The Washington Times - August 23, 2008, 12:26PM

First, let’s start with a little perception versus reality.

The perception of N.C. State quarterbacks since the graduation of Philip Rivers would produce these terms in a word association game: Unstable. Inconsistent. Fluctuating. Mediocre.

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Some of those words are fair. And it sure seemed like the naming of Russell Wilsonas the starter ensured that Wilson became the umpteenth starting quarterback for the Wolfpack since Rivers departed after the 2003 season.

Try only the fifth, which is on the high side but not bizarrely so compared to the rest of the ACC. Triangle neighbors Duke and North Carolina also started five quarterbacks in the last four years, though that’s not necessarily the best company to keep in football.

It’s also only the fifth quarterback change for whatever reason, which isn’t anywhere near an extreme level. Boston College, Florida State and Wake Forest – who have all at least won division titles in the last three years – swapped QBs eight times in that span.

As always, there’s a chart to accompany this fun. But first the explanation of the methodology. I lined up every game from the last four years on one continuum for every school; put simply, when Maryland’s Sam Hollenbach graduated and Jordan Steffy started the 2007 opener, that counted as a QB change. Every time a change was made, it counted – even if a team went back to a previous starter.

Also, some tidbits gleaned from all of this. Every school has changed quarterbacks in season at least once in the last four years. Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech have had only one season with multiple starters, with Clemson missing out on perfect stability by one game in 2005.

Every school except Wake Forest had one season during which the same guy started every game at QB.

Here’s a look at each school’s total changes, total starters and leader in QB starts since the beginning of the 2004 season, sorted by order of total changes:

SchoolChanges
Starters
Leader
Florida State9433-Drew Weatherford
Boston College 8432-Matt Ryan
Duke8523-Thaddeus Lewis
Wake Forest8424-Riley Skinner
Maryland5424-Sam Hollenbach
Miami5330-Kyle Wright
North Carolina5512-Darian Durant, T.J. Yates 
Clemson4322-Charlie Whitehurst
N.C. State4417-Jay Davis, Daniel Evans
Virginia Tech4422-Sean Glennon
Georgia Tech3233-Reggie Ball
Virginia3424-Marques Hagans

 

Obviously, some of these numbers are going to be different in about a week or so. There will QB changes from last year’s finale at Boston College (Chris Crane), Georgia Tech (presumably Josh Nesbitt) Maryland (Steffy), Miami (TBA), N.C. State (Wilson) and Virginia (TBA). First-time starters are assured at Georgia Tech, Miami, N.C. State and Virginia.

But stability at QB doesn’t assure anything. Reggie Ball didn’t do enough in his 33 starts to help Chan Gailey keep his job at Georgia Tech. Drew Weatherford’s hold on the Florida State job is tenuous as he begins his senior season.

That said, instability obviously doesn’t help. North Carolina and N.C. State are the only schools without a guy with two virtually full seasons as a starter in this four-year span, and each has a Muffler Bowl appearance and a coaching change to show for its troubles.

Carolina has T.J. Yates back as a starter for a second season; he’ll be the first UNC QB to actually start games in consecutive years since Darian Durant.

The same cannot be said for N.C. State, which began camp with a five-way quarterback race and just winnowed it down to one yesterday.

That only adds to the perception the Wolfpack will again be playing quarterback roulette in the post-Rivers era. And while State hasn’t yanked its signal-callers in and out of the lineup like other places, it’s pretty clear Wolfpack fans will have every reason to be pleased whenever they uncover a steady starter.

After all, it’s been a long time since they had one.

Patrick Stevens