zone game, going for 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Thomas looks more like LeBron James on the field than an actual quarterback, and I guess that’s the problem. He’s more or less impossible to bring to the ground, but he can’t really pass that well because he’s a tight end. Last year he regressed significantly, barely completing 50% of his passes and throwing 16 interceptions — both down from his sophomore year. Those aren’t good stats heading into your senior year.
That being said, Logan Thomas can beat any team on any given day if things are humming, which they do quite often. He may end up holding a ton of passing and rushing records when it’s all said and done, and I’m positive he’ll learn from his mistakes and get better this season. For that reason he’s at four, but don’t be surprised if he drops lower in these rankings week in and week out.
5.) Jameis Winston, Florida State (Freshman)
In all honesty I’ll probably catch some flak for throwing Winston into the top five ACC quarterbacks already, given that he hasn’t taken a single snap in a game yet. But with certain players, conventional wisdom should just be left at the door. Winston, the two-sport athlete (he was recently drafted by the Texas Rangers in baseball) who made Clint Trickett transfer schools, is being hyped up more than any college quarterback in recent memory. His incredibly strong spring game did nothing to stop that hype machine, as many scouts are throwing his name out there along with Cam Newton nowadays.
Winston had an incredibly good spring game, throwing two touchdowns and dominating an already-good Seminoles defense. He has a great arm, is an incredibly fast (and strong) runner. He’s got great field vision, too. Pretty much every superlative you can write about a prospect, Winston possesses, and that’s a scary thing for the ACC to think about. Johnny Manziel came in and had a huge impact right away, but Winston might be an even better redshirt freshman prospect playing in an inferior conference.
So do I think a guy who could tear up the SEC is going to tear up the ACC? Yeah, I do. He’ll have his struggles in his first couple ACC games, but I’m fairly confident a guy like Jameis Winston will figure it out very quickly. The only thing really holding him back is Jimbo Fisher’s play calling.
6.) Tanner Price, Wake Forest (Senior)
Price took a step back last year after displaying promises of being a very effective slinger his sophomore season at Wake Forest. That foundation turned out to be faulty, as he regressed mightily his junior year. Twenty touchdowns to twelve, six interceptions to seven, 3,000+ yards to 2,300, and a 60% completion rate to 55%.
Now, you can blame a lot of that on losing star receiver Michael Campanaro for large parts of the year, but that’s half the story. The other part is that their offensive line was absolutely brutal. So brutal, in fact, that for Price’s senior year they are switching to an option-based attack to relieve some pressure from him getting obliterate on two step drops and even hand offs. Any time a quarterback has one year, his last one, to learn a whole new offense, it’s probably a bad thing.
I don’t think it’s going to be that bad, though, which is why I have him rated a little higher on this list. Price is somewhat quick, so being able to use his legs a bit more might help his overall numbers.
7.) Vad Lee, Georgia Tech (Sophomore)
Vad the Impaler takes the reigns over under center from the great Tevin Washington, and with it a lot of expectations from Yellow Jackets fans. Lee played in games last year as a passer and runner, like when he threw for 169 yards and a touchdown then ran for 112 yards and 2 TDs vs North Carolina. In the same game. Yes, Vad Lee is very good. He’s a bulldozer of a back at 6’0, 210 lbs, but he also might be one of the better passers the Yellow Jackets have had in awhile.
Lee is going to be a good player, but for him it’s a matter of how quickly he can accomplish that. His lack of quality receivers might hinder his production, and his youth will as well. Still, once he picks up that offense around midseason, I can imagine people will start to take notice at how effective this kid can be. Given how much the Georgia Tech offense scores, his numbers will be better than the next guy on the list..