Many ACC teams set to open with unproven QBs

Aug. 27, 2014 @ 11:33 PM

There's plenty of buzz around the Atlantic Coast Conference with the addition of a new team, the latest Heisman Trophy winner and the reigning national champion.

Top-ranked Florida State's run to the national title and the arrival of fast-rising Louisville have raised the ACC's profile.

But the strength of the league as a whole this season could depend on the arms of numerous unproven commodities at quarterback — besides Jameis Winston, the Seminoles' Heisman winner, of course.

At least 10 schools will debut new starting QBs this week, including three transfers and a pair of true freshmen.

Those concerns might be unfounded, new Clemson starter Cole Stoudt said.

"According to some of the guys, we're not going to get a first down," said Stoudt, who is replacing three-year starter Tajh Boyd.

"I think people are going to be shocked by what we're going to do," he added. "People are underestimating what we have, looking at all the negatives instead of the positives we have."

The numbers perhaps tell a different story: According to STATS, only nine current ACC quarterbacks have made at least one career start — and three of them made those starts at other schools.

Only one ACC QB — Duke's Anthony Boone — ever started a game for his current school before last season.

And no one in the league has made more career starts than Winston — all 14 of his came during his big redshirt freshman season in 2013.

A major subplot this season will be whether the ACC can produce a serious challenger for the Seminoles — and along with that, whether there's another elite quarterback in the league who can make his team a legitimate threat to Florida State.

Boone says the league needs another quarterback to step up and challenge Winston — and naturally, he hopes he'll be the one to do it.

The Duke quarterback said he hung around with Winston over the summer at the Manning Passing Academy and the Heisman winner told him "I'll see you in Charlotte" for a rematch in the ACC championship game.

"As a competitor, you want to be the best on your team, you want to be the best in your league," Boone said. "If somebody told me that I can challenge (Winston), that's fine with me."

The league's only other returning full-time starter is Terrel Hunt of Syracuse. North Carolina is still deciding between Marquise Williams — who started six games last season due to injuries to regular starter Bryn Renner — and redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky.

David Watford started all 12 games of Virginia's 2-10 finish last year. But backup Greyson Lambert, a redshirt sophomore, beat Watford for the starting job with all of 75 college passes on his resume.

"His pass attempts have been more than nine of the likely starters to be named starters" in the ACC, coach Mike London said. "There is an experience that this year, this team, that the quarterbacks do have."

Plenty of other first-time starters also will get their chance this weekend.

Two transfers from Florida — Jacoby Brissett at North Carolina State and Tyler Murphy at Boston College — are pegged to start along with ex-Texas Tech backup Michael Brewer, who's now at Virginia Tech.

Brissett, who made four starts for the Gators in 2011 and 2012, promised to "just make sure I don't mess up the first snap."

Pittsburgh (Chad Voytik), Louisville (Will Gardner) and Georgia Tech (Justin Thomas) also are debuting new QBs who have at least spent some time in their respective systems.

That's not the case at Miami, where true freshman Brad Kaaya beat out another transfer — Jake Heaps, formerly of BYU and Kansas. And John Wolford will become the first true freshman QB since 1974 to start a Wake Forest opener.

"He is our best quarterback, so I can't worry about whether he's a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior," new Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. "In a perfect world, you'd always love to have the guy be in the system for one or two years before he plays. But we're going to put the guys out there that give us the best chance to win. And he clearly won the job."

Now, it's time for all those new quarterbacks to show they can win games.