Breaking Down Every ACC Team’s QB Situation Heading into 2014
Breaking Down ACC QBs for 2014
The ACC enjoyed a wildly successful 2013 season in which they won two BCS bowl games, including the BCS National Championship, and ended the SEC streak of dominance over college football (at least momentarily). They will be looking to take the next step as a group in 2014 and will be relying on the quarterback position to lead them there.
While the ACC boasts the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback in 2014, there’s plenty of turnover at the position this offseason. Nine teams will be starting a different quarterback in 2014 than they had in 2013 with a tenth team looking for someone to unseat their returning starter after a dismal effort last season. That will provide plenty of intrigue around the ACC this spring as quarterbacks jockey for the right to lead their program this fall.
But that could also lead to some concern about the conference on the national level. New quarterbacks often need some time to get up to speed which can slow down an offense, especially early. With the ACC putting an emphasis on marquee games early on, this transition could hurt them as they try to put a team into the inaugural College Football Playoff next postseason. Finding a quarterback ready to hit the ground running next fall is going to be huge for teams that have opened up the position this spring, not only for themselves but for the entire conference.
With that being said, let’s break down every ACC team’s quarterback situation as they head into 2014.
Boston College Eagles
Chase Rettig is gone, leaving the Boston College Eagles looking for a new starting quarterback in 2014. They may have found one out of the SEC with the transfer of Tyler Murphy from the Florida Gators. Murphy was originally recruited by former Florida assistant and now head coach at BC Steve Addazio, which makes him a good fit for what Addazio wants the offense to be in 2014. He will graduate from Florida and join the team in the fall where he’ll compete with 2013 backup Josh Bordner and mid-year enrollee Darius Wade for the starter’s job next season. While Bordner has experience in the program and Wade is an explosive dual-threat QB, Murphy might be the type of athlete that Addazio is looking for at the quarterback position.
Tajh Boyd rewrote much of the record book during his time with the Clemson Tigers but now Dabo Swinney has to find his next signal caller for 2014. It figures to be a three-man race for next fall with Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly, and early enrollee Deshaun Watson jockeying for position during the spring. Stoudt has an edge with his experience in Chad Morris’ offense, completing 49-of-57 passes last season for 415 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Watson, a highly recruited dual-threat quarterback, will get his shot at the starting job, however, as the coaching staff has described him as a “game changer.” But with a tough early-season slate, will the team choose experience over explosiveness?
Duke Blue Devils
The Duke Blue Devils used a combination of Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone in 2013 to manufacture the best season in program history and will be looking to carry that momentum right on through into 2014. Both Connette and Boone return and seem comfortable with their roles. Last year, Connette was shuffled around a bit more, playing multiple positions, but was able to focus solely on quarterback this spring which has helped him immensely in recognizing defenses with pre-snap reads. Boone is likely to be the starter but don’t be surprised to see Connette rotated in often.
Florida State Seminoles
Obviously, Jameis Winston is firmly entrenched as the quarterback for the Florida State Seminoles. The defending Heisman Trophy winner will be back to defend his and FSU’s title in 2014 as a redshirt sophomore with indications that he’ll be staying two more seasons in Tallahassee. The challenge this spring is to find his backup. 2013 backup Jacob Coker is on his way to the Alabama Crimson Tide so the No. 2 spot will likely go to either Sean Maguire or John Franklin.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
After a disappointing 2013 campaign, starting quarterback Vad Lee announced that he was leaving the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. That opens up the quarterback position this spring as GT tries to find some consistency under center. Rising sophomore Justin Thomas figures to be the front-runner for the starter’s job next fall after appearing in 10 games last season, complete 9-of-17 passes for 131 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions while rushing for 234 yards on 33 attempts with a pair of rushing touchdowns. Tim Byerly is projected to be his backup with redshirt freshman Ty Griffin and true freshman Matthew Jordan filling out the depth chart.
Bobby Petrino makes his return to the Louisville Cardinals looking for a new quarterback in 2014. Will Gardner has the inside track for the job as the No. 2 QB in 2013 but will be pushed in an open competition this spring by Reggie Bonnafon, Kyle Bolin, and Brett Nelson. Next spring, the Cards will add transfer Tyler Ferguson from the NC State Wolfpack to the mix, giving Petrino plenty of options to lead his wide-open spread offense moving forward.
