Last year, the ACC had one of the best seasons in its history. Clemson beat Ohio State and Alabama to win the national title, Florida State beat Michigan in the Orange Bowl, Miami beat West Virginia in the Athletic Bowl, and Virginia Tech overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit to stun Arkansas, 35-24, in the Belk Bowl.
Is the ACC the best conference in America?
“Well, it was last year,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. I think each one of these things is individual. Who knows what this season will bring? There’s obviously fine coaches and fine athletes in the league. Schools have made definite commitments to football, but I think the one overriding factor in terms of last year was the quarterback play. I thought the quarterback play was fantastic.”
Deshaun Watson. Lamar Jackson. Deondre Francois. Mitch Trubisky. Brad Kaaya. Jerod Evans.
“I thought it was a really impressive group,” Fuente said. “I think that’s kind of what put the ACC over the top last year. Now the challenge for us is to keep it going. Many of those quarterbacks are no longer in the league, and we’ve lost plenty of good payers at other positions, too. The challenge for us as a league is to keep the ball rolling.”
Fuente, 41, was incredibly successful in his first season in Blacksburg, leading the Hokies to their first 10-win season since 2011. Fuente spent the four previous seasons at Memphis, where he coached 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch.
Lynch played sparingly as a rookie, completing 49 of 83 passes (59.0 percent) for 497 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in three games for Denver.
Fuente believes Lynch has a bright NFL career ahead.
“Incredibly gifted,” Fuente said. “As gifted a football player as I’ve ever been around. A great human being, a great kid, will do whatever you ask him to do. He was underdeveloped coming out of high school. He went to a small private school in Florida. I don’t know how much weight he put on at his time at Memphis, but he put quite a bit of weight on – muscle. He began to get faster and really develop from a physical standpoint and then learned the game. He’s also a guy that came out a year early.”
Lynch turned 23 in February.
“I think teams that have some patience with him and continue to develop him are going to be really happy in the long run,” Fuente said. “I just think he’s a diligent worker, he’s going to do whatever they ask him to do on a daily basis, and his ceiling is really, really high. You always worry when you send a quarterback off into the NFL because it can be a rough world. You just want to make sure they don’t get rushed. They need to have urgency to improve and get better, but you just hope they don’t get rushed out there. He certainly didn’t last year, and I’m sure the coaches in Denver feel like he’s made improvements. How much, I’m not sure, but I just think he’s got a really, really bright future if he stays to it.”