We have a real treat for you folks, Drunken Gobbler is here! You may recognize him from around the Twitter-sphere, or his own blog over at www.drunkengobbler.com. He is here this week with a couple of well-written screeds on the quarterback transitions that are occurring this Spring. One word from me to describe the collection of new QBs contained within: raw. We here at GC hope you enjoy his unique voice. Please extend a hearty GC welcome to DG!
Who is the second best quarterback in the ACC this year?
I dare you, I double dog dare you to answer that. It is quite possible, nay probable, that the second best ACC QB has never played a down of ACC football. Today, we will be taking you on a tutorial through the wonderful world of ACC football. We will stop into spring camps, peruse recruiting rankings, and, by golly, we will figure out who these ACC QBs will be.
Since the end of last season, more than ten starting ACC QBs either graduated or transferred out of their programs leaving a number of slots for new names and fresh faces. Some of these names that are gone, but not to be forgotten include: Logan Thomas, Stephen Morris, Vad Lee, Tom Savage, Theodore Bridgewater*, Bryn Renner, Chase Rettig, Brandon Mitchell**, Pete Thomas**, Tanner Price, Tajh Boyd, Brandon Connette**, and, of course, the entire Maryland football team. That leaves us with 9 or 10 teams searching for a replacement in spring ball, while other teams such as Syracuse, UVa, and UNC figure out exactly what they have at the position.
*-Never played a single game as a member of the ACC but it still represents an open QB Slot
Today we'll be getting into the Coastal division starting with our beloved Hokies.
The Virginia Tech Quarterback competition is by far the most open in the ACC this offseason. So far this spring Mark Leal and Brandon Motley have battled for the number one spot, and Motley just took over the number 1 spot for now. Things get even more convoluted when Chris Durkin and Michael Brewer get on campus. Motley showed some progress in the scrimmage on April 12th with a solid outing but seemed to regress behind a depleted O-line on Saturday. Neither Leal nor Motley separated themselves this Saturday which leaves just the April 26th Spring Game for either guy to show out in front of Hokie fans this spring.
This work could all be moot, however, when Durkin and Brewer throw their hats into the ring for summer camp. I think the only thing that can be said for sure about this QB competition is that nobody knows who will be the starter come fall, and Tech fans will have to stay patient until it's all figured out. However, with the talent that Loeffler and Co. have amassed, I think we are in a good position right now with this stable of promising young quarterbacks.
For those unaware of our current quarterback situation there are 5 names you really need to know.
Mark Leal: Chances are you know Mr. Leal if you've been following the Hokies in recent years. He has spent his entire four-year career as a backup behind Thomas, and was given a chance to prove himself in the Sun Bowl vs. UCLA and could not. Following his disappointing bowl game performance it appears the number one spot is very much up for grabs.
Brendon Motley: A local product from Christiansburg, Motley has battled injuries and has often not been given much credit for his ability to play quarterback. One of the main points that coaches have made is that he needs to find a way to become more consistent under center. He has had days where he looks like a Heisman candidate and days where he looks like he doesn't know what football is. Obvious hyperbole aside, it seems that he is pushing hard for the starting spot and was recently bumped up to number one on the spring depth chart.
Andrew Ford: Ford is a true freshman early enrollee who is rumored to have a great head on his shoulders, in turn demonstrating a great football IQ, and throws an accurate ball. It is an early assumption that he will red-shirt to put on a bit more size in order to survive the college game; but his knowledge of the game and ability to place the ball wherever he wants is incredibly impressive, and shows a lot of promise for the future. Size and arm strength are important for his development.
Michael Brewer: Brewer is one of the summer newcomers along with Chris Durkin. Unlike Durkin, Brewer will have a college degree from Texas Tech and since he will have graduated, he is eligible to play right away. As a side benefit, he will actually have two full years of eligibility left for the Hokies. Many assumed Brewer would be the starter right away and have the position given to him but Leal and Co. are insistent that that will not be the case. From limited tape and game experience Brewer has looked the part, and left the Texas Tech program following a big injury misdiagnosis fiasco. Loeffler lucked out when he was not granted a release to be able to play for another Texas school, including TCU and University of Texas, which were considered his two favorites. Expect Brewer to make a serious push for the starting spot, and keep an eye on his grasp of Loeffler's offense, as that will be the big question mark in how fast he can transition over just a short summer.
