With all the media’s ACC quarterback talk consumed by Florida State’s Christian Ponder, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor, and N.C. State’s Russell Wilson, it’s easy to overlook two other high-quality, proven slingers that the oft-maligned conference can safely hang their hat on. Those, of course, would be the less heralded duo of Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner and Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis.
But first, some bullet points to give you an idea.
Riley Skinner, Wake Forest University
-Class: rising senior
-6’1", 205 pounds.
-Career stats: 38 games. 639-of-949 (67.3 percent), 6,602 yards. 34 TDs/25 Ints.
-As a freshman in 2006, led the Deacs to its first ACC title since 1970.
-26-11 mark as a starter.
-The ACC's most efficient passer, as he is currently the conference’s career leader in completion percentage with over 67 percent completion percentage.
-Virtually unknown as a high school recruit.
-Has a returning two-deep offensive line.
-Lost two starting receivers (D.J. Boldin and Chip Brinkman)
-With a solid program that has a good shot at winning the ACC title.
-Finished in the top half of ACC passers the last two years.
Thaddeus Lewis, Duke University
-Class: rising senior
-6’2", 200 pounds.
-Career stats: 35 games. 603-of-1,061 (56.8 percent), 6,735 yards. 47 TDs/32 Ints.
-Currently mentored by head coach and revered quarterback guru David Cutcliffe (since 2008).
-Finished last year as the ACC’s No. 2 passer, No. 4 in 2007, No. 6 in 2006. Clear progression.
-Arrived in Durham the nation’s No. 10 dual-threat QB according to Rivals, in a quarterback class that included Tim Tebow, Jevan Snead and Jake Locker.
-With a team believed to have a very low chance of winning in the ACC.
-Lost three starters on the offensive line, including top lineman Cameron Goldberg.
-Lost No. 1 receiving target (Eron Riley).
Most know that Skinner will likely get more face time and exposure since Wake Forest has become an ACC force since head coach Jim Grobe took over. Lewis will suffer in the exposure department, at least initially, because of Duke’s poor football tradition. However, should the Blue Devils somehow, some way, improve from last year and exit September with a 3-1 mark (Richmond, at Army, at Kansas, N.C. Central), you can bet Lewis will be in the buzz.
And if Duke leaves Lawrence, Kan., with an upset, look out, Coastal.
Records don’t appear to matter much to Lewis’ productivity, as he’s clearly prolific in Durham, but his top receiver plus three starters on the offensive line being gone will impact his chances at success. It’s just a matter of how much.
Like Lewis, Skinner is clearly efficient but not flashy. Unlike Lewis his team will win—bank on it. In other words, Skinner is a typical quality Jim Grobe product. Behind last year’s shoddy offensive line he was able to complete almost 64 percent of his 361 passes and 13 touchdowns against seven picks.
Expect him to be even more productive now that his line has a year of experience under its belt. The key will be whether his new targets will be game day ready come September.
It appears that, after putting all this together, Skinner would have the better year based on a returning offensive line which, theoretically, would give him time to make accurate passes to his young catchers. Because of this, Wake will be, as always, a dark horse ACC title contender.
But last year under new coach David Cutcliffe, Duke exceeded expectations, winning four games which is more in past years combined. Cutcliffe is the X-factor in this, so it won’t be surprising if the Blue Devils get, say, six wins. If that happens, more people will take notice of Lewis.
If the new linemen happen to gel, winning six games definitely won’t be surprising.