Ranking the ACC's starting QBs: Clemson, Virginia have real advantage
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Behind Clemson, the ACC is wide-open in 2019, and an overall lack of experience at the quarterback position is a major reason for the parity.

While a few schools - Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, and Florida State among them - have yet to officially name a starting quarterback, eight of the league's 14 teams will enter the year with a signal-caller who has fewer than 10 career starts. Five schools could go with QBs who have no starting experience at all.

Our ranking of the Power 5 conference starting quarterbacks rolls on with the ACC:

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14. Georgia Tech - Lucas Johnson or Tobias Oliver

Welcome to the never-easy, always-messy process of transitioning out of an option offense.

Retired head coach Paul Johnson ran his offense one way at Georgia Tech for 11 years. He recruited quarterbacks to fit the triple option.

Geoff Collins must now install his own philosophy in Atlanta with the quarterbacks on the roster. That's led to a competition that appears to come down to Johnson or Oliver.

Oliver, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, was TaQuon Marshall's backup last season. He ran for 876 yards and 12 touchdowns but attempted only 16 passes, completing seven.

Johnson, a 6-foot-3 junior, missed last season because of an injury. He completed 58 percent of his passes as a senior in high school, but that was in 2015.

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13. North Carolina - Sam Howell

Howell chose in-state North Carolina over Florida State, putting his faith in Mack Brown's program.

Eight months later, the QB is poised to start as a true freshman when UNC opens the season against South Carolina.

Howell's recruiting rating would rank third among the 14 projected starting quarterbacks in the conference, and he sits second in career passing yards in the state of North Carolina.

There will be growing pains in 2019, but the four-star recruit looks like UNC's best quarterback prospect since Mitch Trubisky.

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12. Louisville - Jawon Pass

Louisville returns its starting quarterback in Pass, but his lack of production in 2018 and an offseason coaching change make it difficult to project how he'll do this year.

The former four-star recruit completed just 54 percent of his passes and finished with more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (eight) last year. It didn't help that Louisville allowed 43 sacks in 12 games, tied for the third-most in the country.

The Cardinals should be better under Scott Satterfield, but it remains to be seen how much Pass has improved in one offseason.

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11. North Carolina State - Matt McKay or Bailey Hockman

North Carolina State faces the challenge of replacing three-year starter Ryan Finley, who is now with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Sophomore McKay appears to be the front-runner in a competition with transfer Hockman and redshirt freshman Devin Leary.

The 6-foot-4, 214-pound McKay backed up Finley last season, completing seven of eight passes for 87 yards in limited action. He's a dual-threat quarterback who ran for 2,386 yards over the course of his high school career.

The Wolfpack have won seven-to-nine games in each of the past five seasons, so there's some pressure to keep such consistency while introducing a new quarterback.

If it isn't McKay, it could be Hockman, who began his career at Florida State before bouncing back to Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College.

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10. Miami (Fla.) - Jarren Williams

This one was hard to predict.

Manny Diaz entered his first camp as coach with a three-quarterback race. One option was N'Kosi Perry, who started six games for the Hurricanes last year.

Tate Martell was the biggest name in the group after his loud transfer from Ohio State.

But it was Williams - the under-the-radar redshirt freshman - who won the job, meaning he'll start Saturday against No. 8 Florida.

The 6-foot-2 athlete was a four-star recruit and the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in his class out of high school. Ohio State and Alabama were among his other offers.

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9. Duke - Quentin Harris

On one hand, Harris takes over for Daniel Jones, the highest-drafted player out of Duke in 32 years.

On the other, he begins his turn as Blue Devils starting quarterback against ... Alabama.

Good luck.

Harris does have a couple of things working in his favor. His coach, David Cutcliffe, has turned the Blue Devils into a bowl-eligible program and is known for his work with quarterbacks.

The fifth-year senior waited patiently for his chance, and after two starts last year against Baylor and North Carolina Central in which he threw six touchdown passes, he'll get that shot.

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8. Pittsburgh - Kenny Pickett

In Pickett's first career start, he threw for 193 yards and a touchdown to help engineer an upset victory over a ranked Miami (Fla.) team.

That game, which concluded Pittsburgh's 2017 season, set things in motion for Pickett to become the starter in 2018.

Now a junior, his 15 career starts rank third among the projected starters in the ACC.

His numbers as a sophomore were somewhat pedestrian - a 58.1 percent completion rate and 6.4 yards per attempt - but he did take care of the football, throwing only six interceptions. The numbers were enough to get the Panthers to the ACC championship game, during which Pickett completed just 4-of-16 passes for 8 yards in a 42-10 loss to Clemson.

