We’ve spent the past two days rating the SEC quarterbacks as training camp begins. Now let’s look at the ACC quarterbacks.
The league is as deep in really good quarterbacks as I have ever seen it. Eight of the 12 teams return their starter from a year ago and Virginia’s Marc Verica started nine games in 2008. So collectively the ACC has nine quarterbacks who have started a total of 182 career games. I haven’t broken down every conference, but I’m guessing no other league returns that many career starts at the position.
Today we’re going to break down the quarterbacks in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Tomorrow we will look at the Coastal Division. Remember that these quarterback rankings have nothing to do with NFL potential. They are based on success and/or potential at the college level.
Feel free to disagree and give me your rankings:
1. Christian Ponder, Florida State: Ponder missed his team’s last four games in 2009 after his shoulder lost a collision with Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel. Still, the senior from Texas led the ACC in total offense, averaging 321.8 yards per game. Here is why this guy has a shot at the Heisman Trophy if he can stay healthy. He completed 68.8 percent of his passes last season. He is incredibly smart. Ponder has already received both an undergraduate and Master’s degrees from Florida State. He’ll be working on his second Master’s this fall. He is playing behind one of the best offensive lines in college football. He came to Florida State to win some kind of championship and is very motivated to get the Seminoles back to the ACC title game. Sophomore E.J. Manuel, a guy who was recruited by the whole world, is Ponder’s backup. That’s why head coach Jimbo Fisher, who takes over for the departed Bobby Bowden, is sleeping well at night when he thinks about the quarterback position.
2. Russell Wilson, N.C. State: Wilson, a gifted athlete who also plays minor league baseball, had a chance to turn pro in the sport when he was drafted in June by the Rockies. But he decided to return to Raleigh and now the Wolfpack is going to be very dangerous at the position. Wilson led the ACC in touchdown passes last season with 31 and completed almost 60 percent of his passes for 3,027 yards. Only Phillip Rivers, Chris Weinke, and Danny Kannell have ever thrown for more touchdowns in an ACC season than Wilson. He was the first-team All-ACC quarterback as a freshman in 2008. But waiting in the wings is redshirt sophomore Mike Glennon, one of the nation’s top recruits in 2008, who had a great spring, throwing for 423 yards and three touchdowns in the final scrimmage.
3. Kyle Parker, Clemson: Parker, like Wilson, could have said goodbye to football and played baseball after he was drafted in the first round (No. 26 overall pick) by the Rockies. But Parker made a lot of people in Clemson smile when he announced that he would be returning for his sophomore season of football. As a redshirt freshman in 2009 he threw for 2,526 yards, the fifth best total for a first-year player in ACC history. His 20 touchdown passes was a Clemson record for a freshman. Parker will miss three really good weapons: Running back C.J. Spiller, wide receiver Jacoby Ford, and tight end Michael Palmer. Collectively those three caught 135 passes last season. If Parker had not returned then the job would have fallen to redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd, who is going to be a very good quarterback. He just won’t have to do it this season if Parker stays healthy.
4. Dave Shinskie, Boston College: Shinskie gets this spot because he’s started 10 games at Boston College and, at age 26 (he played minor league baseball before returning to college last year), you have to figure he is no ordinary sophomore. But he doesn’t play like he’s 26 years old and has yet to prove he can consistently lead this offense. Shinskie had problems at times last season, throwing 14 interceptions (to 15 touchdowns) and completing only 51.74 percent of his passes. Shinskie is going to get pushed in preseason camp by a couple of players, sophomore Michael Marscoveta and true freshman Chase Rettig, who enrolled early and was impressive in spring drills. Rettig, from California, was also recruited by Tennessee.
5. Jamarr Robinson, Maryland: Robinson started two games last year when Chris Turner was injured. Now Turner and his 30 career starts are gone and Robinson gets a chance to show what he can do on a consistent basis. In those two starts last season Robinson had 223 yards against Virginia Tech (129 rushing) and 233 yards passing against Florida State. Robinson has a chance to be a decent quarterback for Ralph Friedgen, and it doesn’t hurt that a healthy Da’Rel Scott returns at running back. Scott has averaged 5.5 yards per carry over his career at Maryland. His backup, Danny O’Brien, is more of a classic drop back passer. If Robinson struggles, Friedgen has confidence in O’Brien. Another redshirt freshman, C.J. Brown, could also be in the mix. With seven starters returning on offense, Friedgen expects some consistency from that unit. Maryland was 2-10 in 2009 and lost five games by seven points or less. Better quarterback play is a must in 2010.
6. Skylar Jones, Brendan Cross, Ted Stachitas, Wake Forest: The Deacons are going to really miss Riley Skinner and his 49 career starts, which included a 10-3 season and an ACC championship in 2006. Jones, a redshirt junior, is a great athlete who almost switched to wide receiver. Jones had the edge coming out of spring practice but he does not have a lock on the job. Cross, an Alpharetta native and the son of Hall of Famer Randy Cross, was the best passer in the spring game. Cross was limited in spring drills as he recovered from a concussion. Stachitas, a redshirt sophomore, was the successor at quarterback for Tim Tebow at Jacksonville’s Nease High School. But he hasn’t done much at Wake Forest because of shoulder problems and a hamstring issue in the spring. Coach Jim Grobe is hoping that one of these three guys will grab the job and make it his in preseason practice.
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