790the Zone - my day job - puts out a "Guy's Guide to Football" every fall. I was asked to rank the Top 5 ACC Quarterbacks of all time to put in the "Guide." Here it is.
ACC football has been much maligned since the league’s expansion to 12 teams in 2004 and rightfully so. The conference that was supposed to compete with the SEC for national supremacy has fallen flat on its face.
Poor quarterback play has been a huge reason why.
Quarterback play in college football has disproportional importance to a team’s success compared to any other position in any other sport. While the ACC has been well represented in the first round of the NFL Draft – a good measure of a league’s talent – by the likes of Calvin Johnson, Gaines Adams, Mario Williams, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Antrel Rolle, only two ACC quarterbacks have been selected in the first round this decade – Phillip Rivers and Matt Ryan.
With that in mind, and with the hope for a QB resurgence to come in the ACC, here are the five best quarterbacks in ACC history.
1. Charlie Ward, Florida State
This is easy. Ward’s 1993 season is one of the greatest ever for a college football player regardless of position. Ward led the Seminoles to their first ever national championship, an undefeated ACC season and picked up the Heisman Trophy by a landslide along the way.
Ward had an almost unbelievable 27 touchdown passes with only four interceptions that season, but his greatness wasn’t about stats, it was about his leadership and calming demeanor and finally breaking down the national title door at FSU.
Ward also had a tremendous influence on the entire game and future of college football. He was the first true dual threat quarterback who could both run and pass effectively. Previous to Ward, quarterbacks were either runners OR passers, not both. After Ward, everything changed, and the end result of that is guys like Alex Smith, Vince Young and Tim Tebow who can do it all.
2. Chris Weinke, Florida State
Weinke-led Seminole teams played for three consecutive national championships in the late 1990s. That’s pretty good. While FSU won only one of those games, it’s easy to forget now that in the team’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Tennessee, Weinke did not play due to a neck injury and with him on the field the outcome would likely have been different.
Weinke won the Heisman Trophy in 2000 while leading the nation in passing yards. He’d finish his career with a 32-3 record, three ACC championships and all of the ACC passing records.
3. Phillip Rivers, N.C. State
The phrase “take it to another level” is overused in sports, but that’s just what Phillip Rivers did to N.C. State football. Largely an afterthought throughout their history, the Wolfpack were a major player in the ACC and nationally during Rivers’ career.
A four year starter, Rivers was the 2003 ACC Player of the Year and finished his career as the conference’s leader in passing yards, touchdowns and total offense.
4. Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech
Hamilton’s career was played in the shadow of the Florida State dynasty and being second fiddle in state to the Bulldogs, it’s easy to forget how great he was.
Hamilton was the runner-up in the 1999 Heisman Trophy voting, a consensus All-American and the ACC Player of the Year that season.
5. Steve Fuller, Clemson
Clemson isn’t renowned for great quarterback play, but Fuller was the ACC Player of the Year in ’77 and ’78. He led the Tigers to an undefeated conference season in ’78 and a Top-10 national finish.