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ACC football 2019 position preview: Quarterbacks

We know about Syracuse’s QBs — how do they stack up versus the rest of the league?

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange aren’t as deep at quarterback as they were last year, but the talent at the top of depth chart could wind up being just as good with Tommy DeVito officially taking over as the starter. Having two very capable starters on the roster last year was fun, but admittedly not usually how it works. Now things go back to normal for Syracuse. There’s option 1, and crossed fingers.

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 2019 Quarterbacks Preview

Last year’s top performers

Statistically, there were three quarterbacks that really impressed compared to the rest of the league. Clemon’s Trevor Lawrence threw for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns as a true freshman, while Ryan Finley had 3,928 yards and 25 TDs for NC State to wrap up his career with the Pack. You’re well aware of Eric Dungey’s accomplishments as a senior for Syracuse: 2,868 passing yards and 754 rushing yards to go with 33 total touchdowns.

Virginia’s Bryce Perkins also put in a high-quality season (3,603 total yards and 34 TDs) and was one of the primary reasons why the Hoos played so well last year. Ryan Willis (Virginia Tech), Daniel Jones (Duke) and Anthony Brown (Boston College) all threw for at least 20 touchdowns on the year. Deondre Francois was one of seven ACC players to throw for at least 2,500 yards.

NCAA Football: Belk Bowl-South Carolina vs Virginia Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Who will excel in 2019?

Well, Lawrence is a pretty good bet once again, as he takes over the Clemson job for his first full season as starting quarterback. Given the offensive weapons around him, the sky is truly the limit for the numbers the sophomore should be able to put up this season. Perkins also returns as figures to be an essential part of Virginia’s push to win the program’s first Coastal Division title. Though Dungey departs at Syracuse, Tommy DeVito takes the reins as a QB better suited for Dino Babers’s system. He threw for over 500 yards and four TDs (plus three picks) in limited action last year. Hopefully that experience allows him to acclimate quickly.

Elsewhere, Ryan Willis returns to lead the Hokies and push toward a top-40 passing offense. Jamie Newman will be back and healthy for Wake Forest, and his success will dictate whether or not Wake Forest can move past other losses on offense. Kenny Pickett (Pitt) and Anthony Brown (BC) will be as successful as their run games are. And while they won’t necessarily put up huge numbers, they’ve shown themselves to be capable game managers in spots. Florida State’s James Blackman missed most of last year, but with a new offensive system (oof... with Kendall Briles), he could see a huge bounceback this year.

Top three units: 1. Clemson, 2. Virginia, 3. Virginia Tech

Lawrence alone puts you atop the list here, though Chase Brice performed admirably against Syracuse last year (/gnashes teeth) and Taison Phommachanh is another four-star on the depth chart if needed. Virginia found a gem in JUCO transfer Perkins last year, and there’s a deep list of talented players behind him in Brennan Armstrong, Lindell Stone and others. Perkins is the best of the bunch, clearly, but you’ll get enough out of the others.

Virginia Tech lost Josh Jackson (to Maryland) this offseason, so their ranking could surprise here. But along with Willis’s quality 2018 to bank on, the Hokies also have Oregon transfer Braxton Burmeister, Quincy Patterson II and Haden Hooker sitting behind him. The offense has a chance to be dynamic no matter who’s under center.

Bottom three units: 12. North Carolina, 13. Louisville, 14. Georgia Tech

North Carolina has a lot of potential with who’s still on the roster (including top-100 freshman Sam Howell), but we don’t know much about what any of those players can do just yet. And with a new coaching staff, there could be growing pains across the board for the Heels. Louisville’s in a similar boat in terms of coaching turnover, but without the same talent under center. Jawon Pass didn’t show much last year and there are no guarantees of what you’ll get beyond him either.

Georgia Tech’s quarterback situation is nearly a blank slate, with a glut of guys who may or may not be a fit for Geoff Collins’s new offense which is a stark departure from the option-based attack Paul Johnson ran for years with the Wreck. James Graham has the most talent on paper, but the offense is pretty much in wait-and-see mode for now.

Top five quarterbacks in ACC:

  1. Trevor Lawerence, Clemson
  2. Tyrone Perkins, Virginia
  3. Ryan Willis, Virginia Tech
  4. Tommy DeVito, Syracuse
  5. James Blackman, Florida State

Where does Syracuse rank?

Syracuse is still probably among the top-five in terms of overall quarterback position (I’d put them fifth behind the three above and Florida State), but unlike last year, it’s not necessarily a deep group. We saw some of what Tommy DeVito can do in 2018, and now he’ll need to progress from there. Should he go down (please, no), we’re left with former walk-on Clayton Welch, Rex Culpepper who hasn’t thrown a pass in-game since 2017 and true frosh David Summers. Hopefully it doesn’t come to needing anyone past QB1. But other teams are a little bit better situated there than the Orange are right now.