Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, two friends and competitors from the state of Virginia, have already begun texting and talking to each other about the upcoming season.
“It’s been a nice break, but at the same time, you’re definitely anxious to get back on the field,” Thomas said.
ACC fans should be just as eager to see them this spring.
What was a position of question in the conference at this time a year ago has evolved into one of the league’s biggest reasons for hope this fall. In 2011, at least half of the quarterbacks in the ACC were entering their rookie seasons, and Miami’s Jacory Harris was the only senior starter. Now, they’re seasoned, smarter and looking to improve upon successful debuts. For the first time in league history, the ACC had five quarterbacks top 3,000 passing yards, and all five of them -- Boyd, Thomas, UNC’s Bryn Renner, NC State’s Mike Glennon and Wake Forest’s Tanner Price -- return. That doesn’t include Duke’s Sean Renfree, who threw for 3,131 yards as a sophomore in 2010 and also returns this season.
“I think it’s going to be great for the conference as a whole,” Thomas said. “All of the guys are exceptionally poised and getting ready to be a national title contender in the ACC. That’s what all of us want and have been striving for since we’ve been here. All of us have a great chance because we’ve gone through our first year and we all had pretty good years. It’s been very good for us to play as much as we did and as well as we did.”
Boyd set a single-season league mark with 38 touchdowns responsible last season. Glennon (32) tied for the fourth-highest total with 32, while Thomas accounted for 30. All of them, plus Renner and Florida State's EJ Manuel, finished among the top 50 in the nation in passing efficiency in their first seasons as full-time starters. Georgia Tech's Tevin Washington, also a first-year starter last season, would have ranked 13th nationally if he had enough pass attempts to qualify for the pass efficiency ratings.
In the ACC’s history, the league has had 24 quarterbacks record 30 3,000-yard seasons. Only three have had back-to-back 3,000-yard efforts in Florida State’s Chris Weinke (1999, 2000), NC State’s Philip Rivers (2002, 2003) and the Wolfpack’s Russell Wilson (2009, 2010). That number could increase, though, if the ACC’s current group of quarterbacks continues to mature at the rate it did from the first half of last season to the second half.
Manuel, who was hindered by a shoulder injury for part of last season, went the final eight games of the season without throwing an interception. Glennon threw 11 of his 31 touchdowns in the last three games and only four of his 12 picks in the last five games. Boyd completed eight of 24 passes in last year’s spring game and after an 8-0 start to 2011-12 was a legitimate Heisman contender. Renner was one of the ACC’s most efficient passers and he did it with bone spurs in his ankle. Both Renner and Glennon will have four returning starters on their respective offensive lines to work behind.
“The biggest difference for me the first year was getting used to going out there every series,” Glennon said. “In the past, if I got in the game, I would go in for about two series and the game was over. It was different for me to get used to staying mentally focused each and every series knowing that when we go off the field in five minutes I’ll be right back out there.
“I think I improved every game. Even if we lost and I didn’t have my best game, I still improved as a player. I think I learned from my experiences and I definitely feel in the bowl game I was playing my best football of the year, and that was just building on each game, learning from mistakes and building on the good things.”
As the quarterbacks continue to build on the good things, so will the ACC -- starting this spring.