We still have a full summer ahead before the 2017 college football season kicks off, but this is the time of year where fall rosters begin to take shape.
Coming off a 2016 campaign where the ACC sent six quarterbacks to the NFL, there will unquestionably be plenty of new faces under center when the new season kicks off.
It will be strange to watch Clemson take the field without Deshaun Watson, or Miami attempt to live up to the newfound hype without Brad Kaaya, but that's just the nature of the beast.
Clearly Louisville superstar Lamar Jackson will garner the most attention coming off a Heisman season, but there's a core group of young passers that could surprise a ton of folks who aren't locked into the ACC on a regular basis.
Who will be the best quarterbacks in the ACC in 2017-18? Here's my take.
5. Ryan Finley, N.C. State
This edition of #WolfpackWednesday is brought to you by Ryan Finley@PackFootball pic.twitter.com/Dlu54Ksg8l
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) October 5, 2016
Finley is far from a household name in college football circles, even though he's coming off a season where he put up sneaky impressive stats. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound talent just looks like your typical pro-style quarterback and his skill set backs it up. As a starter for the Wolfpack in 2016, Finley threw for 3,055 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
He has great pocket presence and a natural, quick release. When Finley has time to set his feet, he's accurate and confident — even with shots down field.
One of the reasons I'm so high on the N.C. State signal caller heading into the new campaign is because of the bevy of talent around him. The Wolfpack boast one of the top defensive lines in the nation — which means more opportunities for the offense. Running back Nyheim Hines is the best young player nobody is talking about while Jaylen Samuels has a chance to emerge as one of the country's best, most versatile tight-ends.
MORE: N.C. State Is One of the Most Dangerous 2017 ACC Teams No One Is Talking About
Finley's biggest hurdle a season ago was trying to force plays with the game on the line, which resulted in turnovers in costly moments. He threw a pick in overtime against Clemson that ended the game. He threw an interception in the end zone against Boston College, giving the Eagles their first conference win in since 2015. There were critical, game-changing interceptions against Florida State and Miami as well.
Keep in mind, last year was FInley's first go around as a FBS starter since transferring from Boise State. Those jitters from being raw should be long gone. He's posed for a breakout season.
4. Daniel Jones, Duke
I've touched on this briefly before, but Jones might be the most underrated quarterback in the conference, and quite possibly the country. The 2016 true freshman had his number called unexpectedly when Thomas Sirk went down with a season-ending injury right before the opener. Like most true freshman, Jones made his fair share of rookie mistakes, but the positives far outweighed the negatives.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound QB is freakishly athletic for his build. Jones showed comfort as both a runner and passer, giving David Cutcliffe a wide array of options, especially now that his QB has had a full season to master the playbook.
RELATED: Is Duke Football ACC's Biggest Sleeper Heading Into 2017 Season?
As a passer, Jones wrapped up last season with 2,836 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He really turned the corner with the gritty three-touchdown performance on the road at Notre Dame last season. At that point, it was clear the Blue Devils had found their future signal caller.
Let's not forget about Cutcliffe's prowess when it comes to quarterbacks. He worked closely with Peyton Manning every summer during the former NFL star's career and continues to do the same with Eli. Jones has the tools to succeed, so now Cutcliffe can put his magic in motion.
3. Eric Dungey, Syracuse
Insane #'s! RT @theACCDN @EricDungey by the #s:
434 Pass YD
488 Total YD
3 TD@CuseFootball | #MustSeeACC pic.twitter.com/g9t6qAu9jm
— Eric Fredrikson (@EricFredrikson) October 23, 2016
The Syracuse dual-threat QB was putting up ridiculous numbers before suffering a season-ending injury on Oct. 22 against Boston College last season. I firmly believe Dino Babers is on the cusp of returning the Orange to relevancy in the ACC, and it starts with Dungey leading the way for the offense.
When you take a close look at Dungey's stats in the eight games he played from start to finish in 2016, the numbers are impressive. The Syracuse signal caller threw for more than 300 yards and at least two touchdowns in six of the eight outings. He had an insane performance against Notre Dame, passing for 363 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 49 yards and three scores.