The Miami Hurricanes will be turning the offense over to a first-year starter in 2014 and have a wide-open competition for the gig going in spring practice. Ryan Williams is the most experienced of the group, having played in four games last year and completing 22-of-32 passes for 369 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Redshirt sophomore Gray Crow also saw some action in 2013, completing 6-of-8 passes for 55 yards with a touchdown and an interception in two games. They’ll be joined in the race by redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and true freshman Brad Kaaya (who will join the team this summer) who will be getting their first collegiate action in 2014.
North Carolina Tar Heels
When Bryn Renner went down with a season-ending injury last year, Marquise Williams stepped up and led the way for the North Carolina Tar Heels down the stretch, throwing for 1,698 yards while rushing for 536 yards and scoring 22 total touchdowns. But that experience won’t guarantee Williams a job in 2014. Larry Fedora has announced the quarterback position is up for grabs this spring as Williams gets set to compete with Mitch Trubinsky and Kanler Coker during the spring to see who earns the starter’s job in 2014. Williams has an advantage thanks to his five starts in 2013 but now he’s going to have to go out and earn the job all over again for 2014.
NC State Wolfpack
Dave Doeren is looking for a bounce-back performance in 2014 after going winless against the ACC in his debut with the NC State Wolfpack in 2013. The second-year coach has already committed to Jacoby Brissett as his No. 1 quarterback next fall, hoping the Florida Gators transfer will be able to lead the Wolfpack back into ACC contention. Brissett is a big, athletic playmaker who didn’t get a lot of opportunity to shine at Florida. But NC State is fully committed to Brissett as their guy in 2014, so much so that 2013 starting quarterback Pete Thomas quickly decided to transfer following the season. With freshman Jalan McClendon not arriving on campus until the fall, the spring (much like the rest of 2014) will be all about Brissett at quarterback.
Chad Voytik is likely the starting quarterback for the Pitt Panthers in 2014 more due to a lack of options rather than being truly deserving. The redshirt sophomore helped break a 20-20 tie in the Little Caesars Bowl in relief of an injured Tom Savage, completing 5-of-9 passes for 108 yards and adding 24 yards and a touchdown on two rushes, so there’s reason to be optimistic about his chances of success. But Voytik isn’t going to get pushed by anyone behind him on the depth chart. As they open up spring practices, Pitt has just two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster with Voytik and former walk-on Trey Anderson. They will add one more quarterback in the fall but likely won’t rush them into the starting lineup, giving full control of the offense to Voytik in 2014.
Terrel Hunt emerged as a true dual-threat quarterback in 2013 for the Syracuse Orange down the stretch. He finished the year completing 61.2 percent of his throws for 1,638 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions while rushing for 500 yards and scoring seven touchdowns on the ground. He capped the year by winning the MVP of the Texas Bowl, showing that he’s capable of being a difference maker and seems firmly entrenched as the No. 1 QB in 2014. Hunt has to continue to develop his game, however, to hold off freshmen Mitch Kimble and Austin Wilson in the long-term.
While David Watford was the clear No. 1 quarterback for the Virginia Cavaliers in 2013, there’s no guarantee that he’ll hold onto the job next season. Watford struggled mightily to provide a consistent presence under center for Virginia as they went just 2-10 last season, including 0-8 in conference play. Those struggles will open up the quarterback competition this spring between Watford, Greyson Lambert, and Matt Johns. Lambert seems to have the best chance of unseating Watford after turning heads with his relief performance against North Carolina last season when he completed 8-of-13 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. Whoever comes out on top in this race will have their hands full trying to turn around the reeling Cavs in 2014.
Virginia Tech Hokies
The Virginia Tech Hokies are looking for a replacement for Logan Thomas in 2014 and apparently weren’t enamored with the options they had available to them. While the team got some playing time for Mark Leal in 2013, coaches were reportedly recruiting graduate-transfers heavily this offseason to come in and add some new blood to the mix. They found a good one with Michael Brewer set to join the team this fall after graduating from the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the spring. If Leal can’t secure the starting job by the end of spring practice, look for Brewer to make a play for the starter’s spot in fall camp.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons face not only the challenge of finding their identity under new head coach Dave Clawson but also having to replace long-time starting quarterback Tanner Price. Sophomore Tyler Cameron got the most experience behind Price last season, though that experience was far from excellent (7-of-24 passing for 85 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT in three games). Senior Patrick Thompson saw limited action as well, throwing just six passes in three games during the season for 12 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Clawson signed a pair of three-star quarterbacks in the 2014 recruiting cycle in Travis Smith and John Wolford who could get some opportunities for early playing time next fall.