Last week, we took a look at Syracuse's quarterbacks. And while it's nice to see how our depth chart shakes out, it's even more useful to see how it appears in comparison to our main competition: the rest of the ACC.
Since 2012, one of the ACC's biggest strengths has been experience at the quarterback position. But now, after two years of seasoned passers shuffling off to the NFL, it appears the league's hit reset. Of the ACC's 14 teams, 12 have a different starting quarterback now than they did at the beginning of last season. And overall, nine failed to start a single game in 2013. But change can be good -- and in this case, opportunistic for a lot of squads. Which leads us to much of the uncertainty around the ACC's middle this fall.
Below, each quarterback unit is ranked, from one through 14. While having a great passer at the top of the depth chart obviously helps teams out, it's not the end-all, be-all here either. Do you see things differently? Weigh in down in the comments.
ACC Football 2014 Position Rankings: Quarterback
1. Florida State Seminoles: The top of this list should be no surprise. Florida State's Heisman- and National Championship-winning star leads the 'Noles once again in 2014 and with one season under his belt, could the phenom actually improve? Maybe not, but even with a repeat performance of last season, it's tough to say any other ACC team has a better situation under center than FSU. Beyond Winston, there's also Sean Maguire and J.J. Cosentino (among others) -- who are certainly talented players in their own right, too.
2. Duke Blue Devils: This might have seemed impossible just a couple years back, but now? Anthony Boone has more experience than just about any other ACC QB, and after a surprising Coastal Division title in 2013, there's no telling what else he can help lead these Blue Devils to accomplish. He's not without his challenges this year -- he'll have to figure out how to function without the safety net of mobile counterpart Brandon Connette -- but experience is typically very valuable at the collegiate level. Of course, he has to stay healthy for Duke to live up to this ranking, too. There's an enormous stable of passers behind him (seven in all), but hopefully the Blue Devils never have to use them.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels: Marquise Williams burst onto the scene late last year and in doing so, established himself as one of the ACC's more dangerous quarterbacks. His throwing progressed quickly, while his running remains a major strength -- and he also has plenty of help within Larry Fedora's high-powered offense to continue to succeed and grow within the role. Fedora's recruiting has now started to take hold of the roster's construction and it's arguably most apparent at QB. Along with Williams, Mitch Trubisky was made for the spread offense, and every other passer on the roster fits in one way or another as well.
4. Clemson Tigers: Cole Stoudt is far from inexperienced, and let loose in Chad Morris's offense, it may be tough to even notice a huge drop-off at the QB position. Or at least, that's Clemson's hope. While Stoudt looks ready to jump in, there's still a question or two to be had. Chad Kelly's no longer on the roster, so the team's only passers are Stoudt and five-star freshman Deshaun Watson. Everyone seems high on the latter player, and it seems inevitable that he at least gets a chance at the role this season (even if not full-time).
5. Louisville Cardinals: The Cards lose Teddy Bridgewater, but not their relative strength at the QB position. Will Gardner seems poised to step right in and produce, and with Bobby Petrino guiding the ship, it's more likely than not. No, things aren't exactly "strong" past Gardner, but again -- with Petrino's help, there's a thought that any quarterback could potentially take the leap. JUCO transfer Pat Thomas, in particular, could provide an intriguing change of pace (as a dual-threat) vs. Gardner should the Cardinals want to use a two-QB set here and there.
6. Syracuse Orange: While it's easy to remember how great the season ended for SU's Terrel Hunt, the specter of that six-game streak without a touchdown pass is still hanging over fans' heads (or at least mine). Hunt appeared to progress throughout 2013, though, and with more offensive playmakers and a supposedly more open playbook this fall, there's certainly a sense he could take a major leap this season. He'll also remained motivated given the depth of talent behind him as well. A.J. Long, Mitch Kimble and Austin Wilson all committed to Syracuse to start at some point sooner rather than later. Hunt's the starter, obviously, but the talent behind him seems determined to also see the field.
