If the ACC begins to change the narrative this season that this is a one-team football league with a bunch of mediocre squads, it'll be because of quarterback play.
When it comes to the most important position on the field, this conference is loaded with experience. Now, that alone doesn't win games, but the talent level is also higher than it has been in recent seasons.
With the all-conference preseason team release on the horizon, here's one voter's rankings and thoughts of QB in the ACC:
1. Sam Howell, UNC
Get mad if you want to, but it's impossible not to put a young man who's thrown 68 touchdowns in two seasons at the top. He might not have the prototypical size, and he lost a lot of playmakers from last year, but Howell is likely going to end his ACC career with more TD passes than Trevor Lawrence and tons of postseason accolades.
2. D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson
In a league full of QBs with two or more years of starting experience, this California kid doesn't even have more than two starts in his career. But Uiagalelei has all the tools physically and mentally, as well as Heisman Trophy odds—according to FanDuel, to keep Clemson among the best in the nation. He'll be a media darling by the end of the year.
3. D'Eriq King, Miami
An argument can easily be made for the Houston-turned-Miami star to be higher. King is electric, whether it's using his legs or getting the ball out quickly in Rhett Lashlee's offense. He won't have the best supporting cast, nor will he be a high NFL draft pick, but he might be the best pure playmaker in the league.
4. Phil Jurkovec, Boston College
The Eagles' QB is built like a tight end, but he was on the passing end of over 2,500 yards, 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 10 games last year. The Notre Dame transfer can take another step forward and become a first-round NFL draft pick in his second year at BC based on his size and stellar weapons around him.
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5. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Taking advantage of one more year of eligibility, nobody in the ACC has more career passing attempts, and Pickett has greatly improved his accuracy. He's got enough playmakers at receiver to have another solid season statistically, but he could use more wins if he wants to move up this list and earn an opportunity in the NFL.
6. McKenzie Milton, FSU
Taking a little bit of a shot here. Milton was fantastic at UCF, but a gruesome leg injury nearly derailed his career. Nearly three years later, he's looking to give FSU the stability, good-decision making and playmaking they've sorely missed at the position the last several years. Jordan Travis is also there, but Milton is the key piece if healthy.
7. Malik Cunningham, Louisville
The Cardinals' signal-caller is a solid dual-threat player. While he's not transcendent like Lamar Jackson, he can keep plays alive and create passing opportunities down the field. He also threw 12 interceptions last year and gets taken down behind the line of scrimmage a lot. If Cunningham can be more consistent, he can be a star.
8. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
The most accurate passer in the ACC behind Lawrence last year, Hartman has been around forever, and it shows in his vast improvement. Maybe the most underrated QB in the league, Hartman has averaged more than eight yards per pass attempt each of the last two seasons and is back to lead a good Wake scoring attack.
9. Devin Leary, N.C. State
It's a shame to rank Leary this low, and it's primarily based on the fact that he only played in four games last year. But he's a name to remember as he's primed for a big season. Leary went from 5.8 yards per pass in 2019 to 8.1 in 2020, and despite the small sample size, he's surrounded by enough talent to be really good this fall.
10. Brennan Armstrong, Virginia
Here's another QB sort of caught on the backend in a tier of high-potential players. Armstrong threw for over 2,000 yards and tossed 11 touchdowns in nine games while averaging 7.9 yards per attempt in his first season as a starter. He needs to improve his accuracy and decision-making, but there's room to grow for sure.
11. Jeff Sims, Georgia Tech
It's hard to play right out the gate at this level, but Sims started all 10 games for the Yellow Jackets as a true freshman and showed real promise in wins over FSU and Louisville. It'll be interesting to see what the next step looks like for Sims, but he's got to do a much better job of protecting the football in 2021.
12. Braxton Burmeister, Virginia Tech
While Burmeister only threw 84 passes and two touchdowns, he averaged over eight yards per attempt on the year and led his team to a victory over rival Virginia at the end of the 2020 season. Now he steps into a much bigger role, and head coach Justin Fuente's job status could depend on Burmeister's ability.
13. Tommy DeVito, Syracuse
While DeVito is the most experienced QB on the roster, he might not be the best, and the Orange could turn to Mississippi State transfer Garrett Schrader, a more mobile option behind a suspect offensive line. DeVito has struggled mightily with decision-making and avoiding sacks, but he'll get one last chance to be the guy in the Dome.
14. Gunnar Holmberg, Duke
There's not much to go on here. Holmberg had a knee injury that cost him all of 2019 and sat behind former Clemson QB Chase Brice last year. Holmberg has only played in seven games over three seasons, but HC David Cutcliffe is known as a QB whisperer, so maybe there's a chance Holmberg isn't dead last by December.