NCAA Football kicks-off in under a week. Heading into the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2012 there is no shortage of expectations for a conference 2-13 in BCS Bowls. Florida State and Virginia Tech would appear to be front-runners behind two very gifted QB’s. North Carolina will not have an opportunity to play in Charlotte on December 1 for the ACC title, though many including myself, feel they would be a team to contend under first year coach Larry Fedora.
Offensively, throughout the entire conference, there may not be any shortage of talented QB’s and young backs looking to make a name or continue producing after successful 2011 campaigns. Below you will find the Top 5 guys on offense in the ACC. Each of the players listed below have the potential and talent to get invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation at the end of the 2012 college football season. Hopefully at least one can get invited. The conference hasn’t had much luck. Since old-man Chris Weinke won the trophy in 2000, no other ACC player has finished in the top five of the Heisman voting.
Two names you will not find on this list are Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins(or Andre Ellington if it matters), the Clemson teammates. It was harder to leave off Boyd more than Watkins because Watkins will miss the season opener. Though Tajh Boyd has more than enough talent to win the Heisman, I just don’t believe when its all said and done that the two of them won’t take votes away from the other. I believe too, in order for one to have a productive year(Watkins), the other player will have to be productive as well(Boyd). They need and depend on one another (Watkins,Boyd), more so than any of the players listed below need any of their teammates to succeed.
QB Logan Thomas Virginia Tech
Logan Thomas has a lot of NFL Scouts drooling over his potential at 6’6, 260. The Virginia native can make every throw on the field, but will have to do more on offense when it comes to rushing to start the season, without the assistance of first-round pick RB David Wilson. If Thomas has any ambition of being a Heisman finalist he will have to get off to a much better start than he did in 2011.
Against inferior opponents in Appalachian State and East Carolina, Thomas did not play like a Heisman front-runner. Though Virginia Tech won both of those match-ups to start the 2011 season, their starting QB played below average, especially against ECU in week 2. Thomas finished that game against ECU with a 40% completion percentage, no TD’s on 91 yards passing, with a rating of 68.2. The Hokies did win this ECU game 17-10. Now, a year older and more experienced, Logan Thomas has a legitimate chance to have a breakout season. Virginia Tech opens the season against Georgia Tech, which will be the perfect opportunity for Thomas to set the tone for a special season if he can come out and play great.
QB EJ Manuel Florida State
Quarterback EJ Manuel may have the luxury of one of the best defenses in the nation on the field while he is taking a breather. Yet, for Manuel to be a Heisman finalist he will have to play even better than all of the hype that has surrounded him since arriving on campus in Tallahassee. Throughout 2011, which was E J’s first as the full-time starter, Manuel showed spurts of his Heisman potential but did not play consistently the entire season.
In 2011, FSU suffered three-straight losses, starting with Oklahoma(then Clemson) and ending with a disappointing 35-30 loss to Wake Forest in the third loss in a row. In the WF game, Manuel threw 2 INT’s and had his lowest completion percentage of the season at 54.3%. For Manuel to have any Heisman chance he will have to stay healthy, win consistently, and win by large margins while filling the box-score against weaker opponents.
RB Giovani Bernard North Carolina
Most Heisman Trophy winners tend to come from a team contending for a National Championship or a meaningful Bowl game. Unfortunately for UNC, they will not be playing for any postseason game due to the NCAA sanctions handed down to the football team. But, they were not sanctioned from having a Heisman Trophy winner and Giovani Bernard could be that guy. Bernard is coming off of a tremendous Freshman season were he accounted for 15 total TD’s and over 1500 total yards.
Many forget, Bernard was coming off of an ACL injury that kept him out of his original Freshman season of 2010(the injury occurred in Fall Practice 2010). Insert new Head Coach Larry Fedora and his new spread offensive attack for 2012 and all signs point to Giovani getting more touches and opportunities to produce. If Bernard can stay healthy and put up big numbers helping UNC win, postseason ban or not, if the numbers are there, Bernard will at least get an invite to New York.