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Best QBs on Clemson’s Schedule

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Birmingham Bowl - Memphis v Wake Forest Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

“It goes in cycles.” That’s the common saying when it comes to which conference is strongest. There’s some truth to it and the same can be said for which conference has the strongest QB play. It was only a few years ago that the SEC hardly had a good passer and we wondered how Alabama’s defense would handle Deshaun Watson. Meanwhile, the ACC boasted Watson, Lamar Jackson, Mitch Trubisky, Brad Kaaya, Daniel Jones, Ryan Finley, Eric Dungey, Jerod Evans, and Nate Peterman in the same season (2016).

Now the ACC appears like it could have a dearth of talent behind center across the league. Of course, the best QB in the country is at Clemson, but after that? Bryce Perkins (UVA)? Surely others will emerge, but the ACC QB landscape looks pretty barren.

Clemson’s secondary looks to be the new strength of the defense in 2019, but what QBs will there really be to challenge them (before the postseason)? We rank the 10 FBS QBs on the regular season schedule for the Clemson Tigers:

1) Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

  • Class: Junior
  • 2018 Stats: 238/415 3,107 pass yrds, 24-9 TD-INT
  • Athlon Pre-Season Third-Team All-SEC

Most Clemson fans remember Kellen Mond throwing for a career-high 430 yards and 3 TDs against Clemson last season. He obviously slowed down after that explosion, but he still eclipsed 3,000 yards passing. He also tallied 474 rushing yards and 7 rushing TDs.

Now he enters his junior year and second season with Coach Fisher. He’s got a lot of WRs and offensive lineman returning while star RB Trayveon Williams departs. They’ll rely a lot on Kellen Mond and he seems poised to deliver.

LSU v Texas A&M Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

2) Jake Bentley, U of SC

  • Class: Senior
  • 2018 Stats: 244/388 3,171 pass yrds, 27-14 TD-INT

Jake Bentley is another QB on this list that torched Clemson last season (510 passing yards and 5 passing TDs). Interestingly, without Deebo Samuel for their game against Virginia, he struggled immensely on a rough 17-39 218 0-2 TD-INT day. They lost 0-28.

Bentley must cut down on the interceptions now that he is a senior. He simply isn’t dynamic enough to justify that many mistakes. Still, he is a good QB who certainly makes plays, as demonstrated by his his 27 passing TDs last season, which was only below Tua Tagovailoa (43), Jake Fromm (30), and Drew Lock (28) in the SEC. If Bentley can take the next step maintain his production without the help of Deebo Samuel while trimming the interceptions, he’ll be an NFL draft prospect. Whether or not he can do that against a brutal schedule remains to be seen.

3) Tommy DeVito, Syracuse

  • Class: Rs. Sophomore
  • 2018 Stats: 44/87, 525 pass yrds, 4-3 TD-INT
  • Pre-Season Athlon Third-Team All-ACC

Here we are at #3 and we’re already getting into completely unproven three-star (Rivals) recruits. Folks in Upstate NY are excited about Tommy DeVito though. There’s good reason as they saw him bail them out in two big games last season. Against FSU, Eric Dungey got hurt and Tommy DeVito guided them to a 30-7 win with 24 of those points coming in the second half. A few games later, they blew a big lead to UNC. Coach Babers brought him in to replace a struggling Eric Dungey in the fourth quarter. DeVito threw 3 TDs in a double-OT victory.

Yes, he got pummeled by Notre Dame, but overall he showed promise as a redshirt freshman. Dino Babers will adjust the offense to his skillset (more of a pocket passer than Dungey) and surely get the most of out it. DeVito could be one of the better QBs in the ACC.

4) Jamie Newman, Wake Forest

  • Class: Rs. Junior
  • 2018 Stats: 84/141, 1,083 pass yrds, 9-4 TD-INT

This really could read “insert Wake Forest QB.” Last year, Kendall Hinton got suspended at the start of the year. Sam Hartman played so well in his absence that Hinton moved to slot receiver. Then Hartman got hurt and Jamie Newman led the Deacons to win three of their final four contests. He ran for 177 yards in those four games plus another 73 in mop up duty against Notre Dame. He could really rack up the rushing yards in a full season.

