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ACC/Big East quarterback controversy

7/20/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There was some debate raging over the quarterbacks listed as nominees for this year's preseason Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and it includes three ACC quarterbacks -- Duke's Thaddeus Lewis, Wake's Riley Skinner and Maryland's Chris Turner.

The award is given not only to the top senior quarterback in the country, but also one who is recognized for his character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, and athletic abilities.

My colleague, Big East blogger Brian Bennett, wondered why South Florida's Matt Grothe is not on the list. Fair question, and it could have been as simple as his school didn't nominate him for it. (Note: Since Bennett posted his blog entry on Friday, Grothe has been added to the list).

In making his case for Grothe, though, Bennett made one against Lewis and Turner, and knowing Bennett and my history to agree to disagree (some readers might remember our ACC/Big East challenge last year), I have to disagree with him here.

Thaddeus Lewis is not only one of the top two quarterbacks in the ACC, he's also an inherently good person who exemplifies everything this award is looking for. You guys have heard me rave about Russell Wilson, but I'll be honest -- the only thing holding me back from calling Lewis the best quarterback in the ACC is the fact he's won just one conference game. And we all know that's a problem that's rooted much deeper than what Lewis has or hasn't done on the field the past three seasons, especially considering his completion percentage has gone up while his interceptions have gone down during that span.

If you want to compare Lewis to Grothe, you've also got to compare the conferences, the schedules, and the players around them. The ACC has it tougher in the first two categories, and South Florida wins on the third. Plus, Lewis played in two fewer games than Grothe and Grothe still threw more than twice as many interceptions.

I know, I can hear Wake Forest fans making their case for Skinner all the way up here in Maryland -- and Skinner no doubt is one of the best in the conference and has led Wake to unprecedented success. But Skinner has had a 1,000-yard receiver in Kenny Moore, and the ACC's leader in receptions per game in D.J. Boldin, an offensive line that was respectable, and the support of one of the best coaching staffs and administrations in the country.

Bottom line is this: This award is about more than just the numbers, and so is Lewis. He's deserves to be on that list just as much as Grothe, if not ahead of him. After all, that's how they're ranked nationally.