No coach worth his salt is going to decide a quarterback competition in the spring.

Doing so would open the door for the runnerup to head straight for the transfer portal, endangering the team’s depth at the most important position on the field.

That, however, won’t stop some quarterbacks from looking for other opportunities. Especially those who are smart enough to read the handwriting on the wall. Or the 3rd wheel in a 3-man battle.

With spring practice now in the books and the portal back open, there’s bound to be at least some movement between now and the start of fall camps. Until that happens, here’s a look inside the quarterback rooms of all 17 ACC football teams to get an idea of where they all stand.

Boston College

Based on his performance last season, especially in the Eagles’ Fenway Bowl win against SMU, it would be safe to assume that Thomas Castellanos will be the starter in Bill O’Brien’s 1st season at BC. And Castellanos is No. 1 on the depth chart. But remember, Emmett Morehead was in the same position last year at this time.

Though Castellanos ranked 3rd in the ACC in rushing while throwing for 2,247 yards accounting for 28 touchdowns, he’s trying to adapt to a completely new offensive style. So don’t rule out the possibility of Florida International transfer Grayson James beating him out at some point this fall. James, at 6-foot-3, is taller than the 5-10 Castellanos. He looked much more comfortable in O’Brien’s offense in going 21-of-29 for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns in BC’s spring game. He’s also the guy brought in by the new coach.

Redshirt freshman Jacobe Robinson, a former 4-star prospect from Texas, would be next in line after a solid spring with 3-star recruit Johnafthan Montague entering the mix once he arrives on campus.


Coach Justin Wilcox was noncommittal after Saturday’s Spring Showcase when asked about the pecking order between quarterback candidates Fernando Mendoza and Chandler Rogers. But the eye test suggests that incumbent starter Mendoza will head into summer with a significant edge on North Texas transfer Rogers.

Neither quarterback was particularly effective on Saturday. Mendoza was 7-of-10 for 92 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to Notre Dame transfer Tobias Merriweather. Rogers was 4-of-10 for just 29 yards with an interception. But Mendoza has been the better, more consistent player throughout the spring.

Redshirt freshman Belay Brummel is a distant 3rd on the depth chart, though he did have an impressive outing on Saturday with a pair of touchdown passes and a rushing score.


Cade Klubnik is coming off a solid sophomore season that has established him as one of the ACC’s top preseason Heisman hopefuls at +3000, according to ESPN Bet sportsbook. So there’s no question that Klubnick is the starter and the Tigers’ team leader.

The big question is what happens if he’s not available?

Dabo Swinney and Garrett Riley have high hopes for redshirt freshman Christopher Vizzina. But from the looks of his spring game performance, which included a pair of official interceptions and 1 that was nullified by a penalty, he might not be ready if the situation necessitates it.

That would make preferred walkon Trent Pearman, who did have an impressive spring game, the best option behind Klubnik. Pearman isn’t some likable kid put on the roster to raise the team GPA and run the scout team. That’s Colby Shaw’s job. He’s a 2-time South Carolina prep Player of the Year who would have been on scholarship at a lot of big-time schools had his dad not been Clemson’s scouting director.


They didn’t keep statistics in Saturday’s Blue-White scrimmage. But numbers aren’t necessary to describe the potential Maalik Murphy brings to the Blue Devils. The Texas transfer showed off the full array of his 4-star skill set in his 1st public performance in a Duke uniform.

Murphy gave a glimpse of his strong arm, athleticism and playmaking ability – especially on a 40-yard touchdown strike to Jordan Moore. But he also has several overthrows and missed several other opportunities to put points on the board.

He remains the favorite for the starting job in Manny Diaz’s 1st season. But his inconsistency left the door open for returners Grayson Loftis and Henry Belin IV. Loftis, who started 5 games and led the Blue Devils to a Birmingham Bowl win last season, did some good things in the spring game. Belin, who beat NC State in his only start, didn’t play.

The competition will continue in the fall. But there’s a chance at least 1 of the 2 will be in the transfer portal by then.

Florida State

Former Clemson and Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagaleli was brought in to fill the void left by the departure of Jordan Travis. Barring an injury, he’ll be the Seminoles starter when they open the season against Georgia Tech in Ireland on August 24.

That much is set in stone. The depth chart behind him, however, is anything but certain.

Neither sophomore Brock Glenn, the sacrificial lamb who was thrown to the slaughter against Georgia in the Orange Bowl, and prized freshman Luke Kromenhoek played in Saturday’s spring game because of injuries. The only other quarterbacks that saw action in the game were walkons Trever Jackson, Dylan McNamara and Michael Grant, the latter of which threw the only touchdown pass of the spring game.

