RALEIGH -- Ryan Finley returned to NC State to make his mark as the best quarterback in college football. If he can accomplish that, there's a good chance he'll also be in contention for a much more coveted award -- the Heisman Trophy.

Already voted the best quarterback in the ACC by the media, Finley was also considered the top QB by Athlon Sports earlier this summer. As a result, Jon Kinne of Athlon ranked Finley as the No. 3 overall player in the ACC for the Heisman Trophy award at the end of the season.

3. Ryan Finley, QB, NC State

Going into last season, most expected the Wolfpack to ride their defense to wins in the ACC. While that unit wasn’t bad, it was really the offense -- led by Finley -- that was the more consistent side of the ball. This year, with just three returning starters on defense, Finley (above, right) will shoulder even more responsibility and he has the luxury of a top-shelf receiving corps led by Kelvin Harmon.

The only players ahead of Finley on the list were Florida State running back Cam Akers at No. 2 and Boston College running back A.J. Dillon at No. 1. Dillon was voted the preseason ACC Player of the Year by the media while Akers rushed for less than 60 yards in more games (seven) than above 90 yards (five) last season.

In fact, the entire Top 5 on the Athlon list consists of players from the Atlantic Division, which included Deondre Francois of FSU and Trevor Lawrence of Clemson -- two players who aren't even guaranteed to start under center for their teams.

Meanwhile, Finley is a starter for the Wolfpack under center and has been for the previous two seasons in Raleigh. He increased his passing yardage by nearly 500 yards from his first year with the Pack to the second season and has 39 total touchdowns compared to just 14 interceptions in his two seasons with NC State.

If Finley is able to pass for more than 3,000 yards this season, he would become the first ever NC State quarterback to accomplish the feat in three consecutive seasons. And with a special quarterback like Finley running his team, Dave Doeren has full faith that he can conquer whatever goal he sets out to accomplish.

“You know, I think for Ryan, he's as hard on himself as we could be on him,” Doeren told Pack Pride. “I think it's just daily improvement. I think he believes in the process, I believe in the process, our coaching staff, our strength staff. It's a daily grind to get better at what you do, and where does that get him in the end, we'll see.

"But I know he has goals for our team. He has goals for himself, and the only way that he can reach those things, these watch lists, all that's great, but I know if you talk to him, he's not going to win a single award if he doesn't handle the day-to-day work he needs to do. He knows that. And I appreciate that because he believes in that.

“He's going to have a great season as long as he just continues to trust his process and his routine.”