Sizing up the ACC: Boyd leads mix of youth, experience at QB

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas carries the ball against Clemson.

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas carries the ball against Clemson.

Tajh Boyd, after back-to-back seasons first-team All-ACC, is class of the conference at quarterback. Is anybody else close?

There are a couple candidates.

The ACC returns five QBs with over 6,000 career passing yards – a first – and also representative of a more pass-happy conference of late.

Nine of the 12, and both incoming teams (Syracuse and Pittsburgh), passed for over 3,000 yards last season. Nine of the pack averaged 260 passing yards a game, after only two did so the season before (Clemson and Duke).

That likely won’t be the case this year though, as five teams return six or less pass attempts from 2012. The top-six ACC career leaders…

ACC’s Top Returning Passers (career numbers)

Name, School (Yrs starting) .......C-A-I.... Pct..Yards . TDs

Tajh Boyd, CU (2)........618-989-28.. .625 ...8053 .....73

Tanner Price, WF (3) .....618-1073-21.. .576 ...6666 ...39

Bryn Renner, UNC (2) ....516-774- 20.. .667 ...6456 ...54

Chase Rettig, BC (3) ......523-979- 31... .534 ...6257 ...33

Logan Thomas, VT (2) ......466-846-26... .551 ...6096 ...37

Stephen Morris, MIA (2)...353-611-18... .578 ...4868 ...28

Price and Rettig are both three-year starters, who’ve had up-and-down seasons on teams trending downward of late.

Rettig, with no running game to speak of, passed for a career-high 3,060 yards last season (17 TDs/13 INTs), but lagged in passing efficiency (115.8) along with Price (109) among the ACC’s worst. Price, commanding an injury-impaired Deacs’ attack, averaged just 5.6 yards per pass attempt.

On the flipside, UNC’s Renner and Miami’s Morris have shown potential to post nationally-competitive numbers.

Boyd finished second in the nation in points responsible for (21.54 per game) and was in the top-10 in passing yards (3,896) and passing efficiency (165.6). Renner finished in the top-25 in all three, (3,356 PY; 14.5 points per game 150.78 eff.). Morris was 24th nationally with 3,345 passing yards – and that’s missing a bowl game.

Top returning dual-threats (career numbers)

Virginia Tech: Logan Thomas – 333 rushes/1,015 yards/20 TDs

Clemson: Tajh Boyd – 351 carries/765 yards/16 TDs

Maryland: C.J. Brown – 80 carries/586 yards/5 TDs

Georgia Tech: Vad Lee – 96 carries/544 yards/9 TDs

Logan Thomas is almost in a category by himself. The NFL-draft-expert-drool-inducing prospect, standing 6-6 260, played his way out of any potential early jump to the pros with a disappointing junior season, across the board.

He barely completed 50 percent of his passes (51.3), throwing just two more TDs (18) than picks (16), and saw his rushing totals drop by four yards a game (to 36).

Adding to the mix, Thomas is under a third-different playcaller in three seasons and returns an ACC-low 22.2 percent of the receiving yards back (Clemson is the second-lowest, 41.1).

We’ve talked Boyd’s rushing impact already, but he should run among the ACC’s best after Clemson used him effectively as a battering ram in short yardage – and he also escaped the pocket for big plays.

As you will see below, there’s a healthy number of dual-threat QBs looking to break on scene in ACC football this season, and there’s a good chance one or two emerge to be right there with the top returners listed above.

Projecting the ACC QBs

(If you haven’t been around with us before, the rankings are based on production/field impact – not a straight measure of their abilities like a NFL draft board. We’re looking at not only the player’s ability, but the surrounding cast that can help him get the W's and numbers.)

1) Clemson – Tajh Boyd

Outlook: Boyd has it all – the physical tools, the weapons at his disposal and one of the top playcallers in the country. It’ll be a shock if he doesn’t go three in a row on first-team All-ACC and en route for much more than that.

2) Miami – Stephen Morris

Outlook: Morris commands an offense that returns 10 starters and almost 80 percent of the receiving returning (78.4). Taking over for Jacory Harris last year, his completion percentage was low (58.2) and production up (3,345 yards/21 TD/7 INT). Seems like the completion percentage and the production are both due to go up for what could be a Coastal-favorite ‘Canes.

3) UNC – Bryn Renner

Outlook: In the spread attack, Renner has been a model of consistency, with a career 154.6 efficiency rating (Boyd’s is 149.6). He found a connection with rising sophomore Quinshad Davis last season (61 receptions/776 yards), and filling the void at running back (Gio Bernard jumping to the NFL), the Tar Heels should turn to the air plenty this season.