Georgia Tech

Starter Haynes King returns for a 2nd season at Tech after leading the league with 26 passing touchdowns. The former Texas A&M transfer was the only 2 FBS player other than Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels to throw for at least 2,700 yards and 25 touchdowns while rushing for at least 600 yards and 5 scores last season.

Behind him on the depth chart is junior Zach Pyron, who started 3 games and earned an ACC Rookie of the Week award as a true freshman in 2022.

In addition to guiding the Yellow Jackets in their bid to improve on last year’s 7-6 record, King and Pyron will also serve as mentors to freshmen Graham Knowles and Aaron Philo. The 6-foot-7 Knowles is a 4-star prospect who completed 6-of-11 passes for 69 yards in Tech’s spring game on April 13. Philo was 6-of-9 for 120 yards.


Tyler Shough is new to the Cardinals. But not to college football. The 25-year-old grad transfer is starting his 7th season at his 3rd school. And it didn’t take him long to get comfortable with his new surroundings.

He threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Chris Bell on the 1st snap of Friday’s spring game on the way to an 8-of-12, 177-yard, 2-touchdown effort.

In the battle to become Shough’s primary backup, redshirt freshman Pierce Clarkson moved a leg up on former UNLV transfer Harrison Bailey heading into the fall because of his mobility and playmaking ability, to go along with a more productive spring game performance.


Mario Cristobal landed the top-rated quarterback in the portal in Washington State’s Cam Ward, who in addition to immediately becoming a team leader has also become the ACC’s highest-rated Heisman candidate at +2000, according to ESPN Bet sportsbook.

Ward threw for better than 3,500 yards last season and could be even more productive this year when paired with the Hurricanes’ talented stable of receivers. He threw for 324 yards and 3 touchdowns in last week’s spring game.

Joining Ward in the quarterback room are sophomore Emory Williams, who played well before suffering a broken arm against Clemson last season and Albany transfer Reese Poffenbarger. There’s so much depth at the position that Jacurri Brown, the surprise star of Miami’s Pinstripe Bowl loss to Rutgers, decided to check out via the portal.

North Carolina

Texas A&M transfer Max Johnson has had a spotty spring, but saved his best for last by going 14-of-16 for 121 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s Blue-White Game. His competition for the starting job, Conner Harrell, also played well by throwing for scores on 3 of his 4 completions (on 6 attempts).

But despite those performances, it’s clear that coach Mack Brown isn’t entirely sold on either of his quarterback options. At a media availability 2 days before the spring game, he said that he’ll be actively seeking another quarterback on the transfer portal. And not just to fill the spot vacated when 3rd-stringer Tad Hudson left the program.

“Usually, if a guy is leaving it’s because he’s not starting,” Brown said. So, it’s not an easy task to find somebody. That’s one of the things we’re saying, ‘we’re looking, so if you’re looking, call us.’”

Early enrolling freshman Matt Merdinger is currently the only other scholarship quarterback on UNC’s roster.

NC State

Brown’s Wolfpack counterpart Dave Doeren also figures to be on the lookout for another transfer quarterback. But only to add depth and experience behind the player he hand-picked to add some badly needed life into his offense.

Coastal Carolina transfer Grayson McCall.

The 3-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year made a positive 1st impression at State’s spring game earlier this month by displaying a strong, accurate arm, to go along with poise in the pocket. He completed 16-of-20 passes for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns in his 1 half of work.

McCall’s young understudy, early enrolling freshman CJ Bailey, was also impressive in throwing for 1 touchdown and running 67 yards for another. But despite passing for better than 9,000 yards and 116 touchdowns in high school, he’s still a true freshman who may or may not be ready to take over in an emergency. The same can be said for redshirt freshman Lex Thomas, the younger brother of former Wolfpack stars Thayer and Drake Thomas.


Pat Narduzzi’s job could hinge on his quarterback decision after 2 straight swings and misses on the transfer portal since Kenny Pickett led the Panthers to the ACC title in 2021. It’s a decision that lost 1 potential option recently when Christian Veilleux decided to transfer.

That narrows the choices down to junior Nate Yarnell, who patiently waited his turn for the better part of his first 2 seasons before finally getting his chance in the final 2 games last year, and highly-regarded Alabama transfer Eli Holstein.

