- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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It is no secret that the ACC returns plenty of weapons at quarterback this season. Of the 14 league teams, 12 return signal callers who have starting experience from a year ago. And while that number does include defending ACC champion Florida State -- Sean Maguire started one game last season -- it does not account for Everett Golson, who transferred from Notre Dame to FSU in May and started in a national championship game.
So it should be no surprise to see plenty of familiar ACC faces on a list ranking the nation's top QBs entering 2015. SportsOnEarth's Matt Brown took on the challenge, and he sees six players from the ACC, the most of any conference, among the country's best: Golson, Jacoby Brissett, Marquise Williams, Brad Kaaya, Justin Thomas and Deshaun Watson. More eye-opening however, is who he has as the top overall QB. From Brown:
"1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson. There is danger in letting the hype get out of control. Watson is a sophomore who has started only five games and played in eight. He has missed three games with a broken hand, and he's coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL. He'll be playing behind a questionable offensive line that just unexpectedly lost its best player, left tackle Isaiah Battle, to the supplemental draft. He lost offensive coordinator Chad Morris to SMU. Go ahead, add up the negatives. There are significant caveats here. But it took only three games for Cardale Jones to become a superstar. Sure, those games doubled as the biggest stages of the sport, but Watson's potential is obvious too, and in a season in which there is no clear-cut top quarterback, Watson has the potential to be the best quarterback in college football, even if putting him here now requires a leap of faith."
Leap of faith? Perhaps, especially for a guy who has suffered three serious injuries through this first year of college ball — the latest a torn ACL in his left knee that forced him to miss this spring. But you will get no argument from me. Sure, others are more decorated than Watson. And plenty have better numbers than a guy who played in just eight games (five starts) last season as a true freshman. But what he did in that limited action was enough to validate much of the hype for a guy who was the No. 1 QB recruit in the class of 2014. Watson beat rival South Carolina on that torn ACL, completing 14 of 19 passes for 269 yards and compiling four total touchdowns. And, though it was a limited sample size, Watson finished the season behind only Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota in raw QBR (87.1) and adjusted QBR (90.8).
5dDavid M. Hale
5dDavid M. Hale