After a great Spring Game, Newman looks poised to lead the Deacon offense. Coach Clawson is a wildly underrated offensive coach and the Deacons up-tempo attack will be productive beyond the talent that comprises it.

5) James Blackmon, Florida State

  • Class: Rs. Sophomore
  • 2018 Stats: 33/51, 510 pass yrds, 5-1 TD-INT (four games in redshirt season)

While Deondre Francois (now at FAU) got most of the snaps at QB last season, James Blackmon played in only four games and was able to preserve a year with the new redshirt rule. Now he comes back onto the scene and will compete with Wisconsin grad transfer Alex Hornibrook. Like Wake Forest, this #5 spot in our rankings could read “insert FSU QB.” While the Seminoles were horrible last season, they should have a significant offensive upgrade as their offensive line gets healthy, their scheme improves with OC Kendal Briles joining the staff, and they get better QB play.

Although Blackmon didn’t play much last season, he was thrust into action as a true freshman the year before and proved he had a strong arm while he threw for 2,230 yards and 19 touchdowns. His accuracy could improve though as he posted a sub-60% completion percentage and threw 11 picks. With two offseasons and a redshirt season, expect a step forward. If not, Alex Hornibrook, who struggled last year but threw for 2,644 yards and 25 TDs the year before will be waiting. Regardless of who starts, the #5 ranking likely stays the same.

6) Anthony Brown, Boston College

  • Class: Rs. Junior
  • 2018 Stats: 158/285, 2,121 pass yrds, 20-9 TD-INT

Anthony Brown enters his redshirt junior year and will need to take the next step forward if BC is to match their 7-wins from last season. Star RB AJ Dillon is back and they’ll once again lean on him, but most of their offensive line and defense departs. Anthony Brown posted a 55% completion percentage while averaging only 177 yards per game. That’ll have to improve. This is the middle ground before you get into the very questionable FBS QBs on the schedule.

7) Jawon Pass, Louisville

  • Class: Rs. Junior
  • 2018 Stats: 162/300, 1,960 pass yrds, 8-12 TD-INT

After losing Lamar Jackson, everyone knew the Cardinals needed to avoid a massive drop of at QB, but it was unclear just how much Jackson had carried them. Without him their offense crashed and burned while the defense was even worse.

There was a good bit of hype around Jawon Pass coming into the season. He had played sparingly behind Lamar Jackson in the year prior, but showed promise completing 23-33 passes for 2 TDs and 0 INTs in mop-up duty against weak competition. As a full-time start last year, things weren’t so rosy. He passed for under 2,000 yards, threw only 8 TDs, and had 12 INTs. Louisville was a dumpster fire, but they had good receivers (admittedly the offensive line and running backs were lacking).

With new coach Scott Satterfield, Jawon Pass could find his groove, but he remains unproven and surrounded by an extremely unproven team. He’ll get better, but until proven otherwise he belongs ranked in the bottom half of the ACC and Clemson’s schedule.

8) Sam Howell, North Carolina

  • Class: Freshman
  • Four-star, #4 QB Nationally (Rivals)

Incumbent Tar Heel QB, Chaz Surratt, moved to linebacker leaving the QB spot open for one of three freshman to win. Sam Howell is one of those freshman competing for the job. He was a surprise signee that was verbally committed to Florida State. It was the second last minute defection for the Noles, coming right after OL Will Putnam spurned the them by choosing Clemson.

Sam Howell is listed as a pro-style QB by Rivals, but it is worth noting that he ran for 1,200 yards in his senior season. He can use his legs when plays breakdown. He is 6’1” and mobile so you’ll see comps with Baker Mayfield and Russell Wilson.

