Playing quarterback for a Southeastern Conference team can be a brutal, punishing experience given the speed and quality of the defenses in the conference. Finding quarterbacks who can not only take the punishment, but can stand out in this conference is tough to do sometimes. More than one SEC quarterback of a successful, even championship team, has met with hard times once getting to the NFL (See: Danny Wuerffel), but every now and then, you get a QB coming out of a lesser SEC program who finds unparalleled success in the pro ranks (See: Eli Manning).
This year the SEC is loaded with some great quarterbacks, some of whom stand a chance of leading their teams to championships not only in the conference, but possibly even further. Here are my top five picks for SEC quarterbacks in 2012
#5 – James Franklin (JR), Missouri: Passing Stats: 2,733 yards, 20 TD, 10 INT, 63.2% – Rushing Stats: 199 att., 839 yards, 13 TD
Franklin jumps right into our rankings of SEC quarterbacks without even having thrown a pass in conference play. Given his stats, he might have even been ranked higher, but the jury is still out on how he’ll survive against the defenses in the conference. He’s also coming back from off-season surgery. Definitely a dual-threat QB who isn’t afraid to tuck the ball and run.
#4 – Tyler Bray (JR), Tennessee: Passing Stats: 1,983 yards, 17 TD, 6 INT, 59.5% – Rushing Stats: 26 att., minus-70 yards, TD
Bray is the one bright spot on an otherwise horrendous Tennessee team. After missing five games last season with an injury, the Vols are looking forward to a full season with Bray at the helm. Look for his numbers to get even better this year with the return of injured star wideout Justin Hunter, and a big upgrade to the Vols offensive line during this past off-season.
With a full year of starting for the Crimson Tide, and a national championship under his belt, McCarron silenced all doubters in 2011. He’ll now have a chance to be the focal point of the Alabama offense. He’s probably the best pure passer in the conference, but still lacks some game management skills, and needs to improve on decision making.
#2 – Tyler Wilson (SR), Arkansas: Passing Stats: 3,422 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT, 63.1% – Rushing Stats: 53 att., minus-21 yards, 4 TD
This could be a long season for Tyler Wilson, and it this point he may be wishing he had opted for the NFL draft this year. The upheaval that has gone on in Fayetteville this past off-season will no doubt be somewhat of a distraction, but Wilson has matured over the past two seasons, and even if the Hogs don’t win the west, I think he’ll be the best QB in that division.
#1 – Aaron Murray (JR), Georgia: Passing Stats: 2,861 yards, 33 TD, 12 INT, 58.8% – Rushing Stats: 79 att., 116 yards, 2 TD
After leading Georgia back to the SEC title game last season, Murray has the Bulldogs poised for another run in 2012. He showed that he can still find plenty of receivers even without former star wideout A.J. Green, and he has even more depth in the backfield this season to open up the passing game. Look for Murray to break a number of school and conference records this season if he stays healthy.
Keep your eye on: Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Mettenberger, who was dismissed from Georgia after an arrest in 2010, is probably going to take over the starting QB duties for the Tigers. Mettenberger had a highly-productive season at Butler County Community College in Kansas, where he completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns. Keep your eye on this young man, as he may finally live up to the hype that he got coming out of high school.