Rivals QB Week: Ranking the ACC
Part of Rivals.com Quarterback Week is a look at the QB situations at each program across the Power Five conferences. Today, we continue our league-by-league breakdown with a look at the ACC, ranked in order of which program has the best situations heading into the season.
Review: Watson was a five-star and the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2014 class. He committed to Clemson over Florida, Vanderbilt and many others on National Signing Day of his junior year. Last season, Watson threw for 4,104 with 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and was second on the Tigers with 1,105 rushing yards and 12 scores en route to the national title game.
Farrell’s take: We loved Watson’s run-pass ability in high school and he has grown into an excellent decision-maker and arguably the most dangerous weapon in college football. His success has not taken us by surprise, as we were the only site to have him as a five-star. What struck me most about Watson in high school was his character. He’s still one of the highest character kids I’ve ever scouted.
Review: Out of West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade, Kaaya was ranked as the eighth-best pro-style quarterback in the 2014 class and No. 189 overall. Kaaya committed to Miami late in his junior season but Boise State, UCLA and USC all tried to flip him late in the process. Last season, he threw for 3,238 yards with 16 touchdowns and five picks.
Farrell’s take: I think Kaaya takes the next step under Mark Richt this season and leads Miami to a division title. He’s a guy who has started since his freshman year, and I love that because it allows you to grow under tough circumstances. Kaaya has the size and intangibles to be special. He needs to showcase better consistency with his decision-making, and could also use some more weapons around him. This is a huge year for him as he could push for the No. 1 quarterback spot in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Review: Jackson was ranked as a four-star prospect but outside the Rivals250 and the No. 17 dual-threat quarterback in the 2015 class. Mississippi State and especially Florida made late pushes for Jackson but he stuck with the Cardinals. Last season, Jackson threw for 1,840 yards with 12 touchdowns and eight picks. He also led the team in rushing with 960 yards and 11 scores.
Farrell’s take: Jackson was known for his arm -- he has a cannon with that whip delivery -- but in high school he did a ton with his legs as well and he's been dangerous on the ground so far at the college level. His speed has translated better to college than I expected as I've been surprised with his ability to run away from people. Jackson is still a bit raw as a passer but is well ahead of schedule overall and the reason Louisville won any games this year.
Review: Peterman was the eighth-best pro-style quarterback and a four-star in the 2012 class but outside the Rivals250. The four-star had a final five of Vanderbilt, Florida State, Wake Forest, Cincinnati and UConn but that quickly changed once the Vols offered. Peterman played very little in two years in Knoxville and transferred to Pitt. Peterman threw for 2,287 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight picks last season.
Farrell’s take: Peterman was known for a strong arm but also known for taking risks on the field. He never showed much with the Vols but he had a very good year last year at Pitt and showed much better decision-making than he did out of high school. Peterman always had great upside because he could put the ball in perfect spots at times and did improve each year in high school. Now we are starting to see it all come together.
5. NORTH CAROLINA
Review: The Mentor, Ohio, prospect was a three-star dual-threat quarterback who was rated No. 21 at his position in the 2013 class. Trubisky committed to the Tar Heels in May of his junior season over offers from Tennessee, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Northwestern and others.
Farrell’s take: Trubisky’s high school career was epic as he was Mr. Football for Ohio and passed for more than 9,000 career yards. As a mid-range three-star quarterback, we took a lot of abuse from North Carolina fans who felt his high school numbers should have translated to a higher ranking. As a big dual-threat he could also move around, extend the play and gain yardage when he tucked and ran. He could be set for a breakout year in Larry Fedora’s offense and could make our ranking look a bit off.
6. VIRGINIA TECH
Review: Evans was a mid-level four-star dual-threat quarterback out of Athens (Texas) Trinity Valley C.C. last recruiting cycle. He picked the Hokies during his official visit there in December over Cal, Missouri and others.
Farrell’s take: The fact that Evans has taken the starting job so early is not a surprise. He has great size, his mobility is excellent and he could become a star under Justin Fuente. I absolutely love this kid’s upside and despite his lack of experience, he could be a huge surprise to many in the ACC this season. He exudes confidence and is a pure leader.
7. FLORIDA STATE
Review: Francois was the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback and No. 39 overall in the 2015 class out of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy. The four-star had been committed to Florida State since the summer before his senior season but Florida made a late run at him.
Farrell’s take: Francois has a cannon of an arm and his accuracy improved as he progressed, which led to his No. 1 dual-threat ranking in 2015. He can extend the play and move the chains on the ground when needed but he’s still at his best in the pocket and getting the ball out quick with his laser of an arm. If there was one issue with Francois it was touch on longer passes as he relied on the fastball too often, but he should have a great career at Florida State.
