ACC is loaded at quarterback

ACC is loaded at quarterback

Football

ACC is loaded at quarterback

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By Ed McGranahan.

By Ed McGranahan

Chase Rettig of Boston College probably knows more offense than any quarterback in the Atlantic Coast Conference, perhaps in the nation.

After five offensive coordinators in five years, the breadth of his knowledge would be incontrovertible. Yet Rettig’s name rarely enters conversations about this season’s top quarterbacks in the ACC. In Tajh Boyd, Stephen Morris, Bryn Renner, Logan Thomas, the ACC may have the best collection of quarterbacks in the nation.

All four are ambitious, play for teams capable of competing for the ACC Championship and are among the 10 best prospects at the position in next year’s NFL Draft.

Playing in a scheme similar to Clemson’s, Renner may finish as the most productive passer in North Carolina history. He has twice set school records for touchdown passes and is the ACC’s career leader in passing efficiency. As a junior he completed 276 of 422 passes for 3,356 yards and 28 touchdowns. He threw only seven interceptions.

“He can make all the throws, and he’s making good decisions,” said UNC coach Larry Fedora. “Now, it’s about managing our offense, about managing our football team. It is understanding when do I need to thread that needle. When do I need to force that ball? And when is it okay to punt?

“As he learns that, when to make those decisions, he’s going to be a great quarterback. That’s what I am anticipating.”

Fedora believes Renner “can take this offense where it has never been before.”

While Boyd gets high marks for his accuracy as a passer, toughness as a runner and cool under pressure, actually there’s a school of thought that ultimately Morris of Miami maybe the better prospect for the NFL. As a junior he completed 245 of 421 passes for 3,345 yards and 21 touchdowns and broke Bernie Kosar’s single-season record for total offense with 3,415 yards. He won the skills competition at the Manning Camp, which Boyd did not attend.

The NFL Draft Xchange ranked him the third highest rated QB prospect this year.

Out of the box, Thomas is physically the most impressive of the four and early last season he was thought to be a prime candidate for first-round draft status, but an erratic season in which he completed 51.3 percent of passes and threw 16 interceptions crippled his stock.

At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds he’s bigger than Cam Newton, but rather than leave Virginia Tech early he wisely returned. “I have a lot to work on,” he said.

Until any of them prove differently Boyd retains a firm grip as the league’s best. All-American and reigning ACC player of the year, he owns league records for touchdowns passes and total offense in a season and could easily finish as one of its two most prolific passers – with Philip Rivers the other – as well as one of the most efficient.

One month before the Georgia game, Boyd is second only to Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville – who missed being part of this conversation by one year – among this year’s NFL quarterback prospects.

According to Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN, questions remain about Boyd’s height and, for some inexplicable reason, apparently he loses points for having superb receivers.

“People who would question Boyd because he was throwing to a great arsenal of pass-catchers last year should watch what he did against LSU,” Kiper wrote recently. “Boyd might as well have gone 12 rounds with Rocky in that game. Not only did he take hits on a lot of designed runs, the LSU defense battered him, but he played through it.

“The kid is tough.”

His height aside, Kiper wrote, “He’s also got a big arm, can make the deep throws both inside the numbers and to the sidelines and shows good awareness, the ability to scan the whole field and check it down.”

Should Boyd win back-to-back ACC Player of the Year Awards, he would be the first since former FSU quarterback Charlie Ward. Coincidentally, one of the rising stars among ACC quarterbacks is Jameis Winston, a freshman from Florida State.

While there are no guarantees at this point, said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, it would be a small upset of Winston isn’t taking snaps when the Seminoles arrive in Death Valley this season. A dual threat, two-sport athlete from Hueytown, Ala., Winston caught Boyd’s attention by throwing out a runner at home plate from right field during a baseball game.

Quarterback remains a work in progress at several ACC schools including N.C. State, Syracuse and Pitt. And there are a few others that are more than capable of becoming impact players for the teams including Vad Lee in the Georgia Tech triple option, smart and savvy Tanner Price of Wake Forest, and C.J. Brown of Maryland whom missed last season with a knee injury after looking Heisman worthy in his very first start two years ago against Clemson.

And, of course, Rettig, starter in 32 straight games one of four Boston College quarterbacks to throw for 3,000 yards in a season. Rettig, with five offensive coordinators in five years, has done it twice.

Each of the five playbooks is comprised of more than 200 pages.

Rettig said he kept them all, hoping one may come in handy someday.

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