We looked at the ACC Atlantic quarterbacks yesterday. Today we will break down and rank the quarterbacks in the ACC’s Coastal division.
Remember that these rankings have absolutely nothing to do with the player’s NFL potential. This is about success and/or potential success in college football.
Here we go. Feel free to disagree:
1. Joshua Nesbitt, Georgia Tech: I’m going to be accused of being a homer here but just look at the facts: He was the first-team All-ACC quarterback. He rushed for 1,037 yards and passed for 1,701 yards. He became only the 49th player in NCAA history pass and run for over 1,000 yards in a single season. He was involved in 37 plays that went 20 yards or more. He was the starting quarterback on a team that won the ACC championship. I’m really not sure how much more the native of Greene County could have done for his team in 2009.
Coach Paul Johnson told me that he has asked Nesbitt to focus on becoming a more consistent passer in 2010. Because when Nesbitt does throw the ball against a defense totally preoccupied by the run, he can make big plays. Yeah, he’ll miss wide receiver Bay-Bay Thomas who could absolutely catch everything. But that just opens the door for future stars like Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton.
The good news for Tech is that during the spring Johnson found a No. 2 quarterback in Tevin Washington, who can give Nesbitt a break if he’s dinged up a little and needs to sit out a series.
2. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech: I know my Hokie friends think Taylor should be No. 1 on this list and, based on what I’ve heard, the senior is going to have a huge year. Last season he threw for 2,311 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was the ACC’s most efficient passer. The last time I talked to coach Frank Beamer he was raving about how far Taylor had come since this time last season.
Taylor can, however, improve in his decision making. At times last season he just held on to the ball too long. That was one reason the Hokies gave up 31 quarterback sacks. I’m anxious to see how Taylor will play against Boise State in the opener on Sept. 6 in Landover, Md. Taylor is going to feel some pressure to keep pace with Kellen Moore, Boise’s big time quarterback.
3. Jacory Harris, Miami: If there is a Pied Piper in college football it is Harris because the entire Miami team, both offense and defense, take their cue from him. If Harris is playing well the Hurricanes seem to be infused with this incredible energy. If Harris is struggling, which he did at times last season due to a thumb injury, the Miami team tends to play flat. In fairness to Harris, the thumb injury was more painful than anybody knew but the kid still went out there and played.
Harris has one of the best offensive coordinators around in Mark Whipple and last season Harris led the ACC in passing yards with 3,352. But he also led the ACC in interceptions with 17. He did not take part in spring drills after having surgery to repair the thumb. The Miami coaches are expecting a hungry Jacory Harris to return to action and be better than ever which means the Hurricanes are good enough to win the Coastal. We’ll know a lot more after Sept. 11, when Miami goes to Ohio State.
4. T.J. Yates, North Carolina: For a quarterback who has started 31 college football games and has a chance to become the school’s all-time leading passer, the Marietta native sure does get beat up by his fan base. Yates threw for 2,655 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2007, the single best season ever for a Tar Heel quarterback. But Yates has three problems: Interceptions, interceptions, interceptions. He threw 18 in 2007, four in an injury-shortened season in 2008, and 15 last season. And a bunch of those interceptions in 2009 came at the worst possible times.
Yates is talented but he sometimes tries to do too much and forces the ball into coverage. If he’ll just relax and take what the defense gives him, I think he can have a good senior season. And if he does, North Carolina can win the ACC Coastal. If Yates struggles in preseason drills talented redshirt freshman Bryn Renner is waiting in the wings. Coach Butch Davis told me last week that Yates has earned the right to be the guy as a senior. But Davis also knows he has one of the best defenses in college football and that quarterback play must improve if the Tar Heels are going to contend.
5. Mark Verica, Virginia: Verica started nine games for the Cavaliers in 2008 but found himself on the bench in 2009 when Virginia went to the spread offense and Jameel Sewell returned from academic suspension to run it. Now Verica gets another shot and has been named a team captain by new head coach Mike London. Verica’s career totals aren’t bad: 2,193 yards, 60.9 completion percentage, and eight touchdowns. But he also has 17 interceptions. I was impressed with Verica during ACC media days. He sounded like a pretty tough kid who wants to do something with this final opportunity. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the supporting cast to do it.
6. Sean Renfree, Duke: Thaddeus Lewis started 46 games for Duke and left as one of only two quarterbacks in ACC history to throw for over 10,000 yards (N.C. State’s Philip Rivers threw for 13,484). Renfree, a redshirt sophomore from Scottsdale, Ariz., put up decent numbers in spot action last season, completing 68 percent of his passes (34 of 50) for 330 yards and four touchdowns. Renfree wasn’t able to do a whole lot in the spring as he recovered from knee surgery. Coach David Cutcliffe told me that he is excited about two other young quarterbacks he’ll have in camp. Brandon Connette (6-2, 210), a true freshman from Corona, Calif., enrolled in school early and just blew everybody away in spring drills with his ability to run and throw the ball. Redshirt freshman Sean Schroeder is more of a classic drop back passer. He had mixed results in the spring. Cutcliffe told me that he really likes the athleticism of this group and feels really good about the position. Cutcliffe knows quarterbacks. Keep your eye on Duke. The Blue Devils are going to beat somebody this season they are not supposed to beat.
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