• Cam Parker

Predicting the Starting QBs: ACC


Boston College


Phil Jurkovec

2020: Jurkovec, Dennis Grosel


The 2020 season saw the emergence of a new star quarterback in the ACC by way of Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec. After throwing for 2558 yards along with 17 touchdowns to only five interceptions, Jurkovec took advantage of his opportunity and quickly emerged as one of the ACC’s best quarterbacks. However, an injury at the end of the season thrusted Dennis Grosel, who started seven games in 2019, into the starting spot against Virginia. The result? He threw for 520 yards, which was a team record, and four touchdowns. He did have three interceptions in the game, but the record is what opens many peoples’ eyes. He will be a valuable asset this upcoming season, but not as the starter. Jurkovec will be the starter and look for him to continue to grow after his impressive 2020 campaign.



Clemson


DJ Uiagalalei

2020: Trevor Lawrence (NFL), Uiagalalei


The defending ACC Champs see the keys of their offense turned over from one former five-star (and now first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft) to another former five-star. DJ Uiagalalei has all the abilities to be the next big Clemson quarterback in the Dabo Swinney era. Standing at 6’4” and weighing 240 pounds, he is the perfect package of size, talent, and (although brief) experience. Uiagalalei started two games during the 2020 season after Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19. One of these starts was the double overtime loss to Notre Dame where he threw for 439 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, he threw for 914 yards and five touchdowns with zero interceptions. Although his resume is short, he has shown that he is capable to lead the Tigers back to the College Football Playoffs and possibly another National Championship.



Duke


Gunnar Holmberg

2020: Chase Brice (Transfer)


2020 saw high hopes and expectations for the Blue Devil offense with the arrival of Chase Brice, who was previously Trevor Lawrence’s backup at Clemson. However, these expectations were not completely met, as Brice threw for only 10 touchdowns against an astounding 15 interceptions. The rest of the team combined for one touchdown pass and four interceptions. Overall team success wasn’t much greater, as Duke only won one game and averaged 24.8 points per game, which was good for 92nd out of 128 teams. With Brice transferring out of Durham and to Appalachian State, Duke’s quarterback position is wide open with the standouts being redshirt junior Gunner Holmberg and redshirt freshman Luca Diamont. In limited playing time last season, neither had eye-opening performances. Holmberg went 18 of 25 for 161 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. Diamont, on the other hand, only attempted eight passes, completing five of them for 38 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception. The stats and experience of both are a bit worrisome, but the Blue Devils do not really have a lot of options. Due to this, the starting spot could go either way. However, experience wins in situations like the ones Duke is in. So, expect Holmberg to win due to experience being on his side.



Florida State


McKenzie Milton

2020: James Blackman (Transfer), Jordan Travis, Chubba Purdy


The Seminoles have arguably one of the most compelling quarterback competitions entering 2021. 2019 and (part of) 2021 starter James Blackman entered the transfer portal after an inconsistent career that saw him benched in 2020 in favor of Jordan Travis, who performed decently as the new starter. This offseason also saw the arrival of former UCF starting quarterback McKenzie Milton, who, before suffering a gruesome and potentially career-ending knee injury, led the Knights to a 13-0 season and a claimed national championship in 2017. Overall, the competition was originally held between four quarterbacks: Milton, Travis, former four-star redshirt freshman Chubba Purdy, and redshirt freshman Tate Rodemaker. However, the 2021 spring game as well as some 2020 film showed that it is really between Milton and Travis. Travis, who is working on improving his passing game to compliment his strong running ability, threw for 115 yards and one touchdown in the spring game. Milton, who saw the field for the first time in over two years, threw for 96 yards and a touchdown. The incumbent starter Jordan Travis has the upper hand in terms of familiarity with the offense and recent in-game experience, but questions about his passing ability compared to Milton’s gives Milton the upper hand for now. Milton will most likely be the starter come Week 1, but do not be surprised to see Travis see the field as a wildcat quarterback or as a receiver/running back, which he has done before.



Georgia Tech


Jeff Sims

Incumbent


Moving from a triple-option offense to a modern offense in 2019 was no easy task for Georgia Tech as they finished the season 3-9. 2020 did not see much overall success either. In a shortened season, the Yellow Jackets only managed to win three games, matching their total from the previous season. However, the stats and record at first glance do not show the improvements that Georgia Tech did make in 2020. Most of these can be attributed to true freshman quarterback Jeff Sims. On paper, the stats are not anything eye-opening. He completed under 55% of his passes, threw nearly 1900 yards, and had an even number of touchdowns and interceptions with 13. However, accounting for the major change in offense as well as being only a true freshman, the future of Jeff Sims and the Yellow Jackets are bright. If they are to compete for an ACC title, it probably won’t be for a few years. Sims is the most important key for this wish to come true. As far as the present is concerned, Sims will be the starter, and the nation should see much improvement in year two for Sims and year three for the new modernized offense.