For the fast-paced, up-tempo offense that 'Cuse runs, Dungey's versatility is vital. He's not always polished in the pocket and has an awkward throwing motion at times, but finds a way to connect with receivers in tough situations. Much like Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, Dungey is a mastermind when the pocket breaks down and he's forced to get creative.
The Syracuse defense was abysmal in 2016 (dead last in the conference) but is the only program in the country returning 11 of its starters in 2017. Improvement is inevitable. If Dungey can stay healthy and get help around him, he could easily emerge as one of the top quarterbacks in the conference.
2. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
I know some of you Cardinals' fans might be shaking your heads considering I don't have the reigning Heisman winner penciled in the top spot. Don't get me wrong here. I fully believe Jackson will continue to electrify anyone who tunes into Louisville football and have no reason to believe he will take a significant step back.
Jackson is coming off a 2016 campaign where he put up video game-like numbers on a regular basis. The Cardinals' super human finished the year with an insane 3,543 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and just nine interceptions while rushing for another 1,571 yards and 21 scores. That's absolutely ridiculous.
MORE: Is Lamar Jackson Really A First Round NFL Talent?
While I'm fairly certain Jackson will have another memorable outing and actually increase his questionable NFL draft stock, I think it will be tough to replicate the numbers from a season ago. He isn't new anymore and teams have a full season to prepare for the madness he brings to the table. Do I think most defenses will stop him? Nope, but they have a better chance of slowing him with more tape available.
kevinmcguire: LSU does the safety dance on Lamar Jackson ABC Citrus Bowl: LSU vs. Louisville https://t.co/A0VCnme079 pic.twitter.com/o2XiH7huTu
— FanSportsClips (@FanSportsClips) December 31, 2016
I thought LSU's ability to make Jackson a non-factor in the Citrus Bowl was telling. That's one of the better defenses in the country and you can't expect that from most teams, but it's proof that the Heisman winner is in fact human. He was limited to just 153 passing yards, 33 rushing yards and no touchdowns on the day. Defensive coordinators better pull out that game film and get to work, but again, Jackson will win more times than not.
1. Deondre Francois, Florida State
Some may agree, others may not, but Francois and the Seminoles are poised for a monster 2017-18 campaign. This team is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and could very well make a run toward the College Football Playoff.
There was a time early last season where plenty of 'Noles fans were wondering if Francois was truly the future under center. In Week 3 against Louisville, the true freshman completed just 7 of 18 attempts for 101 yards while gaining -34 yards rushing on the ground. Florida State fell 63-20.
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Sometimes we forget these are kids coming straight out of high school but expect them to shine right away. I was impressed with Francois' ability to bounce back from adversity, winning eight of the final 10 games that included victories over top-tier defenses like Miami, Florida and Michigan. As Francois became more comfortable, Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles' coaching staff began to expand the playbook. I think we've only scratched the surface.
Francois has everything a coach wants in a starting signal caller. He's big enough at 6-foot-2, 205-pounds and has shown the ability to thrive as both a passer and a runner. Athlon Sports ranked Francois as the No. 13 QB in the country heading into 2017 as he comes off his inaugural starting season as the top freshman passer, with 3,350 yards, 257.7 passing yards per game and 8.4 yards per outing.
Sure, RB Dalvin Cook and WR Travis Rudolph are gone as key starters from last year's offense, but this is Florida State, a program that attracts the very best high school prospects. Freshman RB Cam Akers dazzled fans during the spring game and should fill the void left by Cook, while junior WR Nyquan Murray looks like a star in the making. The Seminoles' defense is its biggest strength and should give Francois and the offense more opportunity.
Francois has been working on getting rid of the ball quicker while fine-tuning his skill set as a runner — two things the FSU coaching staff identified as areas for improvement after 2016. Everything is in place for the FSU QB to emerge as one of the top dual-threat options in the nation.