TarHeel Blog notes that “The best thing about Howell’s game is his accuracy in the quick-hitting passing game.” That will work beautifully with OC Phil Longo’s uptempo offense. We may want to write him off as a ho-hum recruit because he went to UNC, but he was offered by Clemson. It’s hard to put a true freshman that hasn’t won the job yet very high (he’ll compete against RS freshmen Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder), but he should be a solid ACC QB soon enough.

9) Matthew McKay, North Carolina State

  • Class: Rs. Sophomore
  • 2018 Stats: 7-8, 87 pass yrds, 0-0 TD-INT
  • Three star (Rivals)

McKay hails from Raleigh, NC and chose his hometown Wolfpack over West Virginia. He played behind 6th year senior Ryan Finley last year and is now set to take over at QB. He’ll bring a new dynamic with his feet as he was a track athlete in high school and listed as a dual-threat QB by Rivals. Unfortunately for him, the offense only returns four starters. Their best WR, Kelvin Harmon, is gone as are three starters on the offensive line. A three-star recruit coming into his first real look at playing time on a team with a rebuilding offense? It’s not a recipe for immediate success, but NCSU does have a history of developing NFL QBs.

10) Lucas Johnson, Georgia Tech

  • Class: Rs. Junior
  • 2018 Stats: No Stats
  • Three Star (Rivals)

Johnson is likely the front-runner to be the new starting QB in Atlanta. He was expected to be TaQuon Marshall’s backup last season, but injured his foot in the first Fall scrimmage and missed the season. Tobias Oliver instead played the role of back-up QB and now the two will compete for the starting role. Oliver is more of the pure runner built for the option, at least his stats indicate as much, while Johnson is considered more of a passer. Johnson as certainly a dual threat in high school - hence being recruited by a triple-option team - but seems like more of a passer. He’ll need that speed playing behind an offensive line that has no real experience pass blocking.

It’s an uphill road for GT in 2019. Whoever wins the starting QB job, they won’t have many weapons around them. Lucas Johnson seems like their best bet, but may not be ready for prime time when the Yellow Jackets have to go to Death Valley in Week 1.

Bonus:

Obviously that list was not too impressive - especially after the first three or four names. Whie the regular season may not provide the Tiger defense with clashes against elite QBs, the postseason certainly could. Here are four very good QBs the Tigers could face in the postseason:

Bryce Perkins, Virginia (Potential ACC Championship Matchup)

Virginia looks to be the seventh team in seven years to win the Coastal Division. With senior Bryce Perkins back at QB, they should be the favorite. He ran for 923 yards and 9 TDs while throwing for 2,680 and 25 TDs with a 64% completion percentage last season. He provides them a major threat on the ground while still being an accurate passer.

Justin Herbert, Oregon

It’s not often a projected first round pick chooses to return to their school, but it makes a big impact when they do. Oregon and Washington are the teams to watch in the Pac-12. Oregon has the less favorable schedule with games away from home against Auburn, Stanford, and Washington. Herbert threw for 3,151 yards with 29-8 TD-INT. They return essentially their whole offense minus WR Dillon Mitchell, but even replace him with Penn State transfer Juwan Johnson. If they beat Auburn in week 1, they should be immediately be looked at as a potential playoff team.

Jake Fromm, Georgia

Jake Fromm had a ridiculous 67% completion percentage last year. He also only had 306 attempts, far fewer than Trevor Lawrence (397), Justin Herbert (404), or Kellen Mond (415). He averaged 13 yards per completion though, which is even more than Trevor Lawrence. UGA’s reliance on the run game may coax you into thinking he is a game manager, but he may just be an excellent drop back passer, especially if he’s taken any strides going into what we assume is his final year before the NFL draft.

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

After finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting last season, Tua enters 2019 as the front-runner for the award. He finished 5th nationally in passing yards despite being outside the top 50 in pass attempts. At 11.2 yards per pass attempt, he finished second in the country among those with at least 40 pass attempts. He struggled in the National Championship against Clemson and the SEC Championship against Georgia, but expect him to bounce back with another great campaign.