7. Miami Hurricanes: At the start of spring, Miami looked to be higher on this list. Ryan Williams had played reasonably well to close 2013 and there was little doubt he'd be the starter this fall. But one big injury and a depth chart full of freshmen later, and there's doubt all over this position now. The 'Canes brought in Kansas transfer Jake Heaps to try and bid time until the kids are ready, so that's some positive movement. But there's a high-risk, high-reward feel for Miami's quarterbacks this year -- which should be both exciting and risky all at once.
8. NC State Wolfpack: Jacoby Brissett is definitely the type of quarterback David Doeren wants to run his offense in Raleigh, and he was last season too. But now he actually gets to see the field. After a 2013 season that was very touch-and-go (and in many cases, a large-scale failure), things look to have stabilized with a legitimate, solidified starting passer. There's additional, intriguing talent on the roster with local recruits Jalan McClendon, Garrett Leatham and Josh Taylor -- but it's McClendon who could really make the most immediate impact for the Pack.
9. Pittsburgh Panthers: Tom Savage did so well last year that he was briefly considered a first-round prospect (before everyone involved with the NFL Draft woke up). Now, the job gets handed off to Chad Voytik, who is looking to make good on a very high recruiting evaluation from two years ago. But can he? As a dual-threat, he's not your typical Pitt quarterback, but due to a strong overall rushing attack from this team, it could be a real advantage to have such a dynamic backfield. A drawback for the Panthers, however, is that there are only two real QB options on the roster. If Voytik can't do it, it's up to Trey Anderson. The junior has been around awhile but it still a relative unknown, as is freshman Adam Bertke.
10. Boston College Eagles: With Chase Rettig under center, BC typically threw too much and to their detriment. Last year, they shifted to a run-first attack, and the results were a complete 180, with an offense that could actually put up points and move the ball efficiently. Now, it appears the Eagles may be putting the emphasis back on passing -- at least for this season. Florida transfer Tyler Murphy takes the reins for a one-year stint and figures to be the motor that powers this offense post-Andre Williams. It's a perfect fit for Boston College, which fills out the rest of its depth chart with capable, but not-yet-ready freshmen.
11. Virginia Tech Hokies: If you want to know what can stop Tech's superior defense, look no further than the quarterback position. Logan Thomas struggled at the back-end of his Hokies career, yet was at least a capable option. Now, though, the job's up in the air, which could spell trouble for this team. Mark Leal looked less-than-stellar in last year's Sun Bowl against UCLA, which opens up a real competition between him, incoming Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and Brenden Motley -- the winner of which looks completely up in the air. There's certainly some talent here. But no real solution fails to inspire confidence right now.
12. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Vad Lee was supposed to be a long-term option at quarterback for Tech. Instead, his frustration with an offense that seemed dead-set on stifling his passing skills led to his transfer. So now things shift to Justin Thomas, who is likely more halfback than quarterback, but that's not necessarily an issue for this triple-option attack. Who knows how long that remains the case, though. Backups like Tim Byerly are a bit more well-versed at the QB position within this offense and if Thomas can't get it together early, there could be a quick switch to avoid a slow start to the season (which coach cannot afford).
13. Virginia Cavaliers: Virginia has options -- but are any of them viable for short-term success? That's the big issue for Mike London's job security as he figures out how to balance potential and results in order to keep his job. David Watford started last year, but also never really inspired faith. That's opened the door for Greyson Lambert, but for how long? He's a strong passer that lacks experience -- which sounds good for the Hoos when Lambert's a junior in 2015, though not now when UVa needs results right now. We'll see if he's the better option, however admittedly, neither him nor Watford may be the answer.
14. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Tanner Price's stay as a four-year starter had a price for Wake, and now it's up to first-year coach Dave Clawson to figure out how to fix things. A collection of freshmen from the Deacs' typically strange Florida pipeline are looking to grab the job this summer after Tyler Cameron and Kevin Sousa failed to really do much with their chances in the spring. So for right now, it's anyone's game, and there's little we can even say about how these players will perform. That's very scary footing for a program that's swiftly fallen behind the rest of the conference.