Chris Durkin: Another freshman like Ford and another summer newcomer like Brewer, Durkin is a bit of a freak. He is a large man, listed at 6'4" 216, and runs like he is angry at the other team. Loeffler pulled a big time heist in flipping Durkin from Michigan State to the Hokies in a very stealthy recruitment, involving back-channels. Durkin possesses rare athleticism, speed, and power for a Quarterback. He has a very powerful arm but is often knocked for accuracy issues, and his grasp on the mental aspect of the game. Durkin brings an exciting element to the Quarterback competition, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear his name come up in serious discussion for the position. I do think it would suit him well to take a year to learn the system while red-shirting, and learn the offense inside-out prior to making his official push for the position. His talent level, however, can't be ignored.
Finally, there is Travon McMillian who is the final summer newcomer for the QB spot. It is a mystery how much he will be pushing for the spot this year. A lot of folks doubt whether he will stay at QB or make the switch to a different position because he possessed the QB tag as well as the Athlete tag during his recruitment. While he is on the outside looking in this off-season, remember his name for the future. Whether his future is at QB or somewhere else on the field, with his athleticism, he will be a play-maker for the Hokies.
I would encourage fans to keep an open mind about this quarterback competition. We have gone so many years with established starters entering the off-season, that many may lose patience. We have a ton to be optimistic about, and this is possibly the deepest Virginia Tech has ever been with regard to Quarterback talent. I encourage everybody to take in the Spring Game on April 26th and check out Leal and Motley in action. Then get ready for the summer when Brewer and Durkin make their appearance.
Now we come to Duke, ESPN darling of 2013. The team with the field that has a track around it. Last year we had to bear witness to the Blue Devils victory in Lane. I was clinically depressed for the next couple weeks.
Okay so Duke utilized the Two-QB system last year, and had just enough success with it to win the ACC Coastal that nobody seemed to want to win. (And I don't blame them, considering the reward was FSU in the title game)
Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone took snaps last year for the Blue Devils, and were both red-shirt juniors. However, Connette has decided to transfer to be closer to his mother in California who was diagnosed with malignant cancer in 2013. Anthony Boone is now the man in Durham, and will hope to build off of the end of the year momentum he enjoyed while leading the Blue Devils to an ACC Championship. Boone didn't do much damage against the Hokies at all with his arm, but he was devastating getting out of the pocket on 3rd and long plays and picking up drive-extenders.
Where do the Dookies stand?
Well, Boone is now the man, and with Coach Cutcliffe leading the way, I expect Boone to improve this season. Retaining Jamison Crowder is a huge boost for Boone. There are significant questions that Boone will have to answer this season now that Duke is no longer perpetually underestimated. I do not expect the Blue Devils to match their 2013 season but beware all those that underestimate this football school. As a quarterback, I would stick Boone right in the middle of the ACC, not the worst, but certainly not the best. People often get caught up in the final 4 games of the season while forgetting performances such as 4 INTs and 0 TDs in Lane. Coach Cutcliffe will continue to get the best out of his players and that may help Boone reach his ceiling, which is not terribly high.
Vad Lee was the name that Hokie fans learned last year when VT played one of its best games of the season against GT in what seemed like a big win in Atlanta last year. And just like that: (poof) he's gone. Off to the greener pastures of Harrisonburg, VA and James Madison University. Coach Paul Johnson said multiple times that Vad wasn't a fit for his triple option system, which must have really hurt his feelings. So who will take over the ever important QB position in PJ's offense?
For a while it didn't seem like there was going to be much of a QB battle in Atlanta with Sophomore Justin Thomas seeming to be the heir apparent. I would still expect Thomas to win the spot but Hokie fans should also know the name Tim Byerly, who took over starting duties in Georgia Tech's Spring Game and had a solid outing. Thomas sat out of the game with a sore shoulder which allowed Byerly the chance to have the full spotlight. In his spring game performance he had 26 rushing attempts for 101 yards, which isn't knocking anybody's socks off but it definitely makes the situation more interesting.
Even with Byerly proving capable, I still expect Thomas to be the day 1 starter for Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets.