Pittsburgh brought in new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, and the addition of the former UMass coach should benefit Pickett.

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7. Syracuse - Tommy DeVito

After Eric Dungey and Dino Babers led Syracuse to its first 10-win season since 2001, the Orange are ranked No. 22 this preseason.

That's a sign of respect for DeVito, who will start his first game when Syracuse travels to Liberty next weekend.

A four-star recruit from Cedar Grove, N.J., DeVito was a coup for Syracuse in recruiting. He completed 44-of-87 passes for 525 yards as Dungey's backup in 2018.

The sophomore is expected to handle quarterback duties for the Orange for the next three seasons.

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6. Boston College - Anthony Brown

With 22 career starts, Brown is the most experienced quarterback in the ACC, and he'll hope to build on the good and dismiss the bad of his 2018 season.

His final numbers for a 7-5 Eagles team were solid: 20 touchdowns, 7.4 yards per attempt, and four games of 250-plus yards passing.

But when Brown was off, he seemed way off. Eight of his nine interceptions came in just three games, which were losses to Purdue, Florida State, and Syracuse. He posted a 15-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the others.

His accuracy (55.4 percent) also left room for improvement, but he still belongs in the upper half of the league entering 2019.

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5. Virginia Tech - Ryan Willis or Hendon Hooker

Willis threw 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in two seasons at Kansas. So it didn't necessarily make a ripple nationally when he transferred to Virginia Tech.

Fast-forward two years and Willis looks like a different player. His 24 touchdown passes ranked fourth in the ACC last season.

He would appear to be a solid option for a Hokies program trying to bounce back from a 6-7 season. Yet head coach Justin Fuente has not officially named his starting quarterback.

Willis is battling sophomore Hooker for the opportunity to start the Aug. 31 opener against Boston College. A 6-foot-4 sophomore, Hooker has not thrown a pass in college.

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4. Wake Forest - Jamie Newman

The Demon Deacons put the quarterback competition to rest this week by naming Newman their starter.

But don't let the idea of a competition fool you into thinking Newman isn't capable of being one of the better quarterbacks in the league.

He led Wake Forest to a 3-1 record in four starts last season. Against North Carolina State, he completed 66.7 percent of his throws for 297 yards and three touchdowns. In a 59-7 rout of Duke, Newman completed 18-of-23 passes, with four of them going for scores.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior runs well, too. His 91 yards and three touchdowns on the ground helped Wake Forest fend off Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl.

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3. Florida State - James Blackman or Alex Hornibrook

Willie Taggart has yet to name his starting quarterback for the opener against Boise State.

Either way, it will be a player with starting experience who will try to help the Seminoles bounce back from a 5-7 season.

Blackman, perhaps the front-runner, started 12 games for Florida State in 2017, throwing for 2,230 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Hornibrook transferred to Tallahassee from Wisconsin, where he started 32 games in three seasons with mixed results.

At 6-foot-5, 195 lbs, Blackman has added weight since his freshman season. He should also be playing behind a better offensive line than he had two years ago - Florida State allowed 32 sacks in 2017. If that holds true, he has a chance to succeed.

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2. Virginia - Bryce Perkins

At No. 2, Perkins is in a tier of his own. He's ranked behind only arguably the best quarterback in college football and is well ahead of the rest of the ACC's signal-callers in terms of proven production.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior threw for 2,680 yards and ran for 923 more last season. On four occasions, he carried the football more than 20 times. His completion percentage (64.5) ranked third in the ACC.

The only question mark for Perkins and Virginia will come against quality opponents. The Cavaliers did not face a ranked opponent in 2018, though only one team on their schedule (Notre Dame) in 2019 is ranked in the preseason AP poll.

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1. Clemson - Trevor Lawrence

It's hard to find the proper description for Lawrence's true freshman season, as even with all the hype and fanfare, he outperformed expectations.

He threw 30 touchdowns to only four interceptions - the last of those coming on Nov. 10 with five games remaining in Clemson's season. In two playoff games, he completed 47-of-71 throws for 674 yards and six touchdowns.

There isn't much more left to say, except that we're likely to get two more seasons of Lawrence's dominance on the college field, barring injury. Savor it.

Previous installments in this series

Ranking the SEC's quarterbacks: Tagovailoa, Fromm in a tier of their own

Ranking the ACC's starting QBs: Clemson, Virginia have real advantage
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