The Comeback’s college football conference previews continue this week, as we move on to the ACC. Here’s a quick look at what to expect from the league’s quarterbacks this fall.
Q. Who are the top returning quarterbacks in the ACC?
3. Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse
One of the more pleasant surprises in the league last year, Dungey had a great first season at the controls of Dino Babers’ offense. In nine games, he completed 230 of 355 passes for 2,679 yards with an impressive 15/7 TD-to-INT ratio. He also had two games where he completed more than 80% of his passes, going 34-for-40 against Colgate and 32-for-38 against Boston College. As long as he remains healthy, he’ll be a contender for all-conference honors this season.
2. Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State
Heading into the fall, some felt that the Seminoles might have a quarterback controversy brewing. Francois ended that discussion in the season opener against Ole Miss, connecting on 33 of 52 passes for 419 yards, while guiding FSU to the largest comeback in school history. Francois continued to play well all year long, finishing 18th nationally in yards per attempt, and throwing zero interceptions on third down. Provided that the ‘Noles do a better job protecting him (108th in the country in sacks allowed), Francois is more than capable of leading the team to another ACC championship.
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Make no mistake about it: Jackson is the most explosive player in college football. Every time the ball is in his hands, the Cardinals have a chance to wind up in the end zone. He was definitely one of the most better passers in the conference, throwing for 3,543 yards and 30 TD’s, with a league-leading 8.7 yards per attempt. In addition, he finished 12th in the country in rushing yards per game (120.85) and 8th in long plays from scrimmage (65 plays of 10+ yards or more). Even though the Cardinals need to replace six starters on offense, don’t be surprised to see Jackson equal or exceed last year’s numbers.
Q. Which quarterback is poised for a breakout season?
I’ll go with Kurt Benkert at Virginia. Don’t get me wrong: Benkert wasn’t exactly terrible last year, as he threw for 2,552 yards and 21 TD’s in 2016. However, he wasn’t fully healthy, playing with a separated (non-throwing) shoulder for most of the season. Finally back at full strength, he took almost all of the snaps at quarterback in the spring. I expect for those extra reps to pay dividends this fall, resulting in a 3,000-yard campaign.
Q. Which newcomer should we keep an eye on this fall?
Without question, it’s Max Browne. Yes, he lost his job to Sam Darnold at USC. But that’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially considering how well Darnold played over the second half of the season. Regardless, Browne is still an experienced college quarterback, throwing for 650 yards in his career with a respectable 61.6% completion percentage. His game experience – particularly the starts against Alabama and Stanford – makes him the ideal candidate to succeed departed quarterback Nathan Peterman this fall. Despite a subpar spring game, look for him to have a big year for the Panthers.
Q. What’s the most intriguing quarterback situation?
It’s definitely Miami, where the quarterback situation is as clear as mud. Currently, Evan Shirreffs and Malik Rosier sit atop the depth chart as Co-No. 1’s. However, since Mark Richt didn’t tab either one of them as the guy going forward, it’s hard to think that N’Kosi Perry isn’t in the mix. Another intriguing option is walk-on Vincent Testaverde who started one game for Texas Tech back in 2014. It’ll be interesting to see which of these players separates himself from the pack, as the ‘Canes try to win their first division title since joining the ACC.