I've been blogging for six and half years now, five of them for SB Nation. So I know it only seems like I've spent my entire blogging career arguing that Tyrod Taylor was overrated and entertaining speculation about who was going to supplant T.J. Yates. Still, it'll be a little strange not seeing either of those two under center this season. And they're just the tip of the quarterback changes the ACC has in store.
Christian Ponder joined Yates and Taylor in the NFL draft. Russell Wilson was pushed out at State and transferred to Wisconsin. Joshua Nesbitt finished his eligibility at Georgia Tech, as did Marc Verica at UVa. Kyle Parker left Clemson for a professional baseball career. The most experienced quarterback remaining, Jacory Harris, may not have the starting job at Miami this season. If he doesn't, the starting quarterback with the most snaps will be... Duke's Sean Renfree.
This more than anything is why I don't think the ACC will overachieve this year. There will be at least seven new quarterbacks, and and three of the returning starters were freshmen last season, and most played like it. So here's the various quarterback situations, from best to worst:
Sean Renfree, Duke: Yes, Duke is really in the best situation with their signal caller. Renfree, a junior, will be in his second full season as the starting QB. Last year he was third in the ACC in passing yards, behind Wilson and Yates. True, this in part because the Blue Devils had no running game, and Renfree also led the the conference in interceptions. But Duke has a solid guy to build an offense around. Just, you know, not much else.
Jacory Harris or Stephen Morris, Miami: The Hurricanes return the guy who's third all-time in passing yards at Miami. But the new coach may not name him the starter. And with good reason; Harris would have had more interceptions than Renfree has he not been injured halfway through the season. That injury allowed Stephen Morris to step into the starting role, where he arguably outperformed Harris, although not without throwing nine picks of his own in six games. Two good options don't total to one great one, however, especially if the starter is always looking over their shoulder and trying to learn a new offense. Miami has the most potential, but a great risk of failure comes with it.
E.J. Manuel, Florida State: Of the new starting quarterbacks, Manuel probably has the most hype coming in. He started four games in 2009, another two last season, and came off the bench to replaced an injured Ponder in a bowl victory over South Carolina. His overall record at FSU is a respectable 5-2, and of all the new quarterbacks he should come up to speed the quickest.
Danny O'Brien, Maryland: O'Brien was the ACC Rookie of the Year last season after taking over the starting job a few games in. He earn with the fourth-best passing efficiency in the ACC and only eight interceptions. He'll also be behind an improved offensive line. Now if only he had someone to throw to. His top two receivers have graduated, leaving a questionable receiving corps. He'll also be without Da'Rel Scott, the Terps top rusher and a fairly productive pass-catcher himself. It'll be interesting to see if he can repeat last year's performance under these conditions.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson: The expectations for Boyd are high this season, based primarily on a second half performance in last season's bowl game. Boyd threw for a 112 yards and two touchdowns in bringing the Tigers back from a 31-13 deficit. Of course, it was Boyd's fourth quarter interception that put the game out of reach in the first place, so the expectations may be too high. Boyd has a new offensive coordinator and a lot of returning receivers, although the latter failed to impress to the extent that folks are looking to incoming freshman Sammy Watkins
Tanner Price, Wake Forest: The only starting quarterbacks in the ACC last season with less attempts than Price were Chase Rettig, who didn't get the gig until halfway through the season, and Josh Nesbitt, who ran the bizarre, no-pass offense at Georgia Tech. Still, the Deacons are high on the guy, and he'll have Josh Harris to hand off to in the backfield, so the demands on his abilities will remain in check. And it's defense-free Wake Forest, so it's not ike the expectations will be crushing, either.
Chase Rettig, Boston College: Rettig is another sophomore quarterback getting a new offensive coordinator. In this case it was dearly needed, as the BC offense was 109th in scoring. The new coach, Kevin Rogers, was previously the quarterback coach at Virginia Tech and the Vikings, so one would presume there will be more passing than last season's Montel Harris-heavy strategy. Rettig has the potential to really take off this season, but it's hard to judge whether he has what it takes to make a giant leap forward.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech: Thomas is getting compared to a lot of big names, but of all the backups taking over starting roles, only Bryn Renner has less experience. Thomas was recruited as a tight end, although he played some QB in high school. He'll have a good offensive line and an easy schedule to help him get up to speed, but few experienced backs to hand off to. All the expectations for this Hokie team rest on this guy's shoulders; he has the least enviable position in the ACC, and will be interesting to see how he handles it.
Mike Glennon, N.C. State: Glennon took the field in three games last season, all blowouts. But he apparently showed enough promise that the Wolfpack were willing to show Russell Wilson the door. He's going to have a tough first year however, as State graduated most of their receivers leaving themselves little depth at the position. Glennon will have Mustafa Greene in the backfield with him, and the result will probably be a run-dominated offense that allows him to get his sea legs slowly. I wouldn't expect too much, however.
Bryn Renner, North Carolina: Renner attempted two passes last season, and has inspired one excellent blog post. Beyond that, he's a pretty big question mark. He impressed enough folks in his first spring practice that many fans preferred him for the starting job over T.J. Yates, but in recent years UNC has taken their sweet time in developing quarterbacks. Renner won't have that luxury, but he will have one of the best receiving corps in the conference and the strongest offensive line the Heels have had in quite some time. He'll also have a head coach who has been in the position for less than a month and John Shoop's not always understandable play calling. He's got the chance to do really well, or he could be captaining a complete disaster. It's not an enviable position by any means.
Unknown, Georgia Tech: Let's face it, the Georgia tech quarterback job really can't be placed on this list, as it's completely different from anything else in the conference. Under Paul Johnson's triple option, Josh Nesbitt would often attempt six passes or fewer a game. Tevin Washington is the incumbent here, having started the last four games after Nesbitt was injured, but Johnson has a redshirt freshman and two true frosh all competing for the least glamorous job in the ACC. Whoever gets the job is going to have a pretty miserable year.
Unknown, Virginia: But not as miserable as whoever gets the job in Charlottesville. There are four guys battling it out there – here's a list – but no one has separated themselves from the pack. The eventual starter will have a supporting cast full of potentially strong players, but no one who has really spent any time as a go-to guy. I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of different starting QBs for the Cavs over the course of the season. I don't think any one guy is going to truly excel.