ACC Spotlight: Breaking down QB situations across the league
Spring football is nearly finished around the ACC and most programs have their quarterback depth chart pretty well figured out. Let’s take a look at the quarterback situations for each program in the ACC heading into the summer.
Starter: Anthony Brown
Brown put together an impressive season last year, completing 55 percent of his passes with 20 TDs and 9 INTs during a 7-5 season and this season he is expected to build on last year’s success. Health will remain something to keep an eye on with Brown. Perry and MacDonald are preparing to play at any moment, and their battle this spring is something that will carry over to the fall.
Starter: Trevor Lawrence
Situations don’t come much more stable than the Tigers’. Lawrence looks like one of the best college quarterbacks in recent memory and is among the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. He led Clemson to a national title as a true freshman and is likely in line for another big year as a sophomore. Behind him sits Brice, a sophomore who saw action in 12 games a year ago. Phommachanh, a true freshman, will add depth as well as provide an interesting future option for Dabo Swinney’s program.
Starter: Quentin Harris
Harris is a familiar face for Duke fans and the entire program is watching, hoping he can replicate the success NFL-bound Daniel Jones had last season. Harris has played in more than 20 games but he hasn’t put up big stats just yet. Katrenick and Holmberg will provide head coach David Cutcliffe with depth at the position, but both are expected to learn more than play this year.
Starter: James Blackman
One of the most scrutinized quarterback situations in America, Florida State’s quarterback room included just one scholarship player a few months back. These days, things are a little better, but it’s not as though the program is overflowing with proven options. The starting gig seems to belong to Blackman, who essentially only played one game in 2018 after starting the final 12 games of 2017. Hornbrook, a graduate transfer from Wisconsin, will figure into the competition behind Blackman. As could McDonald, a walk-on who showed some flashes this spring. The situation is certainly not ideal, but it’s definitely less dire than it looked a few months back.
New head coach Geoff Collins learned plenty about his team during spring football, but he hasn’t sorted out who his starting quarterback will be. At this point, it seems like Johnson is out front, but an injury to Oliver seems to have derailed this race. It doesn’t seem like anything will be made official here until the fall. Graham is also in the mix, but he seems destined for the backup job.
Starter: Jawon Pass
Backup: Malik Cunningham
The depth chart at Louisville isn’t set in stone. There is a competition ongoing, but Pass - the incumbent - seems to hold a slight edge over Cunningham, who also got meaningful reps at the position a year ago. If Pass wins the job, the athletic Cunningham may see time at another position in order to utilize his skill set. The Cardinals’ quarterback situation wasn’t ideal a year ago and not much has changed on that front. The hope is that new head coach Scott Satterfield can breathe some life into the offense and revitalize the passers on his roster.
A quarterback competition rages on in Coral Gables, where sophomore-to-be Perry attempts to hold off Martell, a touted transfer who arrived from Ohio State with a waiver and a dump truck full of fanfare. Perry looked to be the more consistent option this spring, but there’s no telling where this competition will go from here, as Martell flashed some incredible upside in the Hurricanes’ spring game. Williams is also in the mix but, at least for now, seems like a long shot to open the season as the starter.
NC State is nowhere near deciding who its starter will be this fall, but McKay seems to have a slight lead in the race to fill the open position left by last year’s starter and NFL-bound Ryan Finley. Leary is the younger of the two contenders, but head coach Dave Doeren wasn’t thrilled with some of his decisions during the spring game. Hockman, a transfer from Florida State, is still soaking up the offense and is still playing from behind.
New head coach Mack Brown and his staff have a lot of work to do turning over the Tar Heels' offense. Spring practice was focused more on learning the new offense rather than figuring out who the starters will be in the fall. Fall camp is where players will earn their starting spots. That being said, most people believe Ruder is the leading candidate for the starting job and is closely followed by Fortin. Howell, a freshman, has played well but the staff is hoping to redshirt him and spread out the quarterback depth chart a bit.
Starter: Kenny Pickett
Pickett will enter the 2019 season as a returning starter hoping to improve on the progress he made last year. His job doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy, with George the likely backup. Pat Narduzzi and his staff have high hopes for Patti, a freshman, and they’d like to see him really push George for the backup job.
Starter: Tommy Devito
Syracuse is pretty thin at quarterback right now but they are going to rely heavily on Devito this fall. He had some bright spots in relief of Eric Dungey last year and Dino Babers and his staff are confident in Devito’s abilities. All three back-ups have a ways to go before getting the stamp of approval from the coaching staff. Summers will get a lot of attention from the coaches when he arrives in the fall but look for one of the other two back-ups to begin the season as the primary back-up.
Starter: Bryce Perkins
Backup: Brennan Armstrong
Virginia has its quarterback position under control with Perkins as the returning starter. Bronco Mendenhall and his staff are excited to see what new heights Perkins can take this team if he remains healthy all year. Armstrong has played very well so far, and the coaches are really impressed. Don’t be surprised if you see both quarterbacks on the field at the same time during trick plays this year. Virginia has to be happy that its quarterback situation is one of the most stable in the ACC.
Starter: Ryan Willis
It’s not official yet, but so far it looks like Willis will be the starter for Virginia Tech again this fall. Willis appears to have distanced himself from Hooker and Patterson throughout the spring. As for Hooker, he has shown some progress but apparently not enough to convince the coaches to move him into the starting role. Patterson is still learning how to run the offense and also looks to be headed for a backup role this season.
Even though the Demon Deacons haven’t named a starting quarterback, they are confident enough in both Hartman and Newman to lead their team. Hartman started most of the season for Wake Forest, but Newman was a successful replacement when Hartman got hurt. This race will continue through fall practice, but the coaching staff feels like they can’t make a wrong decision.