Most college football fans and pundits knocked the ACC prior to the 2012 season as a competitive step down from the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12. However, by the time bowl season was all wrapped up, the conference had opened 2013 with Orange, Chick-fil-A and Sun Bowl victories, among others.
And it was all managed on the strength of several different right arms. Conference headliners such as Mike Glennon of NC State and EJ Manuel of Florida State are off to bigger and better things in the NFL. That said, it would behoove the rest of the country to make themselves aware of several more young men who have stayed behind to lead the ACC back to national prominence.
Brandon Connette takes over for Sean Renfree at Duke, and he is tasked with continuing the Blue Devils’ rise from the gutter to college football respectability.
Phillip Sims ran the show at Virginia as a sophomore, and if he continues his upward trend his Cavaliers may just stand a fighter’s chance in 2013.
There are some young gunners in the league, but the conference is set to be headlined by a number of upperclassmen, all primed to lead their program to a coveted BCS bowl berth.
Stephen Morris enters his final season at the helm of the Hurricanes, but for the very first time the cloud of NCAA sanctions will not be hanging overhead. The sunny skies of Miami will finally be opened, and Morris should have a bright smile on his face as he airs it out. Morris compiled 3,345 yards and 21 touchdowns with only seven interceptions as a junior, and should improve upon his numbers and his team’s win totals as a senior.
The exact same can be said of North Carolina’s Bryn Renner. The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder had nearly identical numbers to Morris’ in his same junior season, throwing for 3,356 yards, 28 scores and the same seven picks. Also like Morris’ Canes, Renner’s Heels were unable to participate in the postseason due to NCAA infractions. That will not be the case, and never underestimate the motivation of a senior with a shot at postseason glory.
Another soon-to-be senior, Logan Thomas, struggled to a brutal, 16 interception season in 2012. However, the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder that looks more like a defensive end than a passer obviously has all the physical tools to be a dual-threat superstar. It remains to be seen whether or not, in his final season at the helm of Virginia Tech, Thomas can put it all together to lead the Hokies to a title.
Tajh Boyd has proven everything the rest of these conference stars have, but, and again just like the others, he is still searching for that elusive conference title. Boyd led the ACC with a whopping 36 touchdown passes and another 10 on the ground while leading Clemson to a last-gasp Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU to end the season.
Can he lead his Tigers to a conference championship, and in the process cement his legacy as the ACC’s premier signal-caller?
Or will another senior take the reins of his program and dominate in a fashion their championship-starved fans so desperately crave?
It could be a young guy, or even a total unknown. The only other quarterback to even attempt a pass for North Carolina State in 2012 was freshman Manny Stocker. Can he hold down the fort for the year until Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett is eligible to lace ’em up in 2014? What about Clint Trickett, the presumed replacement for Manuel at Florida State? He complete 22 of his 34 pass attempts in very limited minutes in 2012, but can he keep up that level of accuracy over a full season of ups and downs?
We here at Gamedayr do not have the answers. However, you might.