Six of the conference's top QBs are natives of the state
Seven of the top eight pass efficiency leaders in the ACC are back this year. Six have something else in common: They are from the state of Virginia.
North Carolina's Bryn Renner (Springfield), N.C. State's Mike Glennon (Centreville), Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas (Lynchburg), Virginia's Michael Rocco (Lynchburg), Clemson's Tajh Boyd (Hampton) and Florida State's E.J. Manuel (Virginia Beach) make up half of the starting quarterbacks in the 12-team ACC.
The players have more than geography in common. Four of them finished in the top five in preseason voting for ACC player of the year. Five of the six are rated in the top 10 in their respective draft class by nfldraftscout.com, none projected to go later than the third round. In a few years, it's possible that the NFL will be populated by a bevy of Virginia-produced quarterbacks, including the Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick (Newport News) and Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson (Richmond).
"We're putting them out there, aren't we?" Thomas told reporters at this year's ACC Kickoff. "It's a testament to Virginia football. We may not get the credit like Florida, Texas and California, but I like to think we're up there with them."
Producing football standouts is nothing new for the Old Dominion. Some of the most illustrious names include Lawrence Taylor (Williamsburg), Bruce Smith (Norfolk) and Fran Tarkenton (Richmond). But rarely has the state produced such a bounty at one position, especially one that demands more skill than athleticism.
The quarterbacks are from all corners of the state. Manuel (Bayside High) and Boyd (Phoebus) were discovered in the talent-rich Hampton Roads area. Thomas (Brookeville) and Rocco (Liberty Academy) are from sleepy Lynchburg in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Renner (West Springfield) and Glennon (Westfield) come from bustling Northern Virginia.
"We're all proud that half of us are from Virginia," Glennon said. "I think that reflects well on the state and the competition in the state."
All six of the Virginia products got their chance to start for the first time last year and thrived. Glennon, younger brother of former Virginia Tech starter Sean Glennon, threw for 3,054 yards and 31 touchdowns, second most in the ACC. Renner, a high school rival of Glennon's, led the ACC in efficiency (159.4 rating) and accuracy (68.3 percent) while throwing for 3,086 yards.
Boyd, a junior who has shed 15 pounds, led the ACC in passing yards (3,828) and touchdowns (33). Manuel, a senior who took over last year after the graduation of Christian Ponder, struggled early but thrived late, finishing second in efficiency (151.2 rating). Thomas did the same after a rugged start, running and throwing for a school-record 3,482 yards of total offense.
Rocco blossomed at midseason after Virginia coach Mike London abandoned his rotation scheme with another Virginia product, David Watford (Hampton). This year Rocco won the job over Alabama transfer Phillip Sims (Chesapeake).
This season it will be interesting to see the Virginia-bred quarterbacks battle in a conference that could more closely resemble the pass-happy Big 12.
"We'll be competing against each other, and we'll be a better conference because of it," Thomas said. "We're trying to beat each other out. There's a lot of strong quarterback play in this conference, and most of it comes from our state."