So what does this mean?
Trying to rank a Georgia Tech QB is a tough task because they obviously don't play the same QB role as every other ACC QB. Under the assumption that Thomas will be the guy on day 1, I expect him to struggle early just getting a grasp on the offense against some lower opponents in Georgia Southern, Wofford, and Tulane. His first true test will be against the Hokies in Lane on September 20th. With the speed our defense has showed this spring we should be able to compete well against the Yellow Jackets in what turns out to be every year's most important Coastal Division matchup. Expect Thomas to be an improvement over Vad Lee, but he will likely require a little bit of time.
Here's a quick video of Justin Thomas:
As the Stephen Morris era ends in Coral Gables, the "Insert future Canes QB here" era begins. Al Golden is heading into his 4th year as the Canes HFC and "The U" searches for a little stability at the QB position that has largely eluded them since the halcyon tenure of Ken Dorsey. We all miss the days of Pick-ory Harris, and Stephen Morris never seemed to really play well at all against the Hokies. Who will be tasked with the job of throwing against Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson when ‘The U' comes to town for the big Thursday night game in Lane?
The Canes have som options.
Ryan Williams was one of those options until he tore his ACL in a spring scrimmage. Williams was a two-star recruit out of HS by 247sports, and came to the Canes from Memphis but has only seen the field in a very limited role and this devastating injury may keep him from ever being ‘The Man.'
Door number twofor the Canes opens to reveal Kevin Olsen. Besides being the baby brother of NFL TE (and former Hurricane) Greg Olsen, he is also a four-star pro-style QB that the Canes picked up in the 2013 class, beating out Auburn. Since Williams' injury Olsen has been bumped to the number one spot on the depth chart in front of Gray Crow. Yes, his actual name is Gray Crow, and while Olsen hasn't looked outstanding this spring, he is established as the number one until this summer. This summer, though, the competition will be bumped to a four man battle when Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier arrive on campus. Kaaya is ranked by 247sports as a four-star pro-style QB while Rosier is a three-star dual-tlhreat QB.
Here's a quick video of Kaaya from the 2013 Opening camp.
Where do they stand?
It's difficult to really say what Kaaya and Rosier bring to the table since they aren't even on campus yet. Olsen has yet to really solidify himself as the man in Miami and that should cause concern to Canes fans. Unless something drastic changes, I would expect a drop off from the production Miami has had at QB in recent years.
Heading into last season UNC was considered by most to be the prohibitive favorite of the Coastal, riding on Bryn Renner's shoulders to the Championship game to face either Famous Jameis or Tajh "Who's name doesn't lend itself to a nickname" Boyd.
Bryn Renner went down relatively early with a shoulder injury, and Marquise Williams took over the starting job from there on out. So one would assume with the relative success UNC had over the second half of the season that Williams would be the guy.
However, Fedora has said that there will be an open competition for the number one slot this off-season. The biggest threat to Williams' throne is Mitch Trubisky, a red-shirt freshman dual-threat QB out of Ohio.
Williams finished the 2013 season starting a handful of games and throwing for 58.1% for 1698 yards, while leading the team in rushing with 536 Rushing yds. He also threw for 15 TDs and 6 INTs while adding 6 TDs on the ground. Those stats are fine but they are also a bit inflated by the 80-20 victory over ODU in which he threw for 409 yards and 5 TDs.
With Trubisky's showing in UNC's April 12th Spring Game I expect the QB competition is as tight as ever. Trubisky led the Blue team to a 38-17 victory while orchestrating 6 scoring drives and throwing for 183 yards with 1 INT. Williams had a pick of his own and took 6 sacks while passing for 135 yards. Neither quarterback looked spectacular but Williams certainly did not separate himself from Trubisky by any means.
What does this mean to me?!?
With either Trubisky or Williams taking the reins I expect some, but not too much, improvement from the 2013 season. Both have a very similar game, neither will wow you through the air, but both will be able to do damage on the ground, and both fit the UNC system well. The improvement I expect on offense comes from their depth at WR with 5 upperclassmen including Quinshod Davis who is the biggest offensive threat with the departure of Eric Ebron to the NFL. Newly signed RB Elijah Hood could also make an impact in a running game that was troubled, to say the very least, last season.
