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ACC spotlight: Ranking the QB situations

The ACC season will feature plenty of new faces under center, as teams with some semblance of uncertainty at the position outnumber those with a stable starter. That said, there is some level of familiarity. The Heisman Trophy winner is back at Louisville, and Florida State has one of the most promising young quarterbacks in America. Below, examines and ranks the quarterback situation at each league school.

MORE: Ranking the Big Ten's QB situations | Ranking the SEC's QB situations



Why they’re No. 1 : There’s no controversy here. There’s also no guesswork. When you return the Heisman Trophy winner, things at the quarterback spot are good. Lamar Jackson is the undisputed quarterback king of the ACC.

Coach’s comment: “Lamar had a good spring. We did work him more underneath the center. We wanted to get him comfortable doing that. In fact, the first week of spring ball we stayed under the center. He can really drop and throw it from under there.”

-- Head coach Bobby Petrino


Why they’re No. 2: Deondre Francois returns for his second season as FSU’s starter after a solid freshman campaign that saw some peaks and valleys. Expectations will be high for him this fall, as he will once again be surrounded by weapons.

Coach’s comment: “What I love about Deondre, he allows himself to be coached and allows you to take those steps with him, and I think our team gained tremendous respect for him. I mean, you go back and you research him on third down, him in the red zone, him on fourth quarter drives, five of them that took -- four of them we won, one of them we gave up a lead, but he took us back and made those drives as a freshman in key moments.”

-- Head coach Jimbo Fisher


Why they’re No. 3: Returning starter Eric Dungey received a pair of votes in the preseason ACC Player of the Year media poll. He showed impressive versatility a year ago and will have to lead the charge if Syracuse hopes to turn the corner in year No. 2 of the Dino Babers regime.

Coach’s comment: “Eric Dungey is the quarterback of an up-tempo, fast, NFL-style offense. It is not a Ford Pinto. It is a racing car, OK. Don't get Ford mad at me. I know Ford doesn't make the Pinto anymore. When I was in high school, I drove a Ford Pinto, hatchback, baby blue in color. But he's not driving a Pinto; he's driving a racing car. And when we go around corners, the tires need to sing, and that's the way we handle our offense.”

-- Head coach Dino Babers


Why they’re No. 4: Daniel Jones, who was thrust into action a year ago, returns as Duke’s starter. Barring an injury, he’ll open the season under center and hopes his past individual success translates to more wins in 2017.

Coach’s comment: “I've seen a different Daniel. I've seen that in our morning runs and him calling on people. I know he went to the Manning Passing Academy and worked as a counselor down there, and I got great feedback from all of the Mannings on his leadership, his coaching ability, and that made me feel good.”

-- Head coach David Cutcliffe


Kelly Bryant
Kelly Bryant (AP Images)

Why they’re No. 5.: The quest to replace Deshaun Watson is in full swing. Kelly Bryant and Hunter Johnson are the likely options. Bryant, a junior, seems to make the most logical sense, as he’s taken actual game reps, but Johnson is a hyper-talented freshman that could easily win the job this fall. There’s no shortage of talent here.

Coach’s comment: “We got a guy named Deshaun Watson who did OK. You go recruit and develop your players and I think that is one of the things we do best. The natural thing to do is look at a piece of paper and say, 'Wow, I do not know any of these guys.' But come midseason, you are going to know a lot of these guys."

-- Head coach Dabo Swinney


Why they’re No. 6: Ryan Finley threw for more than 3,000 yards last year and returns as the team’s starter. Finley led the Wolfpack to a bowl victory over Vanderbilt a year ago and looks to take yet another step forward this fall.

Coach’s comment: “You want expectations, and you have to earn them. That's the one thing I told our guys, be proud of people talking nicely about you, but also understand that changes quickly when you don't live up to those things. And so the bottom line for me and our program is we don't look at where you want us to end up.”

-- Head coach Dave Doeren


Why they’re No. 7: Pittsburgh has not yet named a starter, but former five-star Max Browne, a USC transfer, is expected to win the job this fall. According to head coach Pat Narduzzi, Browne has gotten stronger and more physical since arriving on campus.

Coach’s comment: First off – forget the mental part of it – his body has changed a lot. He came in and looked a little skinny, like they didn’t do much lifting as quarterbacks out at Southern Cal. I walked in last time, he had his shirt off and he just looked so much bigger."

