There are plenty of points in the offseason calendar where we get more and more excited for the upcoming football season. Everything sort of comes to a crescendo with the NFL draft, but then there are a handful of weeks that pass where we really unplug from the sport and recharge.
College football media days are often a point in time late in the summer where we get reeled back in. Seeing the best players and coaches from each conference take to the podium and speak of their excitement and expectations of the upcoming season really starts to get us excited, too.
The ACC is hosting its annual college football media days in Charlotte, NC. The list of who will be attending and speaking feels like a “who’s who” of future NFL Draft talent, specifically at the quarterback position.
Of the top seven players who have the best odds to win the upcoming Heisman Trophy, three of those quarterbacks come from the ACC: D.J. Uiagalelei of Clemson, Sam Howell of UNC, and D’Eriq King of Miami.
For Uiagalelei, he isn't even draft eligible yet. As a 5-star quarterback recruit, Uiagalelei committed to Clemson to sit behind future No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence. But sitting isn’t the only thing he did, as Lawrence missed two games due to COVID-19 last season. That forced the true freshman Uiagalelei into action, and he gave people enough of a glimpse into his growing talent for the world to already be excited about his draft stock down the road. This year, he’ll take over as the full-time starter, and a good baseline season should pave the way for him to be the talk of the draft for 2023.
But we can save all the Uiagalelei talk for another time—we’ll have a whole year to fawn over how good he can be at the next level. For this season, when it comes to the ACC, all eyes will be on Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell. After back-to-back 3,500-yard passing seasons, including his first year as a starter as a true freshman, Howell made his name known as one of the top gunslingers in college football. If the upcoming season is a true next step for Howell, he could be in consideration for a top-10 pick and maybe even the No. 1 overall selection in 2022.
This year is shaping up to be a true test for Howell, as he will be without four NFL players who were on his team the previous two seasons: wide receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome, and running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. If Howell can have similar success with his aggressive style of passing without those guys, he’ll be a round-one lock.
Then there’s the wild card, and one of the most exciting players in the country is Miami's D’Eriq King. King came onto the scene while playing for Houston when they faced off against Oklahoma in an early-season matchup two years ago. Houston fell to the Sooners that day, but everyone remembered the talented quarterback for the Cougars.
Fast forward and King is no longer in Houston, but instead going into his final season of eligibility at Miami. Back in 2018, his best season with Houston, King threw for almost 3,000 yards, 36 touchdowns, and ran for more than 600 yards with 14 rushing touchdowns. He didn’t quite match those career highs last season, but another year in the system could put him close to or over a career year in 2021. He’s one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, and the NFL is going more toward the direction of quarterbacks who can be a weapon with their legs. King could be a legit option for an NFL team to grab and groom.
As ACC media days get underway this week, these three players will be front and center for both the college football world and NFL draft circles.