Gone are the days of Tom Savage. He came in, got sacked a lot, and then left... all in one short, sweet (?) year for the Panthers. In back-to-back games against teams from the Commonwealth of Virginia, Savage was sacked 15 times. To say he was a statue in the pocket would be an insult to statues. This past season he amassed a GLORIOUS -208 rushing yards on 76 attempts. At any rate, he is gone now. The Panthers must look for their new "solution" to their QB "problem" which hasn't been solved in a long time.
The most likely name to take over the starting spot in 2014 is Chad Voytik, a r-So who played rather well in the second half of Pitt's bowl game going 5-9 for 107 yards and a rushing TD. Other than Voytik, the Panthers are very thin at QB. Trey Anderson is the only other QB taking snaps for spring ball until freshman Adam Bertke arrives in the summer. Again, expect Voytik to be the starter come fall.
So what exactly do the Panthers get with Voytik under center? As mentioned he did show promise in the second half of the Little Caesar's Bowl against Bowling Green. While he is listed as a pro-style QB, he also brings a bit more mobility to the position than Savage, which should provide a much needed addition to the Pitt offense. Voytik is hard to read in that he has taken so few snaps but he did look good in the repetitions he got. Should we expect Pizza Bowl Voytik or should we expect him to look like a sophomore this fall? Only time will tell, but Voytik will have plenty of time to get a handle on the offense and college game before the Hokies come to town that Thursday in Mid-October.
Quarterback play at UVa has been... interesting... for a while. There was the Phillip Sims fiasco. There's the fact that they will play their former QB Michael Rocco this year. There's the fact that they have never really seemed to figure out what to do at QB since Matt Schaub left after 2003.
In 2013 the Cavaliers had David Watford and Greyson Lambert. And while Watford was the starter, Lambert saw a fair amount of playing time.
Watford started much of the season last season but was never, hmmm, how should I put this? "Good?." He struggled mightily and never really seemed to have a working understanding of the offense, or what it took to be successful in the college game, while throwing 15 interceptions and only 8 touchdown passes all season.
Besides having one of the most UVa first names I could think of Lambert also seemed to be one in a long line of UVa-style QBs. He's similar in stature to LT at 6'5" 225 but without any of the athleticism. He often came in to the game when Watford had already thrown multiple picks or when the game was comfortably out of reach. Or, in my favorite personal scenario, when UVa had somehow managed a bit of momentum, London would pull the ol' switcheroo and take out the hot hand for reasons unknown. In limited time, he appeared to be a better pocket passer with a better understanding of the game but he wasn't from the 757 club so Watford remained the starter.
Editor's Note: Backroom deals are backroom deals. When you have a group like the 'Breds steering kids your way on the backs of flimsy promises, you have to keep those promises. It's either that or back to the bread line for London. Hopefully those folks at the beach see that he is wasting their kids' time, and will never build a winner in Charlottesville. Quit stealing our Lego pieces, Mike, all you do is drool on them! We need them to complete our starfighter! (Sorry, rant over)
Now, going into spring, it appears that UVa has opened up their Quarterback competition. On top of that, it appears that Greyson Lambert is indeed the front runner. I say this for a number of reasons. It has been said by the coaching staff that Watford hasn't looked good (shocking). Lambert has been voted a team captain. Oh and it's been reported that Watford has played snaps as a wide receiver and was removed from the team's "leadership council."
If I was a betting man, which I am, I would put my money on Lambert to be the season come fall but Matt Johns and Corwin Cutler (summer enrollee) will also be a part of the competition.
Where do they stand?
If Watford had been the starter I would've ranked him as the worst quarterback in the ACC. That is my honest take. If you watched him play last season he had no grasp of the offense and only showed promise in very short spurts. With Lambert I think that UVa gets a bit more consistency behind center. I would probably bump Lambert up a spot or two just because of the unknowns at other ACC schools. I wouldn't look for the UVa offense to improve much in 2014 with an inconsistent line, limited weapons, and a difficult schedule.
To be continued...
Keep an eye out for a break down of the Atlantic Division Quarterbacks for the 2014 season. In the mean time follow me on Twitter @DrunkenGobbler and check me out at www.drunkengobbler.com.