The ACC had a tremendous season for quarterbacks. Virtually every team in the conference boasted a top-notch signal caller and even the young guys proved that offensive firepower isn’t going anywhere soon. Despite a number of early entrants from the position into the NFL Draft, this list clearly shows that there won’t be a drop-off in quarterback play anytime soon.
Returning ACC passing leaders
— David Hale (@DavidHaleESPN) January 12, 2017
1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville – 3,543 yards
The Heisman Trophy winner still has room to grow as a passer, but it may be difficult to improve dramatically with the roster turnover for Louisville at receiver. Jackson loses his top three receiving targets from this past season with the departures of James Quick, Cole Hikutini, and Jamari Staples. That coupled with the added pressure of being the defending Heisman winner may well drag Jackson’s yardage totals down slightly both on the ground and in the air. His 56.2 percent completion percentage last season was fairly average and could stand to improve, but his 30:9 touchdown to interception ratio was truly exceptional.
2. Deondre Francois, Florida State – 3,350 yards
The 2016 ACC Rookie of the Year proved time and time again that he’s incredibly tough and very talented. He showed himself to be very comfortable in the pocket, though he often paid for his patience by absorbing big hits from pass rushers. The Seminoles lose top receiver Travis Rudolph and running back Dalvin Cook who was second on the team with 33 catches, but sophomores Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate will return. Francois will continue to develop as one of the bright young talents in the ACC and he figures to be in the preseason Heisman conversation along with Lamar Jackson.
3. Ryan Finley, N.C. State – 3,055 yards
Finley had a solid season in leading the Wolfpack to a 7-6 record and a dominant win over Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl. However, there’s definitely room for improvement. While his 18:8 touchdown to interception ratio looks good enough on the surface, all of those interceptions came in losses including two a piece in close defeats against Boston College and Clemson. The untimely mistakes will have to improve, but with Finley’s top four targets returning next season the stage is set for a big step forward.
4. Daniel Jones, Duke – 2,836 yards
After veteran Thomas Sirk went down with an injury during preseason camp, Jones surprised many when he was named the starting quarterback as a true freshman. His numbers reflected that at times most obviously in the form of his nine interceptions — five of which came in one game against Virginia. While Duke only won four games last season, two of them were upsets over Army and North Carolina. Jones flashed plenty of ability and his size (6’5″, 210) sets him up to become a coveted pro prosepect. Jones returns three of his top four receivers next season and should benefit from his freshman trial by fire.
5. Eric Dungey, Syracuse – 2,676 yards
Dino Babers can’t run plays fast enough and Eric Dungey is an important part of that strategy — when he’s healthy. Dungey has missed games during both of his college seasons due to injuries, primarily concussions. He posted the above yardage total last year despite missing all of the final three games and most of the Clemson loss. In the two games before the injury, Dungey passed for 745 yards, four scores and two interceptions in back-to-back wins over bowl teams Virginia Tech and Boston College. Dungey is a capable runner, but he has to take better care of his body in the future. If he can stay on the field, the Orange could very well return to postseason in 2017-18.