Perhaps the two most notable quarterback decisions to be made in the ACC have now been made. At Clemson, Kelly Bryant will be the starting quarterback when the defending ACC champions begin the new season this weekend at home against Furman. At Florida State, Deondre Francois will make his return as the starting quarterback for the Seminoles on Sunday night in Tallahassee against Virginia Tech in an ACC clash.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had been keeping his distance from naming a starter for the upcoming season all summer. Bryant was battling to keep the starting job from freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence. While the future of Clemson football may look incredibly bright with Lawrence in the fold, relying on experience with Bryant may have been one of the deciding factors. Clemson’s 2017 season ended with a thud against eventual national champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl semifinal of the College Football Playoff, but Clemson had accumulated a 12-1 record with Bryant playing all 14 games for the Tigers last season. The only loss on the year prior to meeting Alabama was on the road at Syracuse, when Bryant was knocked out of the game with an injury.
Bryant completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Obviously, he had big shoes to fill in following Deshaun Watson as the starting quarterback, but the pressure to keep Clemson in the title hunt never really seemed to get to him.
Francois never really got a chance to get his 2017 started after being knocked out of Florida State’s season opener against Alabama last fall. Francois, a sophomore in 2017, completed 19 of 33 pass attempts for 210 yards and a touchdown against Alabama before having his season prematurely ended with a knee injury. Francois had come off an impressive freshman season in 2016, in which he passed for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns with seven interceptions and rushed for five additional touchdowns.
Francois has had an eventful offseason, of course. In April, Francois was suspected of possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. The quarterback later agreed to enroll in a pre-arrest diversion program as a result. In January, Francois was cleared in a domestic violence investigation involving his girlfriend due to conflicting statements and a lack of independent witnesses led to an inability to press charges. With no legal liabilities standing in the way and with Francois appearing to be the most ideal fit to run the offensive style Willie Taggart wants to bring to Tallahassee, it was likely just a matter of how healthy Francois was before a starter was named.
With Clemson and Florida State now settled on starting quarterbacks, the ACC Atlantic Division race is now set to begin, with the Tigers likely still the team to beat and Florida State hoping to bounce back from a rough 2017 season to make some noise in the ACC championship hunt.