With the 2022 college football season fast approaching, the Atlantic Coast Conference has arguably the best quarterback group in the country from top to bottom.
The ACC did not have a team in the College Football Playoff through the 2021 season, but with 10 teams returning to the quarterback, the league should benefit from competition this fall.
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No. 14 Duke’s Riley Leonard/Jordan Moore
Landing a starting quarterback will be at the top of the list for first-year coach Mike Elko. Gunnar Holmberg, last year’s quarterback, transferred to FIU, setting the stage for a wide quarterback competition between Riley Leonard and Jordan Moore.
Both are inexperienced with Leonard playing 153 snaps and Moore playing 80, both as true freshmen. Elko has yet to name a starter.
No. 13 Drake Maye or Jocolby Criswell, North Carolina
Who will replace Sam Howell? That’s UNC’s biggest question heading into the 2022 season. Both May and Criswell were impressive in the spring football game. Criswell didn’t miss a pass, completing 6 of 6 for 104 yards. Maye was 9-of-12 passing for 113 yards. Coach Mack Brown hasn’t hinted at which player will be the opening day starter.
Who will replace Sam Howell? UNC football’s QB battle heats up for Drake Maye, Jacolby Criswell
No. 12 Grant Wells or Jason Brown, Virginia Tech
First-year head coach Brent Pry has two transfer portal quarterbacks to choose from this season. Brown, who threw for more than 3,500 yards at Marshall Wells last season, and his dual-threat skills propelled South Carolina to wins over Florida and Auburn, among his four career starts at Gamecocks.
No. 11 Jeff Sims, Georgia Tech
Sims’ 2021 injury limited him to just six starts last season. He finished with 1,468 passing yards and 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions and was one of the top defensive backs in the country looking to return to his 2020 form.
The addition of former Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke as full-time quarterbacks coach should help.
No. 10 Kedon Slovis or Nick Patty, Pt
Slovis, a USC transfer, could end up being one of the best pitchers in the ACC, but has struggled with some consistency issues that could open the door for Patty. Both have the tough task of replacing Kenny Pickett, who is now Pitt’s all-time passing leader, with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
No. 9 Jordan Travis, Florida State
Travis showed steady improvement last fall and was very effective against ACC opponents. In the year He passed for 1,539 yards and 15 touchdowns to six interceptions in 2021, helping FSU win five of its last seven games after an 0-3 start.
No. 8 Garrett Schrader, Syracuse
Schrader will be an undrafted starter in the 2022 season after winning his position after three games. Schrader can run the ball, rushing for 781 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall.
no. 7 DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson
Ugalele had Heisman hopes entering the 2021 season, but struggled in his sophomore season. The ceiling is extremely high, but a nine-touchdown for 10-interception performance last fall, along with an ACC-worst passing grade, showed there’s plenty of work to do.
Well then. 6 Phil Jurkovec, Boston College
Jurkovec is a player who could be near the top of the list if he can stay healthy. Coach Jeff Hafley was only healthy for one game last season but will be at full strength heading into 2022, according to ACC Media Days.
No. 5 Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
The ACC Rookie of the Year didn’t take over his starting spot until late September last year and still went on to throw 25 touchdowns for the Hurricanes. His talent and intelligence led to a midseason revival for Miami, which has won five of its last six games, including top-25 wins over NC State and Pitt. Van Dyke finished the 2021 season with six consecutive games with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, becoming the first Power Five quarterback since Joe Burrow’s Heisman Trophy campaign in 2019.
No. 4 Brennan Armstrong, Virginia
Armstrong threw for over 400 yards per game last season and threw more passes than anyone else in the conference. The senior quarterback, however, will begin 2022 with a new coach, former Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, and a new system that could bring more balance to the offense and take the ball out of Armstrong’s hands. Armstrong is currently third on UVA’s all-time career total offense list with 7,720 yards. The Cavaliers started 6-3 last season but dropped their last three games, including a 29-24 loss against Virginia Tech in the regular season finale.
No. 3 Malik Cunningham, Louisville
There’s no arguing that Cunningham is the best dual-threat quarterback in the ACC. He was one of five players last fall, and the only QB, to rush for 1,000 yards and a league-best 20 rushing touchdowns. Cunningham passed for 2,941 yards with 19 touchdowns to six interceptions. If he takes a step forward with his passing ability, he could easily be the ACC Player of the Year.
No. 2 Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
Hartman may have struggled mightily in the ACC Championship Game, throwing four interceptions in a 45-21 loss to Pitt, but Hartman was selected as an All-ACC Second Team quarterback for a reason. He threw for 4,228 yards and 39 touchdowns to 14 interceptions last fall while completing 58.9% of his passes. The offense averaged 41 points in the school’s first ACC Championship Game appearance since 2006. The senior quarterback caught 71 passes for 1,293 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall as wide receiver AT Perry returns.
No. 1 Devin Leary, NC State
NC State has emerged as a popular favorite to win the ACC for the first time in 42 years, and a lot of confidence will come from the return of Leary. The junior, recently named the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, was a model of consistency last fall, throwing for 3,433 yards, an eyebrow-raising 35-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio while completing 65.7 percent of his passes. Leary lost his top target in NC State’s all-time receiving leader, Emeka Imezi, but he has the ability to return in the wide receiver class. Leary led NC State to a 9-3 record in 2021, including a double-overtime victory over Clemson and a stunning fourth-quarter comeback win in UNC’s season finale.
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David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA TODAY Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.