For once, the Syracuse Orange’s quarterback situation is not only settled but apparently deep as well. Eric Dungey is obviously the straw that stirs the drink (according to Dino Babers) for Syracuse. Though beyond him, the Orange have other capable options, most notably, Tommy DeVito. Not every team has a potential all-conference quarterback AND a former four-star on the bench. Such is the interesting new world SU inhabits...
Along with our Syracuse position group previews each week, we’ll also take a look at the rest of the ACC’s respective situations. Which teams are in the best shape? And the worst? And how does Syracuse stack up comparatively? Today:
ACC Football 2018 Quarterbacks Preview
Last year’s top performers
Eight different ACC quarterbacks threw for at least 2,500 yards last year, led by Louisville’s Lamar Jackson who had 3,600 (and another 1,600 on the ground) in a follow-up to his 2016 Heisman campaign. Beyond him, NC State’s Ryan Finley completed 65 percent of his throws for over 3.500 yards, along with 17 scores. Seniors Kurt Benkert (Virginia) and John Wolford (Wake Forest) also put in strong efforts for bowl teams, passing for more than 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns apiece.
Despite a lack of the same fanfare, Malik Rosier (Miami), Josh Jackson (Virginia Tech), Kelly Bryant (Clemson) also put in strong efforts en route to the postseason. That’s not to diminish Dungey’s own achievements. His passing yards per game were second in the conference only to Lamar Jackson, and he was one of the best dual-threats in the country despite the injuries and late-season absence.
Who will excel in 2018?
Lamar Jackson is gone, as are Benkert and Wolford. That still leaves quite a few top-notch passers in the league. Finley has revealed himself to be one of the country’s most accurate passers, and as a senior, he’s now playing for a potential top draft selection next spring. Though inconsistent last year, Rosier should be surrounded by another top-10 Hurricanes squad in 2018. If he can find more accuracy to go with gaudy numbers, he could be a darkhorse Heisman candidate.
Bryant is a capable leader and game manager, but may not even start for the full season at Clemson. Now that Josh Jackson is confirmed to be on the Hokies’ roster again, he should be able to translate an impressive freshman effort (2,991 passing yards, 20 touchdowns) into an even stronger sophomore year. Assuming the experienced offensive line protects Dungey well this year (and Eric also protects himself), the Syracuse senior could end up having the best numbers of all of these players in 2018.
Top three units: 1. Clemson, 2. Florida State, 3. Syracuse
Even with former five-star passer Hunter Johnson out the door to Northwestern, Clemson still has the best collection of QBs in the conference — and potentially the country as well. Bryant is the starter for now, but five-star Trevor Lawrence will test him plenty between now and the season itself. Third-stringer Chase Brice is a three-star but also a top-400 recruit, nationally.
Florida State has the most experience in its top two right now, with James Blackman and Deondre Francois, who both have at least 11 starts under their respective belts. Either could be well-suited to run Willie Taggart’s up-tempo system, which could be operating at a similar speed to where Syracuse is at. Dungey’s the headliner, but if Tommy DeVito must be thrust onto the field, the former four-star just might be alright (and potentially an even better fit for the scheme).
Bottom three units: 12. North Carolina, 13. Boston College, 14. Virginia
Chazz Surratt didn’t accomplish much for North Carolina last season, but he’ll likely be back as the starter just the same. Boston College will return A.J. Brown, who showed promise as the Eagles turned things around in the second half of last year. Still, BC runs an offense completely based on the run game. A quality passing game is part of that, but more an accessory to it than a feature.
Virginia’s resurgent (top-50ish) pass game was a big part of the turnaround to bowl eligibility in 2017. Unfortunately, what’s left is a long list of question marks. JUCO transfer Bryce Perkins was named the starter this spring, but there’s a long list of inexperienced underclassmen beyond him in case of struggles.
Top five quarterbacks in ACC:
- Ryan Finley, NC State
- Josh Jackson, Virginia Tech
- Eric Dungey, Syracuse
- Malik Rosier, Miami
- Kelly Bryant, Clemson
Where does Syracuse rank?
As mentioned, Syracuse comes in at No. 3 overall (as does Dungey, individually). The quarterback position is the key to this Orange offense and SU’s roster may finally be able to both accommodate the dual-threat’s talent and keep him healthy. Dungey has a real chance to reset the single-season and career record books for Syracuse. And while he’d need to basically double his previous outputs and win eight games to even be considered for national awards, conference honors are very much in play should he stay upright.