- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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There are three programs in the ACC facing uncertainty at the quarterback position, and this month the competition will determine who the starter is at Virginia, Miami and Georgia Tech. Of the three, Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington has the most job security and currently sits atop the depth chart.
None of them, though, should feel comfortable.
Here’s a look at the top three quarterback battles in the ACC:
Ross Metheny: He played in five games last year and completed 13 of 17 passes for three touchdowns, one interception and 171 yards. He had a career-best day against Florida State when he completed 7 of 9 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown and he was 2-for-2 for 50 yards and a touchdown against Virginia Tech.
Michael Rocco: He played in six games as a true freshman last year and was the first option off the bench in four games. He has completed 13 of 25 pass attempts for one touchdown, two interceptions and 143 yards.
Michael Strauss: He enrolled in January 2010 and redshirted last year.
David Watford: The true freshman enrolled in January and was inconsistent this spring. He was rated the No. 58 quarterback in the nation by ESPN.com.
The skinny: None of them emerged as a true leader this past spring. Coach Mike London said the first few weeks of summer practice will be spent watching their fundamentals, their drops, their throws and reactions to the defense. London said he would like to determine who’s No. 1 and No. 2 by game week.
The quote: “We’ll be able to tell early on where these guys are and how far they’ve moved ahead, stayed the same or taken a step backwards,” London said. “… They touch the ball 100 percent of the time. You want to make sure there’s enough evaluation to assess where they are. I would say about midway through practices as we’re still going good-on-good we’ll make some type of determination on that.”
Jacory Harris: Despite a concussion that sidelined him for three games, Harris finished last season with 6,340 career passing yards, the third most in program history. His 14 passing touchdowns gave him 50 for his career, the second most of any Miami quarterback. Yet despite his cemented place among the program’s career leaders, Harris’ 32 interceptions over the past two seasons are reason for concern.
Stephen Morris: He enrolled in January 2010 and grew up quickly last season when he played in six games, including starts in the final four regular-season games. He threw for 1,240 yards on 82-of-153 passing and had a team-high 125.01 quarterback efficiency rating. His 206.7 yards per game average was the highest on the team.
The skinny: Last year’s disappointing season can be attributed in large part to the unraveling of the quarterback position. Harris had been plagued by poor decision-making all season, and then took a major step back when he was injured. Morris played admirably considering the circumstances, but as expected made some rookie mistakes. The competition between them began in the preparation leading up to the bowl game last year and will continue until one of them separates himself. Will first-year coach Al Golden go with Harris, the veteran, or Morris, who has shown promise despite having to learn two offensive systems in as many seasons?
The quote: Golden said he wouldn’t completely rule out the idea of a two-quarterback system, but “it’s something I haven’t been comfortable with.” Golden said Harris’ experience isn’t necessarily an edge over Morris. “Either one could very easily lead our team right now.”
3. GEORGIA TECH
Tevin Washington: He started the final four games of the season after replacing injured starter Joshua Nesbitt in the Virginia Tech game. He rushed for 514 yards and is the team’s second-leading returning rusher. He completed 25 of 61 pass attempts for 417 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He was voted by his teammates as “most likely to surprise” in 2011.
Synjyn Days: He rushed for more than 100 yards and accounted for two touchdowns in the spring game. He redshirted last year and played an option-type offense at Hillgrove High School in Georgia.
Vad Lee: He’s a true freshman from Durham, N.C., who led Hillside High to the state championship. He rushed for 1,300 yards and passed for 3,223 last year. He rushed for five touchdowns in one game with Paul Johnson watching in the stands.
Demond Smith: A true freshman from Monroe, Ga., Smith led his high school team to an 11-2 record and state playoff appearance. He rushed for a school-record 1,795 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior.
The skinny: Washington has earned his place atop the depth chart entering the fall. It’s his job to lose, it’s that simple, but coach Paul Johnson has made it very clear that there will be competition this summer. Washington is 1-3 as a starter, but the Jackets’ offensive woes weren’t entirely his fault last year. The season changed with Nesbitt’s injury. Washington was the most consistent performer this past spring, but he really struggled during the spring game and was outperformed by Days.
The quote: “We’re going to play the guy who gives us the best chance to win. Sometimes winning the game is not losing it, being able to manage and do those kinds of things.” -- Johnson.
1727dAndrea Adelson and Heather Dinich