Top 10 returning players to the ACC dominated by QBs including Devin Leary and Malik Cunningham

The top 10 returning players in the ACC are dominated by quarterbacks, but Clemson's Myles Murphy tops the overall returners with his unstoppable ability.

The ACC is a quarterback-heavy conference in 2022, and their top 10 returning players are dominated by the position. Half of the top 10 returning college football players listed below are signal-callers, which still leaves off a couple with a viable claim to this list. Aside from the quarterbacks leading the charge into 2022, the Miami Hurricanes possess a player with superstar potential on the defensive side of the ball, while the Clemson Tigers are loaded on defense as well.

For each ACC team’s top returning players: Boston College | Clemson | Duke | Florida State | Georgia Tech | Louisville | Miami | North Carolina | NC State | Pittsburgh | Syracuse | Virginia | Virginia Tech | Wake Forest

Top 10 returning players to the ACC

While counting down every school’s top 10 returning players, a natural flow developed as each player began to stack up against their conference foes. While we’ll release our All-Conference teams a bit later, let’s take a sneak peek into who may be the top overall players returning to every conference in 2022. Up next, the Atlantic Coast Conference.

10) Brennan Armstrong, QB, Virginia

Virginia returns a wealth of talent at the skill positions, most notably their quarterback Brennan Armstrong. While he’ll have to adjust to life in a new system and a completely revamped offensive line, Armstrong can rely on his athletic talents and big arm to get by in 2022.

Armstrong has a dynamic ability with the ball in his hands, whether buying time in the pocket to unleash beautiful deep shots or taking off to make something out of nothing with his scrambling ability. He’s an accurate passer with sharp reads, and his receiving corps is among the best in the conference this season.

9) Habakkuk Baldonado, EDGE, Pittsburgh

There isn’t much Habakkuk Baldonado can’t do on the defensive line for Pittsburgh. The former mixed martial arts fighter understands how to win at the point of contact and has a terrific combination of strength and skill. Baldonado has perhaps the highest proverbial ceiling in the conference because he’s still evolving as a football player. He’s an ideal edge rush end for Pat Narduzzi’s four-man fronts.

8) Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh

Wreaking havoc in the middle once again, Calijah Kancey returns to Pitt after two years of success and a breakout performance a season ago. Kancey is unstoppable on the interior with his rare blend of shear power for his size and ability to out-leverage any lineman in front of him.

At just 6’0″ and a shade under 280 pounds, Kancey isn’t the biggest interior defender, but he is one of the fastest in the country. He’ll get upfield before guards can even set their feet, and he owns a wealth of pass-rush moves.

7) James Williams, S, Miami

I don’t use the phrase “star potential” lightly. Furthermore, I rarely use such colloquial expressions like “superstar.” In James Williams’ case, however, I’ll make the exception, as he is a star on the precipice of superstar.

Williams is a massive man at 6’5″ and 225 pounds. He ranges around the field incredibly well. Williams handled the free safety role as a true freshman last season, recording multiple interceptions and pass breakups while introducing the nation to his all-around ability.

Moving up a few yards this season, Williams will play more of an all-over-the-field role where he can line up off the edge or as far back as a free safety when the play calls for it. This freedom will allow him to use his athletic ability even more as he looks to clinch that superstar potential in 2022.

6) Sam Hartman, QB, Wake Forest

There could be a ton of broken records in the ACC this season, and Sam Hartman could be on the positive side of those more often than most. He’s already Wake Forest’s career record holder for a few passing categories, and he could set even more in 2022.

Hartman’s growth over the past few seasons has been awe-inspiring, and he’s seemingly just getting started with wowing the world. He processes quickly and delivers great shots downfield — after a good long mesh, that is. Hartman has mastered the Wake Forest offense just as he’s perfected delivering the football to every level of the field.

5) Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami

After fully taking over following a dominant first half against Central Connecticut State last season, Tyler Van Dyke hasn’t looked back. He’s everyone’s darkhorse for the Heisman Trophy this season, and with a new play-caller in Josh Gattis calling the shots, expectations are sky-high for TVD.

Van Dyke is a master at finding receivers open both from inside the pocket and outside of the structured offense. He’ll hit every level of the field with accuracy and pop despite being a very inexperienced quarterback. As he starts to process more quickly, his success downfield and on an every-down basis should improve. That should scare ACC defenses.

4) Sean Tucker, RB, Syracuse

Sean “Track Speed” Tucker may not be just the best returning back in the ACC — he could very well be the best back returning to college football. Considering his recent success in a full 12-game schedule, Tucker could vault as high as No. 2 on the all-time rushing record book in Syracuse history after this season is all said and done.

However, what separates Tucker from the rest of the nation’s running backs is his ability in the open field after hauling in receptions. He’s a blend of dominant between-the-tackles runner and talented receiving back in the short and intermediate levels. Tucker is incredibly hard to stop.

3) Malik Cunningham, QB, Louisville

The nation’s top dual-threat quarterback returns to the ACC as Malik Cunningham is back for one more season at Louisville. This season, however, Cunningham will be tasked with finding his talented receivers downfield more often and not become uber reliant upon his legs.

When he does have to scramble, few defenders can track Cunningham — and even fewer who can bring him down in the open field. He has the ability to spot receivers open downfield and deliver accurate shots — as well as buy time in the pocket and take off — with more success than any recent quarterback across the nation.

2) Devin Leary, QB, NC State

After setting ACC history with 35 touchdowns and five interceptions, Devin Leary is back to earn some more respect on his name. He delivers accurate passes across the field and has an uncanny ability to reset his mechanics, rebuild the pocket, and recreate throwing lanes to maximize every throw.

Leary will stand tall and deliver accurate passes to any level while possessing an underappreciated strength with his throws. Few better decision-makers are returning to college football.

1) Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

The top spot in the ACC goes to Clemson’s Myles Murphy. While some talk about Alabama’s Will Anderson or Georgia’s Jalen Carter could have been the top overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, few mention Murphy in the same regard — but he belongs in that conversation.

After all, Murphy will ultimately push those two players for top defensive linemen drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft. He two-gaps at will and possesses one of the best athletic profiles in the country. Murphy uses his frame exceptionally well and has some of the best hands we’ve seen, and he’ll fight past linemen with speed and strength or bend and balance. Few can figure out how to stop him.

Honorable mention players returning to the ACC in 2022

  • Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
  • Phil Jurkovec, QB, Boston College
  • Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
  • Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
  • DeWayne Carter, DT, Duke
  • Jordan Travis, QB, Florida State
  • Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State
  • Kei’Trel Clark, CB, Louisville
  • Dax Hollifield, LB, Virginia Tech
  • Alan Tisdale, LB, Virginia Tech
  • AT Perry, WR, Wake Forest
  • Dontayvion Wicks, WR, Virginia
  • Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
  • Keytaon Thompson, WR, Virginia

For every other conference’s top returning players: AAC | B1G | Big 12 | Conference USA | Independents | MAC | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt

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