Louisville


Malik Cunningham

Incumbent


Replacing a Heisman Trophy winner is no easy task, especially when that Heisman winner is former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. However, Malik Cunningham has done well as the Cardinals’ quarterback. After only three starts in 2018, Cunningham took complete control of the Cardinals’ offense in 2019 while showing off his dual-threat ability. This ability brings back memories of quarterbacks such as Teddy Bridgewater and Lamar Jackson. Although he hasn’t won a Heisman trophy like Jackson or a Sugar Bowl like Bridgewater, Cunningham has shown he could be the next great Louisville quarterback by throwing for at least 2000 yards and 20 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. Last season did see him throw for a career-high 12 interceptions in a shortened season, which he will definitely need to improve on. However, he does lose help on the offense due to the 2021 NFL Draft. Dez Fitzpatrick, who had a team-high 833 yards receiving, was drafted in the fourth round by the Titans, while Chatarius Atwell, who led the team with eight touchdown receptions, was drafted in the second round by the Rams. He also lost starting running back Javian Hawkins, who signed as a UDFA with the Falcons. There is a lot of good and bad for Cunningham this upcoming season. He has a lot of experience and natural ability, but will that be able to make up for the loss of his two best receivers and the starting running back? Overall, Cunningham is in an interesting position and will be someone to watch closely in 2021.



Miami


D’Eriq King (Injured)

Incumbent


Like their rivals in Tallahassee, Miami finds themselves in a compelling quarterback situation, but for different reasons. D’Eriq King, the Houston transfer, was one of the nation’s better quarterbacks last season after accounting for 2686 yards and 23 touchdowns in the air while adding 538 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. However, a torn ACL ended his already shortened season. While he should be back in time for the fall, he was unable to practice this spring, which led to an open competition for the backup and potential 2022 starting position. N’Kosi Perry, who was QB2 last season and had experience as the starter prior to King’s arrival, transferred to FAU, which led to the competition between two freshmen: Tyler Van Dyke, a redshirt from 2020 and former four-star recruit, and Jake Garcia, the No. 18 overall player in the 2021 class and early enrollee. Both quarterbacks performed exceptionally in the spring game. Garcia threw 19 of 25 for 255 yards and two touchdowns, while Van Dyke went 12 of 17 for 102 yards and a touchdown in only one half of playing time. Overall, King, who is entering his sixth year, will be the starter when the season starts. However, should he not be fully recovered and unable to play, expect either Garcia or Van Dyke to start in his place. I give Garcia the edge over Van Dyke as many believe Garcia to be the future of the Hurricanes.



North Carolina


Sam Howell

Incumbent


There are certain guarantees in life. These are death, taxes, and Sam Howell throwing for 3500 yards and 30 touchdowns in a season, which is something he has done in both of the seasons he has started. A Heisman front runner in this upcoming season, Howell is the most talented quarterback in the ACC and arguably the top quarterback in the entire country. Thrust into the starting role as a true freshman in 2019, he exceeded all expectations by throwing for 3641 yards and 38 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. In a shortened 2020 season, he nearly matched those numbers with 3586 yards, 30 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. 2021 could be his final collegiate season, and a lot is at stake for Howell. Not only is he looked at as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, this also may be his final chance to de-throne Clemson as the Kings of the ACC. After finishing 7-6 in 2019, the Tar Heels improved to 8-4 last season. There is clear improvement for this team, but will Howell be able to get them over the hump and win an ACC title, something they haven’t done since 1980? With Trevor Lawrence gone and the opportunity to enter the NFL after this season, it is now more than ever for Howell and the Tar Heels to succeed to the throne.



NC State


Devin Leary

2020: Leary, Bailey Hockman (Transfer)


Coming off of an 8-4 season, head coach Dave Doeren looks to decide who will lead the offense in 2021. The decision for who will be the starter for the Wolfpack was made for the Wolfpack this offseason due to Bailey Hockman’s transfer to Middle Tennessee State. All signs point to Devin Leary being the starter going into the 2021 season. As a freshman in 2019, he threw for 1200 yards and eight touchdowns in just eight games played. He was on pace for an even better sophomore campaign, but his season was cut short due to a broken fibula. Before the injury, he threw for 890 yards and 8 touchdowns in just four appearances. Coming back from the injury, Leary looks poised for success in 2021. He went 12 for 23 with 175 yards and two touchdowns in only one half during the spring game. Overall, Leary looks to continue to grow in what would be his first season as the full-time starter as the Wolfpack look to be a potential top-25 team next season.