Review: Dungey was a three-star quarterback and the No. 29 dual-threat prospect in the 2015 class out of Lake Oswego (Ore.) Lakeridge. He committed to Syracuse in late November of his senior season over Colorado State, Nevada, UNLV and many others. In his freshman season, Dungey threw for 1,298 yards with 11 touchdowns and five picks. He also had a team-high five rushing TDs.
Farrell’s take: Dungey was a mid-level three star commit in 2015 with few offers but who had good size and came from an area that isn’t heavily recruited. He was mobile and could run for a bigger kid and, despite few offers, we liked his ceiling quite a bit. The big knock on him was field vision as he forced the ball too often and threw too many picks so that’s something to be concerned with despite a good start as a freshman.
9. GEORGIA TECH
Review: Thomas was a four-star out of Prattville, Ala., who was No. 19 at athlete and No. 233 overall in the 2012 class. Thomas flipped from Alabama to the Yellow Jackets after being unsure about playing in the Crimson Tide’s pro-style attack. Last season at Georgia Tech, Thomas threw for 1,345 yards with 13 TDs and eight picks and rushed for 488 yards and six scores.
Farrell’s take: Thomas had to find the best system to fit his quarterback skill set or be moved to another position. The triple-option is perfect for him. He had a great year in 2014, but took a step back last year. He isn’t a precision passer at all -- and that’s an issue like it was in high school -- but he can run and is hard to gameplan against when he’s on. As a Rivals250 athlete, we felt he would be successful at whatever he did but he might have been a better fit as a wide receiver.
10. WAKE FOREST
Review: Wolford was a low three-star prospect out of Jacksonville (Fla.) Bishop Kenny. He flipped his commitment from East Carolina to Wake Forest in December of his senior season. Last season, Wolford threw for 1,791 yards with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Farrell’s take: Wolford was a prolific stat-stuffer in high school who put up huge numbers on the ground and through the air. He passed Tim Tebow -- that’s right Tim Tebow -- for most touchdown passes in Northeast Florida history. However, he wasn’t that tall, had an average arm and wasn’t heavily recruited because some thought he was a product of an offensive system. His decision-making needs some work but he is a tough kid with potential.
11. BOSTON COLLEGE
Review: Towles was the ninth-best pro-style QB in the 2012 class and a four-star prospect but outside the Rivals250. He picked Kentucky over Louisville, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt and Illinois out of high school. Wade selected BC over Nebraska, Syracuse, NC State and Temple out of Middletown, Del. He played in three games last season for the Eagles.
Farrell’s take: Towles put up monster numbers in the air and on the ground and rose up the rankings until the very end. He had really good size, a strong arm and just got better each time we saw him. His time at Kentucky was very up and down but he could be a better fit in the Eagles' scheme. Wade was a mid-level three-star who wasn’t very tall but was mobile and could whip it and tuck and run. Wade was recruited for specific schemes whereas Towles was wanted for multiple sets.
12. NC STATE
Review: Finley, from Phoenix Paradise Valley, committed to Boise State (his lone offer at the time) soon after a trip in the spring before his senior season. He was also receiving plenty of Pac-12 interest. McClendon chose NC State in the spring over Miami, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Wake Forest and others. He played in seven games last season but threw only 14 passes.
Farrell’s take: We felt Finley would be a nice fit in a spread offense. He had good size, a nice frame to fill out and made good decisions. Finley's smarts were what stood out more than his physical skills. It’s odd he didn’t have success at Boise State, although his ankle injury didn’t help. McClendon was a late-bloomer who grew quite a bit through high school and had a very live arm. He was one of the three-star prospects in his region that we felt could be a real sleeper. He will emerge as a good one sooner or later.
Review: Benkert, a three-star pro-style quarterback from Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast, picked East Carolina over USF, UCF and Western Kentucky in the summer before his senior season. He is a graduate transfer to Virginia.
Farrell’s take: Benkert was known as an accurate passer and a good decision-maker out of high school. He could also extend plays a bit. Benkert made a big move when he transferred from Cape Coral to Island Coast for his senior year and really began to blossom. His arm strength wasn’t elite and he just didn’t wow you in person. Benkert now has new life at Virginia and needs to be the smart, game manager he was in high school.
Review: Jones was unranked out of Charlotte (N.C.) Latin and went to Duke as a walk-on. He holds high school records for total offensive yards (8,344), total passing yards (6,997) and total touchdowns (98).
Farrell’s take: Taking the place of Thomas Sirk, who is likely out for the season with an Achilles injury, Jones was a walk-on at Duke who wasn’t recruited by FBS schools in 2015 despite starting for a couple of years at Charlotte Latin. The main reason? He shot up in height during his senior year and was a late-bloomer. Most schools had already filled out at quarterback but David Cutcliffe, a quarterback guru, liked Jones' accuracy and mobility. Now Jones could be a sleeper in the ACC.