There’s a lot of talent and experience at the position, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good year to be an ACC quarterback.
Ten of last year’s twelve starters are returning, but all the experience at the position might not do too much to help improve the conference’s ugly 2-13 BCS bowl record. The three teams expected to fare the best in the national standings – Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Clemson – also have some pretty big concerns on offensive line.
This won’t be the season that elevates the ACC’s national reputation, but strong quarterback play could boost the quality of the conference from top to bottom.
From top to bottom, here’s a look at the ACC’s starting quarterbacks for 2012:
1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
It’s not easy to repeat a first-team All-Conference year, but Boyd has a pretty good shot. He threw for 3,828 yards and set an ACC record with 38 touchdowns (33 passing, 5 rushing) in his first year as a starter – in a new offense no less. Boyd has two standout receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and 2011 ACC Rookie of the Year Sammy Watkins, and junior running back Andre Ellington will take some of the pressure off the passing game. The biggest hurdle this year is how well the offensive line holds up.
2. Bryn Renner, North Carolina
He’s not a lock as one of the ACC’s best yet, but 2012 could be Renner’s breakout year. He threw for 3,086 yards and 26 touchdowns last year, with 13 interceptions – but he’s also losing his top receiver and gaining a new coaching staff and no-huddle spread offense. No problem. The Tar Heels’ early schedule isn’t too daunting, so Renner will have time to iron out the kinks. He’s accurate, he’s playing behind a line that returns four of five starters, and the new offense might be just what he needs to really shine.
3. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Thomas made second-team All-ACC last year because he has the size, power, and accuracy to make plays with his feet as well as his arm. The Hokies will be glad he can, too, because the team is breaking in a new set of receivers and doesn’t have a go-to tailback to take the pressure off the passing game. He threw 19 touchdown passes and ran for 11 more in 2011, and with four new faces on the offensive line he’ll have to do more of the same this year.
4. E.J. Manuel, Florida State
Like last year, the biggest factor in Manuel’s success will be the health of the O-line. Three linemen missed five or more games due to injury and when the line fell apart, the QB went down, too. Three of the ‘Noles’ four losses came when Manuel was out or playing hurt, and even with a shoulder injury, he still finished fourth in the ACC in total offense. After playing freshmen out of necessity, the offensive line is still young, but this year it’s also experienced. Manuel will have his pick of targets, including sophomore Rashad Greene, who led the team in receiving despite missing four games with an injury.
5. Mike Glennon, North Carolina State
In his first year as a starter, Glennon threw for more than 3,000 yards, 31 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has a veteran offensive line, but his receiving corps is full of question marks. Glennon has an arm, but he doesn’t have the dynamic playmaking ability of some of the league’s other QBs. He’ll only be as successful as his supporting cast, but so far, there aren’t any other stars on offense.
6. Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech’s offense put up crazy numbers in the beginning of last season, but Washington’s passing stats weren’t among them (49.3% completion percentage, 11 touchdowns, 8 interceptions). His arm has improved over the past two seasons, but Washington really shines in Paul Johnson‘s run-first offense. He ran for just under 1,000 yards last year, good enough for fifth in the conference in rushing yards per game, and could pass that mark this year.
7. Michael Rocco, Virginia
Rocco won the starting role partway through 2011, and if he’s not looking over his shoulder for Alabama transfer Philip Sims, he should continue to develop into the Cavs’ long-term answer at QB. His 2011 numbers weren’t great, but they don’t tell the whole story. He threw for 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but the ratio improved dramatically after he officially won the starting job, with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in the last six games. If he’s confident and owns the role from week one, he’ll be a solid second-year starter, and a leader on the offense.
8. Sean Renfree, Duke
The senior led the ACC in completions over the past two seasons and is the conference’s active career leader in total offense and passing yards. Duke has a strong veteran line, but Renfree will be hampered by the lack of playmakers around him again this season. He’s consistent and he’ll put up good numbers, as he always has, but it won’t be enough to give the Blue Devils a winning season.
9. Tanner Price, Wake Forest
This might be a rough year for Price, through no fault of his own. He struggled when he was thrown into the fire as a true freshman but redeemed himself in 2011, throwing for more than 3,000 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just 6 interceptions. Last year’s offense has been gutted, though, and returns only three starters. Price has all the tools to be a great quarterback in the ACC, but he’s not going to have much help around him in 2012.
10. Perry Hills, Maryland
Hills, a true freshman, wasn’t supposed to be on the field this year, but he was next man up when C.J. Brown went down with a season-ending ACL injury. Welcome to college, kid. No one expects much from Hills and the Terps this year – there’s no established running game to lean on, the offensive line was depleted by transfers, and Hills has had limited time to learn the offense – but it wouldn’t be the first time a true freshman came in and outplayed his more experienced rivals.
11. Chase Rettig, Boston College
Rettig is working with his fourth offensive coordinator in three years, which probably contributed to some of his struggles in the last few seasons. He started the last 20 games for the Eagles and has the benefit of four returning starters on the line, but he has to step up and perform like a third-year starter, because the running game isn’t much of threat (yet).
12. Stephen Morris, Miami
Morris was recently named Miami’s starter after apparently impressing the coaching staff, which didn’t plan to announce so soon. Morris has starting experience – he started four games as a true freshman as well as last year’s season opener – and is 108 of 190 in his career but until now, he never managed to take over the job. He didn’t play in the spring after having back surgery but seems to be back to form.