CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division has more questions than answers when it comes to the quarterback position this season.
While North Carolina State, Syracuse and Boston College appear set under center, the four other teams still have things to figure out in the roughly six weeks before the college football season opens.
That includes the three-time defending ACC champion Clemson Tigers, although coach Dabo Swinney’s situation is considered more of a luxury than a problem, given that he must decide which of his highly rated quarterbacks to roll with in 2018.
Clemson went 12-2 last season and reached the College Football Playoff behind Kelly Bryant, who started 14 games.
Swinney said Bryant has earned the right to go into camp as the team’s No. 1 QB, although Trevor Lawrence has created a buzz as the nation’s top incoming recruit. Redshirt freshman Chase Brice is also in the mix.
“I really believe we could win with all three of them,” Swinney said. “It’s a great spot to be in.”
Ryan Finley enters his third season as North Carolina State’s starter and his 26 career starts are the most of any quarterback in the division.
He said that gives the Wolfpack “an upper hand” on a lot of other teams.
“As far as football intelligence and situational football there are some things that over the course of playing and getting experience that I can rub off on guys,” Finley said. “It’s the communication and trust with an experienced quarterback that is always nice where the receivers, running backs and offensive line can count on the quarterback to know his position.”
Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said he’s thrilled Finley chose to stay for his final season rather than opt for the NFL.
“This is his team, and guys all believe in him,” Doeren said. “It has a huge impact on your football team when you have your quarterback back. The offseason, the spring, the summer, you just have that leadership factor. If you are dealing with a quarterback controversy it’s just not the same.”
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey said there is no substitute for experience. He has started 25 games and led an upset win over Clemson last year.
“Experience is the best thing you can have,” Dungey said. “You can have athleticism, but how are you going to play when you play on the big stages and the pressure is on you and the lights are on.”
Boston College coach Steve Addazio said he believes Anthony Brown, a sophomore, will be a star, with three more years in the ACC after starting 10 games as a freshman.
Florida State has a legit quarterback competition, while Louisville and Wake Forest are essentially starting over after losing Lamar Jackson and John Wolford, the first- and second-team All-ACC selections at quarterback last season.
Florida State is in an interesting situation: having two quarterbacks with game experience.
Deondre Francois put up solid numbers in 2016 — 3,350 yards passing and 20 touchdowns — but injured his knee in last year’s season opener. True freshman James Blackman came in and showed flashes, throwing for 2,230 yards and 19 TDs in 12 starts, but the Seminoles finished 7-6. Bailey Hockman also is in the mix.
New coach Willie Taggart said he’s undecided on who will be running his up-tempo, no-huddle offense in the season opener against Virginia Tech.
“This is the first time I’ve been in a position as a head football coach to have three guys that can play for you,” Taggart said. “… I can’t wait to see who separates themselves as we go into the season, and as soon as they do that, we will let you all know who our quarterback will be.”
Louisville will turn the offense over to Jawon Pass to replace former Heisman Trophy winner Jackson, with coach Bobby Petrino calling him a “natural leader.”
Wake Forest won two straight bowl games behind Wolford, but he graduated.
Coach Dave Clawson says perhaps the most complicated decision is whether to start sophomore Jamie Newman or true freshman Sam Hartman while redshirt junior Kendall Hinton is serving a three-game suspension for violating team rules.
Clawson has called Hinton a “very dynamic, elusive athlete” and believes he can help the team once he returns to the field following his suspension.