ACC Doesn’t Want More Quarterback Derbies
By David Glenn
The opening weekend of ACC football in 2006 still carries an important message for the league’s coaches one year later.
Find the right quarterback -- and find him quickly -- or be prepared to deal with some ugly repercussions.
A year ago, only two ACC quarterbacks made it through the season as the starter without causing their teams serious indigestion.
Junior Matt Ryan of Boston College completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 2,942 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall, leading the Eagles to a 10-3 record. Even he didn’t escape the league’s quarterback curse entirely. Ryan played most of the season on a broken foot and missed one game as a result.
Boston College senior Matt Ryan is fifth all-time in passing yards in school history. (Boston College Athletics)
At Maryland, senior Sam Hollenbach was a steadying influence behind center last season. He started all 13 games, completing 61.9 percent of his passes for 2,371 yards and 15 touchdowns. Team result: a surprising 9-4 campaign.
Two other ACC quarterbacks also started every game in 2006. Sean Glennon of Virginia Tech and Will Proctor of Clemson both had limitations that ultimately allowed opposing defenses to stack the line against the run, but their teams had enough talent in other areas to overcome their shortcomings. The Hokies finished 10-3, the Tigers 8-5.
The player who went on to become second team All-ACC quarterback last fall, Riley Skinner of Wake Forest, actually was a third-stringer on his own team entering August camp a year ago. He became the Demon Deacons’ starter only after backup Brett Hodges missed time in the preseason with an injury, then incumbent Benjamin Mauk suffered a broken arm in the opener. Wake went on to finish 11-3 and win just its second ACC championship in 54 seasons.
“That shows you how smart we are,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe joked about Skinner, who completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,051 yards and nine touchdowns. “We couldn’t have done what we did without him. There would have been no ACC championship without Riley Skinner. He’s a totally unselfish kid who only cares about winning.”
Everywhere else in the conference, there were varying degrees of disarray at the most important position on the field. Not surprisingly, team success stories at those schools were hard to find.
“If your quarterbacks don’t play very good on a consistent basis,” Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said, “then your offenses aren’t going to be very consistent.”
Consider the fates of last year’s opening-day starters at Duke (0-12), North Carolina (3-9) and N.C. State (3-9). A year later, none of the three players is still taking snaps as a quarterback.
Marcus Jones lasted only three series as the Blue Devils’ starter last fall. When he couldn’t move the team against Division I-AA Richmond, he lost his job to freshman Thaddeus Lewis.
Joe Dailey’s track record at Nebraska, before he transferred to North Carolina, included a penchant for throwing interceptions. After finishing the year as a part-time starter (10 interceptions, seven touchdown passes) with Cameron Sexton, Dailey moved to wide receiver during the offseason.
Marcus Stone, a onetime prep All-American, never figured out the quarterback position at N.C. State. After working with three offensive coordinators in his first four years with the Wolfpack, he never got a feel for the nuances of the passing game. He lost the starting quarterback job at midseason last fall to Daniel Evans. Stone is back in the starting lineup this year, but at tight end.
Looking ahead, BC's Ryan and Wake's Skinner appear to be the only ACC quarterbacks who are completely secure in their starting roles.
At Virginia Tech, there are high hopes for Glennon, but highly touted freshman Tyrod Taylor is waiting in the wings, just in case.
Florida State and Miami continue to test the old theory that if you claim to have two quality quarterbacks, you might not have any. Drew Weatherford again has edged out Xavier Lee for the Seminoles’ top job. Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman remain neck-and-neck with the Hurricanes, and both are likely to see action this season. All four players have been inconsistent to this point.
Lewis (Duke), Taylor Bennett (Georgia Tech), Daniel Evans (N.C. State) and Jameel Sewell (Virginia) hope to build on the limited success they achieved in 2006, after being elevated to starting jobs during the season.
Clemson (junior Cullen Harper), Maryland (junior Jordan Steffy) and UNC (red-shirt freshman T.J. Yates) are essentially starting over at quarterback. Remember the names Willy Korn (Clemson), Josh Portis (Maryland) and Mike Paulus (UNC). They are the younger guys waiting in the wings. They might be ready for the top job next week or next month, but then again they might not be.
“If you could tell me ahead of time how all the quarterbacks are going to play, I could make some really good predictions for you,” Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said, laughing. “But we all know it doesn’t work that way.”
Issue 2.35: August 30, 2007