4) Boston College – Chase Rettig

Outlook: Rettig is on a fourth playcaller in four seasons, but should get a little more help in the running game this season, while improving in efficiency passing. He has as much continuity as any in the receiver corps, BC bringing back 91.7 percent of its receiving yards – including All-ACC receiver Alex Amidon.

5) Florida State – Jameis Winston

Outlook: Winston’s name carries a buzz unlike any outside of Boyd in the ACC. ESPN Elite 11 coordinator (and former NFL QB) Trent Dilfer tagged him as a sure NFL draft first-rounder (in 2015). Rated the No. 1 QB in the 2012 class, Winston redshirted behind the journeyman E.J. Manuel last season. Can he play? Absolutely. Does he have the corps around him to succeed? Yep. The question is if he’s Johnny Manziel…or something more resembling the typical talented freshman in his first year starting. We shall see.

6) Virginia – David Watford/Greyson Lambert

Outlook: Descending deep into a questions-filled second tier of ACC QBs, Virginia is about as interesting as any. Languishing in third on the depth chart last season, former highly-touted prospect David Watford redshirted after playing his freshman season. Then this offseason, part-time starter Michael Rocco transferred and the other part-time starter Phillip Sims was ruled academically ineligible this spring. It’s Watford’s show now and he has a decent supporting cast, in an offense in transition (new OC/former State coach Tom O’Brien on staff now). Redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert is also in the mix to take over.

7) Virginia Tech – Logan Thomas

Outlook: Thomas had a great debut and a junior slump. He’s somewhere in between this season, under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.

8) Wake Forest – Tanner Price

Outlook: Price, one of the more efficient interception avoiding QBs in ACC history, had to steer a sinking Wake ship that had countless injuries last season. He has, however, one of the best receivers in the ACC in Michael Campanaro and should improve in his final campaign.

9) Duke – Anthony Boone

Outlook: Three-year starter Sean Renfree’s days are done in Durham, making way for a revamped attack under junior Anthony Boone. Boone is expected to lead a more read-option oriented offense after seeing time in 22 games over the last two seasons. He excelled in a start against Virginia last season, passing for four touchdowns in a 42-17 win. Also in the mix as a Wildcat QB is Brandon Connette, who punched in eight scores last year.

10) Georgia Tech – Vad Lee/Justin Thomas

Outlook: Redshirt sophomore Vad Lee’s time is now after splitting time last season. Hailed as a better passer than GT has had recently, Lee was spotty in 2012 – completing 48 percent, while averaging 5.7 yards per carry in the run-fueled scheme. Redshirt freshman Justin Thomas, who was rated as a four-star athlete out of Alabama, is pushing Lee if he doesn’t perform. Neither lit it up in the spring game – a combined 7-of-20 with two interceptions and a lone throwing score (Lee) for 69 yards, but in Paul Johnson's offense, that isn't exactly the emphasis.

11) Maryland C.J. Brown

Outlook: Brown was the first, preseason, of four Terps QBs to sustain a season-ending injury in 2012. New Mexico transfer Ricardo Young was the only player with experience healthy for Maryland this spring, but Brown, who had his moments as a dual-threat in 2011, is the favorite.

12) N.C. State – Manny Stocker/Pete Thomas/Brandon Mitchell

Outlook: New scheme, new QB in Raleigh as former Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren brings the spread to NC State. Two transfers, Pete Thomas (Colorado State) and Brandon Mitchell (Arkansas) are in the mix, along with sophomore Manny Stocker. Mitchell didn’t transfer until after spring ball after coming in at No. 2 on the depth chart. He brings that dual-threat element, which is key to the new offense, that Thomas and Stocker weren’t exactly recruited for under the previous regime. Wherever they go, it will be tough to unseat the production of Mike Glennon over the last couple years.

13) Syracuse Terrel Hunt/Charley Loeb/Drew Allen

Outlook: Bias against the ACC newbies? It doesn’t help that one of the more prolific passers in Syracuse history moved on to the pros (Ryan Nassib), and his replacement is a big question mark. The Orange should ride workhorse tailback Jerome Smith (1,171 yards/3 TDs in 2012) either way, but senior Charley Loeb, sophomore mobile-threat Terrel Hunt and Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen are vying for the job. Hunt has the edge out of spring ball, after completing 19-of-29 attempts for 209 yards and two touchdowns in the ‘Cuse spring game.

14) Pittsburgh – Tom Savage/Chad Voytik

Outlook: If the name Tom Savage sounds familiar, you are indeed a college football junkie. He started as a freshman at Rutgers (2,211 yards/14 TDs-7 INTs), lost his job as a sophomore (521 yards/2 TDs/3 INTs), transferred to Arizona and then to Pitt. Sophomore Chad Voytik stated his case for the No. 1 spot in the spring game, completing 27-of-33 passes for 358 yards and three scores. Panther coach Paul Chryst says it's anybody's game going into the fall.

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