Quarterbacks off to stellar starts in ACC this season

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) There will be three quarterbacks picked later this fall for spots on the All-Atlantic Coast Conference team.

That might not be enough.

Here's a snapshot of just some of what the ACC has at quarterback this season: The Heisman Trophy frontrunner, a starter from last season's national championship game with the goal of getting back to the College Football Playoff, the nation's current leader in completion percentage, the most prolific sophomore in the country and one of the most highly touted juniors in the game.

Star power isn't lacking in the ACC, with six teams in the AP Top 25 this week - and quarterback play is a big reason why, especially with so many shredding defenses with both their arms and legs.

''That's what's going on in college football,'' said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who delivered some impassioned remarks this week about how the rules of the game so heavily favor offenses right now. ''You run your quarterback, and you do it. That's the reality of it. The numbers on offense are going through the roof across the nation. ... That's where the game of football is at in the college game right now.''

No one best personifies what Fisher is talking about than Louisville's sensational Lamar Jackson, the widely presumed Heisman frontrunner who is a quarterback who just happens to lead the ACC in rushing yards per game right now.

Keep in mind, it's not just the run-pass option that's causing fits.

It's early, but passing numbers in the ACC are soaring compared to where they were a year ago.

So far, five ACC quarterbacks - Syracuse's Eric Dungey (346), North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky (342.2), Jackson (325), Virginia's Kurt Benkert (291) and Duke's Daniel Jones (282.8) - are averaging more passing yards per game than Clemson's Deshaun Watson did last season, when his 273.6-yper-game clip not only led the ACC but helped carry the Tigers into the national championship game.

Watson ranks only - only being a relative term - seventh in yards per game among ACC quarterbacks this season. That speaks to how strong this crop of ACC quarterbacks is right now.

''Their quarterback is arguably the best player in America right now,'' said Boston College coach Steve Addazio, whose team faces Watson and the Tigers on Friday. ''Arguably. Phenomenal.''

North Carolina is on pace so far for the nation's best completion percentage since 2008, with Trubisky leading the country by completing 76 percent of his throws. And it might be easy to overlook how sharp he's been, given how the Tar Heels have won in each of the last two weeks in dramatic finishes - including a 54-yard field goal to snap what was a 22-game home winning streak by Florida State last weekend.

''He's been fantastic,'' Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said of Trubisky, in advance of the Hokies-Tar Heels game this weekend. ''He's been incredibly diligent with the ball. He is not throwing interceptions. He is giving his guys chances to make plays. Just from judging from a far, he seems to have a great deal of trust in those guys.''

Fuente's guy isn't so bad, either: Virginia Tech's Jerod Evans has thrown 103 passes, been picked off only once and leads the ACC in efficiency.

One of the top quarterback matchups in the country this weekend is an ACC showdown, when Brad Kaaya and No. 10 Miami take on Deondre Francois and No. 23 Florida State.

Kaaya has thrown for more than 7,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in just over two years at Miami. Francois, a highly touted freshman, is averaging nearly 265 yards passing per game to start his college career.

''I think he's doing well,'' Miami coach Mark Richt said of Kaaya. ''I think he has faith and confidence in how we're going about our passing game, as far as reads and progressions and what he's trying to get accomplished.''

Syracuse changed schemes under a new staff, as evidenced by how the Orange threw for 1,881 yards in the entire 2015 season and are already at 1,850 passing yards through five games this year. Dungey has thrown for more yards than any sophomore in the country, and is on pace to be the third quarterback in Syracuse history to top 2,500 yards in a season.

''I think when it's all said and done, you guys will like the cake that we're baking,'' Orange coach Dino Babers said. ''Right now is not the time to eat the batter. Wait for us to bake the cake.''

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.