Sizing up the ACC: Stoudt, Tiger passing game still in top tier

Football - Cole Stoudt & Chad Morris

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football - Cole Stoudt & Chad Morris

Assessing the ACC’s quarterbacks, Jameis Winston as No. 1 is a given.

Taking the keys of Chad Morris’ offense after three years as a backup, Cole Stoudt’s place in the mix may be higher than you think, however.

We’ll have more on expectations for his senior campaign next week, but by virtue of scheme alone, the Ohio product will have every opportunity to put up some major numbers.

Under Morris, Clemson’s had a top-11 passing offense every year – more each season from 2011 (3952) to 2012 (4176) to 2013 (4328).

Tajh Boyd led the ACC in total offense all three seasons, averaging 7.1 yards per play and a touchdown every 17.7 plays.

Turnover is the story across the conference – so much so that Stoudt has the ninth-most pass attempts returning (58) in the 14-team league.

Last season, the ACC had five quarterbacks with 6,000 career passing yards. In 2014, it has none – Clemson, among eight teams replacing starters.

ACC QB exits: Louisville – Teddy Bridgewater (3,970 PY/9.3 YPA/71 cmp/31 TD-4 INT), Clemson - Tajh Boyd (3,851 PY/9.3 YPA/68.5 cmp/34 TD-INT), Miami – Stephen Morris (3,028 PY/8.8 YPA/57.6 cmp/21 TD-12 INT), Pittsburgh – Tom Savage (2,958 PY/7.6 YPA/61.2 cmp/21 TD-9 INT), Virginia Tech – Logan Thomas (2,909 PY/7.2 YPA/56.6 cmp/16 TD-13 INT), Wake Forest – Tanner Price (2,233 PY/5.9 YPA/54.5 cmp/13 TD-10 INT), Boston College – Chase Rettig (1,995 PY/7.6 YPA/61.6 cmp/17 TD-8 INT), N.C. State – Pete Thomas (Transfer: 1,667 PY/6.7 YPA/60.3 cmp/4 TD-9 INT), Georgia Tech – Vad Lee (Transfer: 1,561 PY/8.7 YPA/45.6 cmp/11 TD-10 INT/513 RY).

Among those bringing back their signal-caller are both the reigning divisional champs, FSU (Winston) and Duke (Anthony Boone).

Virginia returns junior David Watford, whose job isn’t set in stone after leading the league in pass attempts (427) with the ninth-most yards (2,202).

Top Returners

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

Jameis Winston, FSU (1)........257-384-10.. .669 ...4057 .....40

Anthony Boone, Duke (2) .....285-470-16.. .606 ...3089 ...19

David Watford, Virginia (1) ....274-501- 19.. .547 ...2548 ...11

--

En route to some nice hardware, Winston led the nation both in QB rating (184.85) and yards per pass (10.6) in 2013 – second in touchdown passes (40).

Boone’s numbers were less spectacular, splitting time in the red zone with (now transferred) Brandon Connette. He had a 75.5 completion percentage in home games with a 143.49 rating, averaging 7.6 yards per attempt. Away from Wallace Wade Stadium, he had as many touchdowns throws (10) as interceptions (10).

Diving into the rest of the ACC…

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.)

Tier 1

1) Florida State – Jameis Winston

Outlook: You’re excused for pointing and laughing at my fifth-best assessment for Winston and the ‘Noles last season, but I did acknowledge he had Johnny Manziel-esque potential. There was nothing cheap about his 2013 campaign – averaging 337 passing yards against ranked opponents (10 YPA) and 336.5 passing yards against winning FBS programs (11.4 YPA) with 24 touchdowns to six picks. He averaged 381.3 yards per game in an October where they came out of Death Valley with a resounding victory.

2) Clemson – Cole Stoudt

Outlook: While Clemson has paced the ACC in passing yards, the program is looking for its first season pairing Morris’ fast-paced tempo with the best yards per pass average. Stoudt has shown efficiency in chances over the last three years, but will have to find the next series of playmakers with Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Rod McDowell gone.

Tier 2

3) Duke – Anthony Boone

Outlook: Can you name the only ACC team to have a top-50 passing offense each of the last five seasons? Well, yeah, it’s Duke and they have one of three ACC quarterbacks with significant starting experience. Back-to-back Coastal champs?