Pitt


Kenny Pickett

2020: Pickett, Joey Yellen


The Pitt Panthers boast one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country, whose announcement of his intentions to return for the 2021 season surprised many. A three-year starter and NFL prospect, Kenny Pickett announced in December that he would return for his fifth year in 2021. Picketts’ career doesn’t have the most jaw dropping stats, but his stats do show great consistency. 2018, his first season as the starter, saw him throw for just under 2000 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. 2019 was his best year with 3098 yards passing, 13 touchdowns, and nine interceptions while completing nearly 62% of his passes. In a shortened 2020 season, Pickett nearly matched his previous year’s stats in three less games. He had 2408 yards passing with the same number of touchdowns and interceptions that he had in 2019. A potential fifth or sixth round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Pickett decided to return to. run the Panthers’ offense one last time while looking to improve his draft stock. If the last couple of seasons tell us anything, Pickett more than likely won’t have an eye-opening season, but that doesn’t mean he cannot be one of the more successful quarterbacks in the ACC for 2021.



Syracuse


Garrett Shrader

2020: Tommy DeVito, JaCobian Morgan, Rex Culpepper (Graduation)


2020 saw a three-man rotation of starting quarterbacks for Syracuse. Rex Culpepper, the statistical leader and only 1000-yard passer of the group graduated. The other two, Tommy DeVito and JaCobian Morgan return, but not without competition coming all the way from Starkville, Mississippi. By ways of the controversial transfer portal, Garrett Shrader found his way to Syracuse for the 2021 season. One of Mississippi State’s starting quarterbacks in 2019, Shrader saw moderate success in his freshman season. An exciting dual-threat quarterback, Shrader threw for 1170 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 587 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. As for the other two quarterbacks, DeVito has the most experience, throwing for 2360 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2019. However, 2020 saw a drop off, where he threw for less than 600 yards and only four touchdowns. Entering his senior season, DeVito needs to return back to his 2019 self if he wants to retake the starting role. On the other hand, sometimes change is good, and Shrader brings an exciting playmaking ability that could benefit the Orange offense. No matter who head coach Dino Babers chooses to run his offense, he needs to choose one and stick by that quarterback rather than rotate like they did in 2020. As for who should be the starter, change is best for Syracuse, and the keys to the offense should be handed off to Shrader.



Virginia


Brennan Armstrong

2020: Armstrong, Lindell Stone


The University of Virginia is home to one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country by way of Brennan Armstrong. After throwing for over 2100 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2020, which was his first season as QB1, the starting role is clearly Armstrong’s to lose. He did suffer an injury last season which led to Lindell Stone starting in the loss against Wake Forest, but that game made it clear the ship is not the same without its captain. That captain is Armstrong, makes the Cavaliers a different team according to head coach Bronco Mendenhall. He does face minor competition by way of Stone, former Mississippi State quarterback Keytaon Johnson, and Iraken Armstead. However, Johnson and Armstead are better suited for a receiver/running back-type position, which is where they are both expected to split time for the season. That being said, the Cavalier’s offense is clearly at its best with Brennan Armstrong, and it is safe to assume it will improve in year two with him at the front.



Virginia Tech


Braxton Burmeister

2020: Hendon Hooker (Transfer), Burmeister


This offseason saw many 2020 starters enter the transfer portal, and the Hokies were no exception to this change. Hendon Hooker, after throwing for 2894 yards and 22 touchdowns in two seasons and seven starts last season, announced he was signing with Tennessee in January and looks to win the Vols’ own quarterback competition. This leaves the job wide open Braxton Burmeister, the former Oregon transfer to take. After spending his first two years with the Ducks, he transferred to Virginia Tech in 2019, but sat out due to eligibility rules. 2020 saw him make his first starts since the 2017 season, when he was a true freshman. He went 3-1 as the starter and played in seven games total, throwing for 687 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception while splitting starting time with Hooker and backup time with Quincy Patterson, who has also transferred away this past season. Unless somehow Knox Kadum (R-Fr), Connor Blumrick (transfer), or Tahj Bullock (fall enrollee) show something incredible, the job is Burmeister’s going into 2021.



Wake Forest


Sam Hartman

Incumbent


Not many quarterbacks can say that they starred on a Netflix show before entering college. Sam Hartman is one of the few who can. After starring on season two of Netflix’s “QB1: Beyond the Lights” alongside NFL first-round pick Justin Fields and Temple quarterback Re-al Mitchell, Hartman committed to Wake Forest and earned the starting job as a freshman in preseason camp in 2018. That season saw Hartman become the first Wake Forest true freshman to win a season opener as well as break numerous records for a true freshman quarterback. That was three years ago. Since then, Hartman redshirted in 2019 as Jaime Newman took the starting role, but he regained the starting spot last season after Newman transferred away and then subsequently opted out. Hartman threw for 2224 yards, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions in nine games played. However, four of these interceptions came in the Mayo Bowl loss to Wisconsin. Obviously talented, Hartman needs to bounce back from that terrible bowl game performance, but that was only one game in a decent career so far. Entering his redshirt junior season as one of the nation’s more experienced and underrated quarterbacks, Hartman, like the show’s title, is QB1 for the Demon Deacons entering 2021 and should have a much more improved campaign.