With the 2022 college football season quickly approaching, the Atlantic Coast Conference arguably has the best group of quarterbacks in the country from top to bottom.
The ACC didn’t have a team in the College Football Playoff during the 2021 season but with 10 teams returning a starting quarterback, the league should be at a competitive advantage this fall.
Here’s a look at the USA TODAY Network’s rankings of the ACC’s projected starting quarterbacks entering the 2022 season.
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No. 14 Duke’s Riley Leonard/Jordan Moore
Finding a starting quarterback will be on top of the list for first-year coach Mike Elko. Gunnar Holmberg, last year’s starting quarterback, transferred to FIU, setting the stage for a wide-open quarterback competition between Riley Leonard and Jordan Moore.
Both are rather inexperienced with Leonard playing 153 snaps and Moore playing 80, both as true freshmen. Elko has not yet named a starter.
No. 13 Drake Maye or Jocolby Criswell, North Carolina
Who will replace Sam Howell? That remains UNC’s biggest question entering the 2022 season. Both May and Criswell were impressive in the spring football game. Criswell didn’t miss on a pass attempt, finishing 6 of 6 for 104 yards. Maye went 9 of 12 passing for 113 yards. Coach Mack Brown has not hinted which player will be the opening day starter.
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No. 12 Grant Wells or Jason Brown, Virginia Tech
First-year head coach Brent Pry has two transfer portal quarterbacks to choose from this season. At Marshall, Wells threw for more than 3,500 yards last season while Brown and his dual-threat abilities pushed South Carolina to wins over Florida and Auburn in two of his four career starts with the Gamecocks.
No. 11 Jeff Simms, Georgia Tech
Simms suffered through injuries in 2021 that caused him to only start six games last season. He finished with 1,468 passing yards and 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions and looks to return to his 2020 form where he was one of the top freshman quarterbacks in the country.
The addition of former Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke as a full-time quarterbacks coach should help.
No. 10 Kedon Slovis or Nick Patti, Pitt
Slovis, a USC transfer, could end up being one of the better quarterbacks in the ACC, but he’s struggled with some consistency issues that could open the door for Patti. Both have the tough task of replacing Kenny Pickett, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished his career as Pitt’s all-time leader in passing.
No. 9 Jordan Travis, Florida State
Travis showed steady improvement last fall and was most productive against ACC opponents down the stretch. He passed for 1,539 yards and 15 touchdowns to six interceptions in 2021, helping FSU win five of its last seven games after a 0-3 start.
No. 8 Garrett Shrader, Syracuse
Shrader will enter the 2022 season as the unquestioned starter after winning his position after three games in 2021. Shrader finished with 1,444 passing yards and nine touchdowns to four interceptions and should benefit from new offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who comes from Virginia. Shrader can also run the ball, rushing for 781 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall.
No. 7 DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson
Uiagalelei was a Heisman hopeful entering the 2021 season but struggled in his sophomore season. His ceiling is extremely high, but his nine touchdowns to 10 interception performance last fall, as well as an ACC-worst passer rating, showed there is much work to be done.
No. 6 Phil Jurkovec, Boston College
Jurkovec is a player that could be near the top of the list if he can remain healthy. Coach Jeff Hafley revealed at ACC Media Days that he was really only healthy for one game last fall but is at full-strength heading into 2022. Jurkovec has shown he has NFL potential and a next-level frame.
No. 5 Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
The ACC Rookie of the Year didn’t take over the starting spot last year until late September and still went on to throw 25 touchdowns for the Hurricanes. His talent and swag led to a mid-season resurgence for Miami, which won five of its last six games including Top-25 wins over NC State and Pitt. Van Dyke finished the 2021 season with six straight games of at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, becoming the first Power Five quarterback since Joe Burrow’s Heisman Trophy campaign in 2019 to record such a streak.
No. 4 Brennan Armstrong, Virginia
Armstrong threw for more than 400 yards per game last season and threw more passes than anyone else in the conference. The senior quarterback, though, will start 2022 with a new coach, former Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliot, and a new system that could bring more balance to the offense and take the ball out of Armstrong’s hand. Armstrong is currently third on UVA’s all-time career total offense list with 7,720 yards. The Cavaliers started 6-3 last season but dropped their final three games, including a 29-24 setback to rival Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale.
No. 3 Malik Cunningham, Louisville
There is no debate that Cunningham is the best dual-threat quarterback in the ACC. He was one of five players last fall, and the only QB, to rush for 1,000 yards and his 20 rushing touchdowns were best in the league. Cunningham also passed for 2,941 yards with 19 touchdowns to six interceptions. If he takes a step forward with his passing ability, he could easily be an ACC Player of the Year candidate.
No. 2 Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
Hartman may have struggled mightily in the ACC championship game, throwing four interceptions in the 45-21 loss to Pitt, but Hartman was voted the All-ACC second team quarterback for a reason. He threw for 4,228 yards and 39 touchdowns to 14 interceptions last fall while making 58.9% of his passes. The offense averaged 41 points a game on the way to the school’s first ACC championship game appearance since 2006. The senior quarterback will be aided by the return of wide receiver AT Perry, who caught 71 passes for 1,293 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall.
No. 1 Devin Leary, NC State
NC State has emerged as a popular pick to win the ACC for the first time in 42 years, and a lot of that confidence comes from the return of Leary. The junior, who was recently named the ACC preseason player of the year was a model of consistency last fall, throwing for 3,433 yards, an eyebrow-raising 35-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, while staying 65.7% of his passes. Leary lost his top target in NC State’s all-time receptions leader Emeka Emezie but has plenty of talent returning in the wide receivers room. Leary led NC State to a 9-3 record in 2021 including a double-overtime win over Clemson and a thrilling fourth-quarter victory over UNC in the season finale.
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David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at email@example.com, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.