4) Louisville – Will Gardner/Patrick Thomas

Outlook: Life after Teddy Bridgewater – and Charlie Strong, begins in Louisville. Six-foot-five sophomore Will Gardner was named starter out of spring after limited action backing up Bridgewater last season. Bobby Petrino received Georgia Military College transfer Patrick Thomas not long after, bringing a dual-threat to compete with Gardner. Either one will have the benefit of Bridgewater’s top target, 6-3 senior DeVante Parker, who averaged 16.1 yards per catch last season.

5) North Carolina – Marquise Williams

Outlook: Junior Marquise Williams figures to be the guy after leading UNC to a 4-1 finish to a bowl berth in injured senior Bryn Renner’s stead last season. In a bowl win over Cincinnati, he completed 19-of-33 attempts for 209 yards and a touchdown, rushing for 46 yards.

Tier 3

6) Pittsburgh – Chad Voytik

Outlook: Pitt’s passing attack was middle-of-the-road in its ACC debut, but signal-caller Tom Savage did get picked late in the NFL draft. Redshirt sophomore Chad Voytik played in four 2013 games, totaling 116 passing yards, but did excel in spot duty to lead Pitt to a bowl win over Bowling Green (5-9 for 108 yards, TD rush). It doesn't hurt he has one of the ACC's two 1,000-yard receivers in sophomore Tyler Boyd (85 catches for 1,174 yards, 7 TD).

7) Miami – Kevin Olsen/Ryan Williams

Outlook: Four-star and redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen is the favorite headed into fall camp after senior Ryan Williams went down to an ACL tear. Williams is expected back at some point in the season per coach Al Golden. The ‘Canes have the potential move up this list as one of five teams to finish in the top-40 in passing each of the last two seasons – and third only to Clemson and Florida State in recruiting of late.

8) Virginia Tech – Michael Brewer/Mark Leal

Outlook: After a breakout sophomore campaign, the Logan Thomas era ended with a whimper – and so Virginia Tech’s quarterback production with it. A couple offensive coordinators later, the Hokies' next quarterback will be either three-year backup Mark Leal or Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer. A Lake Travis product, Brewer was Chad Morris’ last quarterback before leaving for the Tulsa job in 2010. After restrictions put on Texas school transfers, the favorite for the Red Raiders job last year – before injury – decided to take his talents to the Atlantic Coast. Leal has played each of the last three seasons, but his numbers have regressed, throwing two interceptions to zero touchdowns with his most playing time last year.

9) NC State – Jacoby Brissett

Outlook: After a disastrous debut, N.C. State’s Dave Doeren finally has his QB in Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett. In Doeren's words, from an Orlando Sentinel article: “Last year, just to watch him lead and compete in practice every day and to see how serious he takes his performance is exciting. It’s exciting to see how he’s progressed. He needs a lot of game-time now. It’s his team, the way he wanted it."

10) Syracuse – Terrel Hunt

Outlook: A rising junior, Terrel Hunt had a bit of competition this spring – emerging as the starter going into the fall. Hunt had quite the start to 2013, leading the country in ESPN’s QBR – until he met Vic Beasley and co. in early October and threw three interceptions. He’s put on some weight as one of the ACC’s top dual-threats, rushing for 500 yards even last season.

11) Virginia – Greyson Lambert/David Watford

Outlook: Virginia’s passing game had a high volume and few results, leaving the job quite open headed into the UCLA opener. Junior David Watford started all 12 games last season. Redshirt sophomore Greyson Lambert (6-5 225) completed 21-of-32 passes for 209 yards, a touchdown and no picks in mop-up duty in losses to UNC and Miami late last season.

12) Boston College – Tyler Murphy

Outlook: BC has the ACC’s other Florida Gator QB transfer, who quickly assumed the No. 1 spot in spring ball. He started six games last year with unspectacular results on a quite unspectacular team – averaging 6.6 yards per attempt, totaling 1,216 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions.

Tier 4

13) Georgia Tech – Justin Thomas/Tim Byerly

Outlook: After ’13 starter Vad Lee’s transfer, redshirt sophomore Justin Thomas is expected to take the reins. He played in 10 games, averaging 7.7 yards per pass and second on the team with 7.1 yards per carry. Middle Tennessee State transfer Tim Byerly is also in the mix after limited playing time last season.

14) Wake Forest – Kevin Sousa/Tyler Cameron

Outlook: Three out of the last four seasons the Deacs have finished 93rd or worse nationally in passing, but they do have new blood in offensive-minded first-year coach Dave Clawson. That doesn’t mean he has much to work with – redshirt sophomore Tyler Cameron struggling to close spring practice and a QB-then-WR-then-QB again a favorite for the job in Kevin Sousa. Sousa completed half of his passes (16-32) for 178 yards with a touchdown and interception in the Wake Forest’s final scrimmage.

