This summer I previewed the quarterbacks that UNC was slated to schedule this season. A lot can change in football between July and December, so naturally my preseason quarterback rankings weren’t 100% accurate. Some quarterbacks played better or worse than projected coming into the year. Some of the quarterbacks on the list either lost their starting spot or got hurt and didn’t even play against the Tar Heels. So with the gift of hindsight here’s the correct rankings of all the opposing quarterbacks Carolina played against, plus a peek at the signal caller for Carolina’s bowl opponent Temple.
- Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (previous: 1)
I’m not sure anyone’s quite over how amazing that Clemson game was. Lawrence only went 18/30 for 206 yards against the Tar Heels, but something must have clicked because he’s been unbelievable since leaving Chapel Hill. Lawrence has thrown for over 3,000 yards and is top five nationally in both passing touchdowns and QBR. He also has the Tigers in the playoffs with a chance to defend their national title.
2. Bryce Perkins, Virginia (previous: 3A)
Perkins helped the Cavaliers complete the circle of life in the ACC Coastal, becoming the seventh team to win the division in the last seven seasons. Perkins went 31/38 for 378 yards and three touchdowns against Carolina, which all eliminated any chance the Tar Heels had at winning the division. Perkins also helped Virginia beat Virginia Tech for the first time since 2003 and played the Cavaliers into the Orange Bowl.
3. Jamie Newman, Wake Forest (previous: N/A)
My biggest mistake of the entire season was dismissing Wake Forest’s delayed hand off at the mesh point and thinking UNC could simply blow it up. So you can imagine my shock when Wake Forest was up 21-0 and Jamie Newman looked like Cam Newton 2.0. Carolina figured something out in the second half and had a chance to win on the last drive of the game. Behind Newman Wake ended up being maybe the second best team in the conference, and Newman would get my vote for ACC Most Improved Player if the award existed and if I even had a vote.
4. Jake Bentley, South Carolina (previous: 2)
Bentley actually ended up breaking his foot against North Carolina, ending his season. He also announced he was transferring from South Carolina with his last year of eligibility, so his last game as a Gamecock was a loss to the Tar Heels. Bentley only went 16/30 for 142 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. It’s unclear at what point in the game he broke his foot, though, so I’m blaming the poor stat line on his foot. Bentley is transferring into a crowded quarterback room at Utah, but if he wins the job is lined up to have a successful final year of eligibility.
5. Hendon Hooker, Virginia Tech (previous: N/A)
Whatever quarterback evaluation went on in Blacksburg to determine that Hooker shouldn’t have been the starter from day one should never be replicated, ever again. I can’t understand how it was even a competition in training camp, let alone Hooker not even winning. Hooker only went 8/12 for 127 yards against UNC, splitting time with two other quarterbacks in what was surely the weirdest game of the year. After Virginia Tech got blown out by Duke 45-10 the Hokies’ season could have gone down the drain, but Hooker had them one win against Virginia away from winning the ACC Coastal.
6. Zac Thomas, Appalachian State (previous: 3B)
Thomas led the Mountaineers to wins against the ACC and SEC, and was an upset loss away from and undefeated season and possible Cotton Bowl berth. Against Carolina Thomas went 20/29 for 224 yards and an interception, and also rushed for 57 yards. There’s not one thing Thomas excels at, but he does everything well and had a hell of a career for the Mountaineers.
7. Anthony Russo, Temple (NEW)
Tar Heel fans have a week or two to get acquainted with Russo and the explosive Temple offense. Russo has a strong arm and big frame that makes him hard to bring down. His footwork is somewhat choppy, but he has really good pocket manipulation. He has a quick release, which paired with his frame makes him hard to bring down. Carolina is going to have to be sharp in coverage and bring pressure quickly.
8. Quentin Harris, Duke (previous: 8)
Harris wasn’t spectacular but he was reliable all season for the Blue Devils. Against North Carolina Harris went 22/39 for 229 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His completion percentage hovered right under 60% all season, but he was able to do a ton of damage with his legs, racking up 510 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. Even though it wasn’t an amazing season statistically, the best ability is availability and Harris played in every game for the Blue Devils.
9. Jarren Williams, Miami (previous: N/A)
The freshman from Georgia winning the starting job over incumbent starter N’kosi Perry and Ohio State transfer Tate Martell was maybe the biggest surprise of the off season. Williams had an up and down year, but ultimately did prove to be the best quarterback on the Hurricanes’ roster. He had a blazing hot start to the season, keeping pace with Sam Howell for best freshman quarterback in the ACC. This included a hell of a game against the Tar Heels, where he went 30/39 for 309 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t enough for Miami though and Carolina still came out with arguably the biggest win of the season.
10. Kenny Pickett, Pitt (previous: 11)
Pickett moved up a spots from his preseason ranking of 11th all the way into the 10th spot. Pickett had one of his better games of the season against the Tar Heels, completing 25/41 of his passes and throwing for 359 yards and a touchdown. On the season he threw for over 2,700 yards, but only has a 10/9 touchdown to interception ratio.
11. Devin Leary, NC State (previous: N/A)
Folks who watched the Tar Heels’ game against State might be surprised to see Leary as high as 11th. Leary only completed 7/20 passes with one touchdown and two interceptions in the last game of the year for the Wolfpack. He took over for the Wolfpack in mid-October, and NC State actually ended the year on a six game losing streak so Leary didn’t record a win this season. With a full offseason he should be much improved heading into next season.
12. James Graham, Georgia Tech (previous: N/A)
After abandoning the triple-option, Georgia Tech was set for the biggest rebuilding year in the entire country. Whoever was starting at quarterback was going to struggle. Against Carolina Graham went 11/24 for 171 yards, and also threw a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. Like Leary, he’ll be improved after another full off-season in Georgia Tech’s new system.
13. Harrison Frost, Mercer (previous: N/A)
Frost went 5/7 for 92 yards and one touchdown and one interception against the Tar Heels. Mercer was overmatched from kickoff and there wasn’t much anyone under center could have done for the Bears.