ACC enters season with deep pool of QBs
The most experienced collection of quarterbacks in the country this year can be found in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Ten of the 12 schools return their regular starting QB. The backup for an 11th team used to be a full-time starter at another school.
Those projected starters have combined to make 172 career starts. Half the league's starters have at least one 3,000-yard season on their resumes.
Only Maryland - which lost one quarterback to transfer and another to season-ending injury - has no experience at the most important spot on the field.
With so many teams having proven commodities at the sport's most important position, this sets up as a strong year for the entire league.
Nine of the 10 most efficient passers from 2011 are back, and so are nine of the top 10 in total offense. The only one who's gone: Miami's Jacory Harris, who was third in passing efficiency and fifth in total yards.
Yet even the Hurricanes aren't entirely void of experience there. Junior Stephen Morris, who made five starts over the past two years, won the job this preseason over Ryan Williams - who made 10 starts as a freshman at Memphis in 2010 before transferring to his hometown school.
''Both of those guys do have starting experience, although they're not the returning starter from last year,'' coach Al Golden said. ''I'd expect (Morris) to be at that same level with a lot of those quarterbacks.''
That might be asking a lot - if only because the ACC's pool of QBs seems so deep.
For the first time in league history, it has six quarterbacks who have thrown for 3,000 yards in a season - the only conference that can make that claim.
''We're a strong quarterback crew. ... Week in and week out, you get to see some great quarterback play,'' Thomas said. ''EJ (Manuel of Florida State) and Mike and Tanner and Bryn and all those guys, you just want to outplay them every single day. Every single game. You look to their game and you just want to beat them out. So, we're strong, and hopefully that makes us a better conference.''
Many of them had to learn on the job last season, and that should make them even better this time around.
A year ago at this time, Renfree was the ACC's most experienced quarterback who could play in his team's opener - and at the time, he had all of 11 starts to his name. Now, every school but Maryland - which is deciding between two freshmen - has a QB on the roster with double-digit starts for his career.
''It's awesome to have this quarterback battle across the conference,'' Renner said. ''It's awesome to turn on the TV and have a guy just play well in the ACC. It's really a testament to how we're moving as a conference. Everybody's a great player.''
Manuel, Glennon and Renner each put up big numbers in their first season and led their teams to bowl games after their predecessors left and eventually made their way to the NFL.
Manuel and Glennon were under particularly powerful microscopes last year.
Manuel attempted to lead the Seminoles back to national relevance after taking over for first-round draft pick Christian Ponder. Glennon faced a season's worth of comparisons to Russell Wilson, who transferred to Wisconsin after a bizarre split with N.C. State and immediately became a Heisman Trophy contender.
After leading the Badgers to the Rose Bowl, Wilson won the Seattle Seahawks' starting job. Glennon, meanwhile, is preparing to lead the Wolfpack against Tennessee on Friday night in Atlanta.
''It worked out for everybody,'' N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said. ''Russell's doing great. ... You've got Mike that's still here for us, and we've got a quarterback and we're heading into a high-profile game. Everybody should be happy.''
Now that Wilson is out of college football, Glennon no longer has to deal with that shadow. Instead, he'll be measured against the other members of a deep pool of his peers in the ACC.
''In the past, we've had guys like Christian Ponder ... (and) I think the world kind of saw how talented Russell was,'' Glennon said. ''There's definitely been talent come through here, but I think this is probably stronger.''
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard contributed to this report.