clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Georgia Tech Football: Jeff Sims might just be the ACC’s next superstar quarterback

It might be bold, but I think it’s doable.

Georgia Tech v Boston College Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

With the absence of Trevor Lawrence, the ACC finds itself without a clear-cut superstar at quarterback. There are some pretty good quarterbacks in the ACC, but I truly think that Sims has the chance to jump out ahead of them.

Before we get too far into Sims, though, let’s take a look at the rest of the ACC’s presumed starters at quarterback.

Boston College - Phil Jurkovec

Jurkovec started for the Eagles for the first time in 2020, and was pretty good right away. As a redshirt sophomore, he passed for over 2,500 yards (the most for any BC quarterback in their first 10 starts) and was the first quarterback since Matt Ryan with four or more 300-yard passing games.

Clemson - DJ Uiagalelei

Edit: Carter pointed out to me that Uiagalelei did play in a few games, so let me include those stats: 9 games, 66.7 completion percentage, 914 yards, five TDs, no interceptions, so he did pretty well. Uiagalelei does not have any stats yet, since he will be a freshman this season, but he was highly touted coming out of high school (0.9949 rating on the 247 Sports Composite and 6.1 rating on Rivals). He had some pretty impressive high school numbers, including a 44-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. With Lawrence gone, he’s the presumed chosen one starter.

Duke - Gunnar Holmberg

After struggling in his lone season at Duke, Chase Brice got the heck outta Durham and headed to west to Boone. That clears the way for Gunnar Holmberg (great name) to become the new starter at quarterback. I don’t have much to go on with Holmberg.

Florida State - McKenzie Milton

The biggest addition (at quarterback at least) this offseason was the addition of McKenzie Milton at Florida State. Milton has not played football in a game since a devastating leg injury nearly three years ago. For a while, there was talks of if he would ever play again. Fast forward to this spring, and things seem to be going pretty well for Milton thus far. In his spring game, he was limited, but showed pretty good placement on some of his passes. There was a noticeable zip missing from his passes, though.

Louisville - Malik Cunningham

Cunningham is one of the more established quarterbacks in the ACC, as he will be going into his third season as Louisville’s starting quarterback. In his first season, Cunningham showed a lot of promise, passing for 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Last year, though, things were less great. He passed for more yards (2,617) and a similar number of touchdowns (20), but he also threw more than twice as many interceptions (12).

Miami - D’Eriq King

King is another one of the more established quarterbacks in the ACC, making his way onto the national stage in 2018 with Houston before transferring to Miami. King’s debut season with the Hurricanes was pretty good, passing for nearly 2,700 yards, but his touchdowns were very down from his 2018 campaign (36 to 23 despite only 16 fewer passing attempts).

NC State - Devin Leary

Leary started for the Wolfpack going into 2020 (after going through the contract tracing process for the first couple games) before going down with a leg injury in October. And he looked well on his way to a pretty good season. In just four games, Leary completed 60 percent of his passes and matched his touchdown numbers from 2019 (eight touchdowns).

North Carolina - Sam Howell

Probably the favorite to be the next ACC superstar quarterback, Howell is already being talked about as a top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. After an impressive freshman campaign, Howell continued to improve last season, boosting his completion percentage from 61.4 percent to 68.1 percent. He’s arguably the most NFL-ready prospect in the league and for good reason.

Pitt - Kenny Pickett

Is it just me, or does it feel like Kenny Pickett feel like he’s been the quarterback for Pitt for like 10 years? Pickett has always been fine, but not amazing at quarterback. He was able to eclipse 3,000 yards passing in 2019, but it took 469 passes to get there. He also failed to pass for 200 yards against Tech’s passing defense last season, which was not great.

Syracuse - Tommy DeVito or Garrett Shrader

This is a two-horse race from what I could tell between Tommy DeVito and Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader. Shrader showed some promise in 2019 with Mississippi State, but with the other issues Cuse has, I don’t see either quarterback really taking a massive step up.

Virginia - Brennan Armstrong

Armstrong took over as the starter last season and did....okay. He was never particularly bad, but he was also never particularly great, passing for over 2,100 yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Virginia Tech - Braxton Burmeister

With Hendon Hooker out the door, Braxton Burmeister is the next man up. In limited action, Burmeister was very up and down last season. He struggled mightily against Duke and North Carolina, but was able to put together a couple decent performances.

Wake Forest - Sam Hartman

Taking over for Jamie Newman, Hartman had a pretty decent season last year, passing for 2,200 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. He wasn’t amazing, but he certainly showed a little bit of promise.

Who are the potential superstars?

In addition to Jeff Sims, I think there are really three guys who could step up and become superstars, and I’m sure they are exactly the three guys you are thinking of: McKenzie Milton, D’Eriq King, and Sam Howell.

ACC Quarterback Comparison

Name Team Completion Percentage Passing Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Adjusted Passing Yards/Attempt Rushing Yards Rushing Average Rushing Touchdowns
Name Team Completion Percentage Passing Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Adjusted Passing Yards/Attempt Rushing Yards Rushing Average Rushing Touchdowns
Jeff Sims Georgia Tech 54.9% 1,881 13 13 6.1 492 4.1 6
McKenzie Milton (2018 stats) Florida State 59.2% 2,663 25 6 9.2 307 3.9 9
D'Eriq King Miami 64.1% 2,686 23 5 8.9 538 4.1 4
Sam Howell North Carolina 68.1% 3,586 30 7 11.1 146 1.6 5

So, I know what you’re thinking. “Ben, what the [Foghat] are you smoking if you think Sims is going to take that big of a step this season?”

Part of my belief comes from the progression of Davey P’s offense at Tech. In 2019, Georgia Tech’s offense was bad, and there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. This last year, though, things got better. They had Sims and Jahmyr Gibbs come in to inject some life into a dead offense. It stands to reason that we could see a similar jump in Year 3.

What will help that is offensive line additions. Sims spent way too much time last year avoiding sacks, so the additions of Devin Cochran (for real this time, hopefully) and Nick Pendley should help fortify the offensive line.

I also want to mention the addition of Kyric McGowan at receiver. Last season, Sims did not have a true go-to receiver, with three players having more than 20 receptions, and no players having 30. With the addition of McGowan, Sims now has a sure-handed receiver who will bring some new electricity into the offense, and we got a taste of that in the Spring game. Here’s what Robert had to say about him after the spring game:

Ooo boy, Kyric McGowan. The Northwestern transfer looked electric; he took a pop pass on the opening play of the game from Jeff Sims for 11 yards, and he effectively ended the game on a 33 yard touchdown reception on a crossing route where he exploded after the catch. Patenaude and company clearly have high hopes for Kyric and will deploy him in a number of creative ways. He racked up 36 yards after the catch on three targets Friday night, and he had the look of “the guy.”

Number of Grains of Salt: 2 — There were walk on defensive backs in on some of these snaps, but most of McGowan’s success came against Above the Line guys.

While talking about Sims and the Spring Game, I think it’s also important to mention how well he did in that game. He looked completely in control, completing nine of his 10 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, while also adding a 48-yard touchdown run.

Another impressive display came during Sims’ “two-minute drill.” Taking just 30 seconds off the clock as it ticked down, Sims led a four-play, 65-yard drive that ended with McGowan’s 33-yard touchdown pass.

So, yes, this is probably a bit of a stretch, but what the heck, it’s Opinion Week, and I like the way I look in gold-tinted glasses. So, yes. I think Jeff Sims has everything he needs to be the next superstar quarterback in the ACC, and I think he’s got a pretty good shot of proving that this year.