RYAN FINLEY - NC STATE
NC State finished the season with mixed feelings. They started the season 6-1 but they missed a couple of opportunities to get to double digit wins for the second time in school history. Ryan Finley flirted with the idea of going into the draft but he probably made the right decision to come back as he has mastered the offense and he has one of the better groups of receivers in the country.
Finley is a very accurate passer and he protects the ball pretty well overall. Where he needs to improve is down the field passing and quicker decisions.
ERIC DUNGEY - SYRACUSE
The winner of the 2018 “That guy has been there forever” award goes to Eric Dungey. Dungey has been the starter at Syracuse for since his freshman year, but he has rarely been fully healthy. In fact, Jalen Hurts has more starts than Dungey even though he’s played one less season.
A healthy Dungey would mean a lot for Cuse as they have a completely new group of receivers and their defense fell apart after a strong start last year. Dungey is the one “known” thing about this team and Dino Babers needs him to stay healthy and use his arm to make plays more than he uses his legs.
JOSH JACKSON - VTECH
Virginia Tech couldn’t have been much happier with the way Josh Jackson started the season last year. He threw 11 touchdowns in the first 4 games and only threw 1 interception. Then the Clemson game came, and expectations were tempered a bit. Still, the freshman had a very strong year that naturally tailed off towards the end.
Jackson has his work cut out for him this year as VT lost their only consistent receiver last year. They also haven’t figured out the running game since Justin Fuente took over. Jackson will likely be more consistent himself in year two and Fuente’s recruits should be ready to contribute more in year three.
KELLY BRYANT - CLEMSON
Here’s a “hot take”: Kelly Bryant was the weak link for Clemson’s offense last year. I know it sounds crazy because he led the conference in completion percentage. The issue is that he was only 10th in touchdown passes. Clemson’s offense had been very dynamic with Deshuan Watson under center. It was also dynamic back when Tajh Boyd played in Chad Morris’ offense. Bryant added a running ability that they hadn’t had before but he lacked the ability to get the ball down the field.
Clemson has high level receivers and they really like to stretch the field to open up everything else in the offense. Bryant’s struggles last year in that area could lead to Trevor Lawrence getting a shot to take over. The reports out of their fall camp are that Lawrence is playing like a veteran and not a freshman.
TAQUON MARSHALL - GEORGIA TECH
Paul Johnson is on a little bit of a hot seat this year after the Yellow Jackets have been inconsistent over the last handful of years. He could do much worse than Taquan Marshall as his quarterback in such a big year. Marshall ran for over 100 yards six times last year and he burst onto the scene with 249 in the opener against Tennessee.
The big question with Georgia Tech, as always, is how the supporting cast works out. GT loses the only reliable receiver they had last year. Tech did make a splash hire on the defensive side of the ball and that could go a long way towards helping an offense that struggles to play from behind.
BEST OF THE REST
Malik Rosier - Miami
Daniel Jones - Duke