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Comments » 2

YabbaDaboDooDoo writes:

Only in Clemson could someone put a QB who has 8 career TD passes in 3 years in the same tier/class as a Heisman-winning national champion. Outside of FSU and possibly Duke, everyone else doesn't really know what they're getting at QB going into the season. And that includes Clemson. Has Stoudt taken any meaningful snaps at Clemson? Clemson's backup is a true freshman so Clemson's season will go as Stoudt goes. If Stoudt channels the ghost of Tajh Boyd then that's the kind of season Clemson will have. If he struggles then so will Clemson. Or at least they'll struggle with the the few teams on their schedule who can field a decent team. You knew what you had with Tajh Boyd, it was only a question of winning the big games. You knew you had 9 wins in the bag thanks to the soft ACC and a veteran QB. Now you don't. You can still go 11-1 or 12-2 but Stoudt could also cause you to go 8-4 or worse if he's a disaster. The season goes as Stoudt goes.

If Fedora would name Marquise Williams as the starter, he should be #2. He started about half the year and played well. He had more TDs last year (15) than Stoudt has had in 3 years (8). And they can do more with him. He had a game last year where he had a TD passing, rushing, and receiving. You say you're "looking at not only the player’s ability, but the surrounding cast that can help him get the W's and numbers". UNC is loaded at RB and have their big-play receivers back. UNC will put up points. Their weakness is on the other side of the ball which should have nothing to do with QB rankings. Clemson on the other hand is not only breaking in a new QB, but they have to replace their top rusher and receivers. It seems the only thing that you're using to put Cole Stoudt #2 is Chad Morris's scheme. If UNC toughens up even a little on defense then they'll win the coastal.

BrandonRink writes:

in response to YabbaDaboDooDoo:

Only in Clemson could someone put a QB who has 8 career TD passes in 3 years in the same tier/class as a Heisman-winning national champion. Outside of FSU and possibly Duke, everyone else doesn't really know what they're getting at QB going into the season. And that includes Clemson. Has Stoudt taken any meaningful snaps at Clemson? Clemson's backup is a true freshman so Clemson's season will go as Stoudt goes. If Stoudt channels the ghost of Tajh Boyd then that's the kind of season Clemson will have. If he struggles then so will Clemson. Or at least they'll struggle with the the few teams on their schedule who can field a decent team. You knew what you had with Tajh Boyd, it was only a question of winning the big games. You knew you had 9 wins in the bag thanks to the soft ACC and a veteran QB. Now you don't. You can still go 11-1 or 12-2 but Stoudt could also cause you to go 8-4 or worse if he's a disaster. The season goes as Stoudt goes.

If Fedora would name Marquise Williams as the starter, he should be #2. He started about half the year and played well. He had more TDs last year (15) than Stoudt has had in 3 years (8). And they can do more with him. He had a game last year where he had a TD passing, rushing, and receiving. You say you're "looking at not only the player’s ability, but the surrounding cast that can help him get the W's and numbers". UNC is loaded at RB and have their big-play receivers back. UNC will put up points. Their weakness is on the other side of the ball which should have nothing to do with QB rankings. Clemson on the other hand is not only breaking in a new QB, but they have to replace their top rusher and receivers. It seems the only thing that you're using to put Cole Stoudt #2 is Chad Morris's scheme. If UNC toughens up even a little on defense then they'll win the coastal.

Track record and talent - Clemson and FSU have unmatched skill position talent year in and year out in the ACC and it would be very surprising if that dropped off below any other conference teams. And Stoudt has taken meaningful snaps (not that many mind you) and done well with them. He has a high completion rate, a pretty veteran o-line and talent everywhere at receiver. He'll do just fine.

I'm waiting on the Fed-spread to break out for sure. Maybe this is the year. Comparing Stoudt to Williams on stats really isn't fair though since Williams had 181 more plays with the ball in his hand last season than Stoudt has had in his career. He was playing because Renner was hurt and did well enough to win some games, but it's not like they lit the world on fire. ACC ranks: 6th in scoring (32.7), 11th in rushing (148.31), No. 3 in passing (38 yards per game behind FSU at No. 2, about 40 YPG lower than season average in the final five games), No. 6 in total offense (425.7 YPG, a full 80 YPG behind Clemson, almost 100 behind FSU).

I can see with a breakout season UNC's QB unit being in the top-three, especially with the style of offense.

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