The Miami Hurricanes aren’t the only program in the ACC with a quarterback controversy on their hands. While Miami’s might be more in fan spirit than in the coaches’ office, the Florida State Seminoles, Clemson Tigers, and UNC Tar Heels have legitimate QB battles on their hands this spring. Here is a breakdown of all three QB battles by program.
Quarterbacks: Kelly Bryant, Hunter Johnson, Trevor Lawrence
Kelly Bryant did most of the starting quarterback work in 2017 for the Clemson Tigers. Clemson finished the 2017 season with a 12-2 record (7-1 ACC) and a College Football Playoff bid. The Tigers eventually lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide 28-6. Clemson destroyed the Miami Hurricanes in the ACC Championship Game and their only loss of the season before the Tide blowout came with Kelly Bryant out injured. Bryant threw for 2802 yards (7.04 yards / attempt) and 13 touchdowns to 8 interceptions. Bryant also ran for 665 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, his lack of efficiency in a post Deshaun Watson world left Clemson vulnerable against a great ‘Bama defense.
The competition will be between Bryant and two players who have thrown 27 total passes in their college careers. Former five-star recruit from the 2017 class, Hunter Johnson, threw all 27 of those attempts for 234 yards and a 2:1 TD:INT ratio. Johnson is joined by five-star quarterback and by some accounts the top rated high school prospect in the country in 2018, Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence, Johnson and Bryant are on-campus and healthy to compete for the starting job.
Winner: Kelly Bryant
Florid State Seminoles
Quarterbacks: James Blackman, Deondre Francois
The Florida State Seminoles did not expect to have a quarterback controversy heading into the 2018 season. Deondre Francois was the clearcut favorite and expected to maintain his starting position. However, he suffered a season-ending injury during their season opener against the Alabama Crimson Tide and James Blackman was thrust into a starting role too early. Jimbo Fisher took his exit after this tumultuous season in Tallahassee and headed off to Texas A&M. New ‘Noles head football coach Willie Taggart failed to bring in his own quarterback in the 2018 class and will rely on Francois and Blackman to determine his passer.
Francois threw for 3,350 and 20 touchdowns with 7 interceptions as a redshirt freshman out of the IMG Academy. Francois is 6-1 205 pounds and can carry the football enough to please Willie Taggart and his offensive scheme. James Blackman, the 6-5 185 pounds quarterback from Belle Glade, FL was forced to play before he was ready and struggled early and often. He threw for 2,230 yards and 19 touchdowns with 11 interceptions and lost 6 games in 2017. Blackman is less mobile than Francois which could hurt his playtime in Taggart’s offense.
Winner: Deondre Francois
UNC Tar Heels
Quarterbacks: Nathan Elliott, Cade Fortin, Jace Ruder, Chazz Surratt
The UNC Tar Heels finished 2017 a dismal 3-9 overall (1-7 ACC). LSU transfer Brandon Harris was a complete disaster throwing for only 4.8 yards per attempt with only 1 touchdown and 8 interceptions. Harris also only ran for 2.5 yards per carry which was supposed to be his strong suit in the UNC offense. Surratt was the most efficient of the two returning quarterbacks between himself and Nathan Elliott. Elliott threw for 926 yards and 10 touchdowns with 5 interceptions as a sophomore. Freshman Chazz Surratt threw for 1342 yards and 8 touchdowns with 3 interceptions and 5 rushing touchdowns.
Larry Fedora was able to recruit in two quarterbacks to the 2018 class. Jace Ruder is a four-star composite rated dual-threat quarterback that has enrolled early up at Chapel Hill. Ruder is a 6-3 205 pound passer from Kansas. Ruder is joined in the 2018 class by Cade Fortin. Fortin is a three-star quarterback from North Gwinnett High School in Georgia. Fortin has also enrolled early and Coach Fedora seems to have a real battle this spring with four quarterbacks looking to prove themselves. I feel that Larry Fedora wants fresh blood leading his huddle and with Ruder having both size and dual-threat ability that will be the man given the keys to the UNC offense for 2018.
Winner: Jace Ruder