Narduzzi has heaped praise on Yarnell throughout the spring and after a strong Blue-Gold Game performance. But Holstein has the ability to mount a serious challenge for the starting job in the fall as he becomes more familiar and comfortable with new coordinator Kade Bell’s offense.
Redshirt freshman Ty Dieffenbach and incoming freshman Julian Dugger, both 3-star prospects, are the other quarterbacks in the room.


Preston Stone is the starter. At least, as long as he doesn’t have any physical setbacks from the knee surgery that kept him out of last year’s American Athletic Conference championship game and Fenway Bowl. The good news is that he was able to return to the field on a limited basis during spring practice.

And he has since been cleared for full participation.

Stone threw for 3,197 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2023. While his absence was a blow to the Mustangs, it also allowed Kevin Jennings to show that he’s a capable alternative, either in a change-of-pace situation because of his running ability or as a full-time dual-threat weapon.

Keldric Luster is the third man on the post-spring depth chart.


Sophomore Ashton Daniels is the incumbent starter heading into the Cardinal’s inaugural ACC season and he’s had a promising spring. But his hold on the job depends on his ability to cure a penchant for turning the ball over. He had almost as many interceptions (8) as he had touchdown passes (11) for a team that went 3-9 a year ago.

The level of heat he feels will also be affected by the continued development of 4-star freshman Elijah Brown. Arriving this spring has given Brown a head start on learning the playbook. That experience will give him a shot at competing for the starting job in the fall.

If Brown isn’t ready, Justin Lamson – who started 3 games last season – and Myles Jackson will be in line for duty as Daniels’ backup.


If the hiring of new coach Fran Brown and the arrival of Ohio State transfer quarterback Kyle McCord lit a spark of optimism among Orange fans, then McCord’s debut in Saturday’s spring game sent those high hopes soaring straight through the roof of the JMA Wireless Dome.

He more than lived up to his advance billing by completing 18 of his 28 passing attempts for 242 yards and a 38-yard touchdown strike to Georgia transfer Zeed Hayes. It was a performance that impressed even Donovan McNabb, the most successful quarterback in Syracuse history.

“This kid is going to be pretty good,” McNabb told in what was likely a deliberate understatement.

Not only will McCord’s presence benefit Brown and the Orange in the present, it could also pay dividends for the future in the example the newcomer has already begun to set for the other quarterbacks in the room – returning backups Carlos Del Rio-Wilson and Braden Davis.


This is by far the most intriguing quarterback battle in the ACC heading into the 2024 season. Not only does it pit 2 players who enjoyed nearly equal success in a starting role a year ago, but it also comes with the subplot of their coach Tony Elliott potentially battling to save his job.

Graduate Tony Muskett threw for 1,031 yards and 6 touchdowns while battling a series of injuries. Sophomore Anthony Colandrea was a higher risk-reward passer who offset frequent freshman mistakes by passing for 1,958 yards and 13 scores while also rushing for 225 yards.

Colandrea has been an active leader this offseason, organizing a team-building spring break to Florida and has a much higher ceiling. But Muskett is a proven game manager who is less error-prone. Elliott is going to have his hands full managing the situation and avoiding a team-splitting, job-threatening quarterback controversy.

Virginia Tech

Kyron Drones’ playmaking ability both as a passer and runner energized the Hokies offense last season and helped lead the team to its 1st winning record since 2019.

He finished the season with 2,085 passing yards, 818 rushing yards and a combined 22 touchdowns while throwing only 2 interceptions. His game-changing ability was on full display in an MVP performance against Tulane at the Military Bowl.

Redshirt freshman William “Pop” Watson will back Drones up after a learning experience of a rookie season in which he saw action in 2 games and was suspended for 1 because of a missed curfew. Redshirt sophomore Dylan Wittke and new recruit Davi Belfort round out the Hokies’ quarterback quartet.

Wake Forest

Remember the name Jeremy Hecklinski.

He’s a 3-star prospect from Georgia signed by Dave Clawson as a quarterback of the future. After his spring game performance on Saturday, though, that future might very well be now. The early enrolled freshman was the breakout star of the intrasquad scrimmage by throwing for 203 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Given the quarterback struggles that contributed greatly to Wake’s uncharacteristic 4-8 record last season and Clawson’s history of starting freshmen quarterbacks, Hecklinski has set himself up to get a good, long look once the team reconvenes in the fall.

His primary competition will be frontrunner Hank Bachmeier, a 6th-year transfer who passed for 2,058 yards last season at Louisiana Tech and also had a strong spring showing, and part-time starter Michael Kern, who missed the spring game because of injury.

Featured photo courtesy of Duke athletics