-- Head coach Pat Narduzzi


Brandon Harris
Brandon Harris (AP Images)

Why they’re No. 8: Nobody expects replacing Mitchell Trubisky to be easy, as the star of UNC’s 2016 season was selected second overall in the NFL draft. The names in the running to take his place are LSU graduate transfer Brandon Harris, junior Manny Miles sophomore Nathan Elliott and a pair of freshmen. Most expect Harris to land the job, but nothing has been announced.

Coach’s comment: “I think the biggest question for me is at the quarterback spot, and we have a graduate transfer that we've added to that competition group, and so how quickly all of those guys can integrate, how quickly they can become a part of our team, that's the unknown for me.”

-- Head coach Larry Fedora


Malik Rosier
Malik Rosier (AP Images)

Why they’re No. 9: There’s a four-way battle raging on in Coral Gables. Veterans Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs are joined by true freshmen N'Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon in the battle to replace the departed Brad Kaaya. Head coach Mark Richt hopes to announce a starter after his team’s second fall scrimmage.

Coach’s comment: “If I had to guess, at the latest, I hope to know after our second scrimmage. And now I just said it publicly, so everyone is going to be like, ‘What’s the deal?’ I just hope to know because, eventually, you have to get your game plan started.”

-- Head coach Mark Richt


Matthew Jordan
Matthew Jordan (AP Images)

Why they’re No. 10: Tech and its unique offense look to replace three-year starter Justin Thomas. Junior Matthew Jordan has not been named the starter just yet but seems like the favorite to land the job.

Coach’s comment: “If we've been doing our job as a coaching staff, we've got guys there in the program that are ready to play. I think a year ago, Matthew Jordan had to go up to Blacksburg, which is a really tough place to play and start the game, and we were fortunate that he won the game there. I think that gave him some confidence and gave our guys some confidence in him.”

-- Head coach Paul Johnson


Why they’re No. 11: Kurt Benkert, who won the job and played through injury a year ago, will go into the season as the starter. He threw 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a sophomore. He struggled with accuracy and minor injuries a year ago but hopes to right that ship in the season ahead.

Coach’s comment: "[Benkert is] more mobile. He's more accurate. He's more confident. He's certainly healthier, and will need to remain so for us to continue to move the program forward, at least in year two the way we would hope. He's critical to that."

-- Head coach Bronco Mendenhall


Kendall Hinton
Kendall Hinton (AP Images)

Why they’re No. 12: Kendall Hinton will get the nod as the starter after winning the job a year ago before seeing his season ended by injury. John Wolford, who led the Demon Deacons in his place in 2016, will function as the backup. Wolford threw more interceptions than touchdowns a year ago but proved to be a threat running the football. Both quarterbacks bring some semblance of experience to the table, so a midseason switch isn’t out of the question should things go south.

Coach’s comment: “Kendall will go in as the starter, and when he got hurt last year, he was the starter. But John will get reps with the ones, and we've got to keep those guys healthy. I mean, we don't want to be a two-quarterback system. We don't want to shuttle guys in and out. Unfortunately John and Kendall, neither of those guys have been able to stay healthy the past two years.”

--Head coach Dave Clawson


Ryan Willis
Ryan Willis (AP Images)

Why they’re No. 13: Joshua Jackson nearly won the job last year but lost out to now the departed Jerod Evans. Jackson is the favorite to start the year under center, but Kansas transfer Ryan Willis along with A.J. Bush, who took the junior college route to Tech after playing at Nebraska, are also in the mix.

Coach’s comment: “We've obviously got an open competition there at quarterback, three very capable candidates. I really believe that offense has got to fit the quarterback and whatever his skill set was, and I think [offensive coordinator] Brad Cornelsen did a fantastic job last year of twisting and turning the offense to fit Jerod`s skill set, and in turn it was very, very productive.”

-- Head coach Justin Fuente


Darius Wade
Darius Wade (AP Images)

Why they’re No. 14: The Eagles saw a spring quarterback battle between junior Darius Wade and redshirt freshman Anthony Brown. The competition will remain open during camp with Wade, who threw just 19 passes as a backup last season, likely to emerge as the starter.

Coach’s comment: “Anthony Brown had a great spring along with Darius Wade. Darius went in taking the starting reps in the spring and will do the same going into fall camp. If we were playing tomorrow, I believe Darius would be the starter.”

-- Head coach Steve Addazio