SEC Football: 10 Teams with QB Injuries Highlight Value of Backups
10 SEC Teams Affected by QB Injuries
When asked what leads to success in SEC football, many will list the following in no particular order: a tough defense, good running backs, a consistent quarterback and a little luck. This season, however, has proven that there is an even more valuable commodity in college football’s top conference – backup QBs. Just ask the No. 5 Missouri Tigers, which were just led to a huge win over Florida by freshman Maty Mauk.
In a little more than half a season, 10 of the 14 teams in the league have had to deal with a significant injury at quarterback. That means having a quality backup to fill in at the game’s most important position has never been more important. For those teams that have had to replace the starter at one point or another, the results have been varied.
It must also be mentioned that those lucky four teams that have avoided injuries to their starting quarterbacks have enjoyed great play at the position for the most part.
No. 1 Alabama’s A.J. McCarron is slowly creeping into the Heisman Trophy conversation by completing 69.2 percent of his passes for 1,587 yards and 14 TDs with just three INTs.
Everyone else on the team seems to be out with injuries, but Aaron Murray has mostly been spectacular for the Georgia Bulldogs. He’s third in the league with 1,938 passing yards and second with 17 TDs.
Though Zach Mettenberger’s three interceptions last week contributed largely to No. 13 LSU’s upset loss to Ole Miss, the senior has put together a phenomenal season so far. Mettenberger is second in the SEC with 2,164 passing yards, third with 16 TDs and is second in pass efficiency at 173.7.
Ole Miss is the fourth and final team to enjoy the full, injury-free services of its starting QB, Bo Wallace. After several mediocre games, his big performance – 30-of-39 for 346 yards – helped the Rebels win over LSU last week. Wallace is fourth in the league in total offense with 1,952 and is averaging more than 278 per game. He’s also accounted for 12 TDs.
Most of the teams in the SEC, however, haven’t been so lucky. Here’s a quick look at the injuries, the guys who’ve filled in and how well, or not so well, they’ve done.
10. Arkansas Razorbacks
Starter Brandon Allen hurt his shoulder early against Southern Mississippi on Sept. 14 and then missed the following game against Rutgers, which the Razorbacks lost. He's struggled mightily in the four games since, completing just 40 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and six interceptions. Note: all four games came against ranked opponents. Allen’s backup, A.J. Derby, is 18-of-34 for 173 yards and a touchdown for the season. He obviously hasn’t done enough to prove to head coach Bret Bielema that he’s a viable option to replace the struggling Allen.
9. Auburn Tigers
Starter Nick Marshall missed the Western Carolina game with a knee injury, but came back strong last week to help Auburn upset Texas A&M 45-41. In the game Marshall missed, freshman Jeremy Johnson played very well. He completed 17-of-21 passes for 201 yards and four TDs. Though the opponent was terrible, those are promising numbers, and Johnson gives the Tigers a decent backup option to Marshall.
8. Florida Gators
Starter Jeff Driskel has missed the last five games after breaking his leg on the first drive against Miami. His replacement Tyler Murphy has done some good things and some not so good things. Though it’s really hard to single out Murphy’s performance because the Gators have so many problems on offense. After a few games of progress, Murphy and the Florida offense have completely tanked in the last two games, both losses.
7. Kentucky Wildcats
Jalen Whitlow and Max Smith have both been hurt and have both been inconsistent. Whitlow, the quarterback currently at the top of the depth chart, is trying to recover from an ankle injury in time for the Wildcats' game against Mississippi State Thursday night. Regardless of which guy has been on the field, 1-5 Kentucky hasn’t had much success this season.
6. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Starter Tyler Russell missed three games after being knocked out of the opener against Oklahoma State with a concussion. Since his return, he's split time at QB with Dak Prescott. Prescott has been a force in the running game, but has struggled through the air at times. Overall, the Bulldogs’ quarterback play has been about as impressive as their 3-3 record.
5. Missouri Tigers
Starter James Franklin is out 3-5 weeks after separating his throwing shoulder during Missouri’s huge win at Georgia. One week in to life without Franklin, however, the Tigers are in even better shape than they were. The backup, freshman Maty Mauk, was lights-out in his first start, throwing for 295 yards and helping Missouri rout Florida on Saturday. But the jury’s ultimately still out on Mauk, as he will have another big test this week against South Carolina.
4. South Carolina Gamecocks
Starter Connor Shaw suffered a sprained knee in the 23-21 loss at Tennessee and is not expected to play this week at Missouri. He also missed most of the game against Central Florida earlier in the season. The Gamecocks are lucky to have backup Dylan Thompson, who’s been capable, and even heroic in relief of Shaw. He isn’t quite as dynamic a player as Shaw, but he had a 310-yard day in a win over Clemson last year and threw the game-winning TD pass in the Outback Bowl against Michigan.
3. Tennessee Volunteers
Butch Jones benched starter Justin Worley for the Florida game, naming Nathan Peterman the starter. Well, we all remember (though Tennessee fans would probably like to forget) how that turned out – he completed four-of-11 passes for five yards with two interceptions and a fumble in a 17-minute span. Peterman played woefully before breaking his hand and giving the job back to Worley, who has definitely progressed in the weeks that followed.
2. Texas A&M Aggies
Johnny Manziel missed part of the Auburn game with a shoulder injury he suffered in the second half. He returned following treatment, but the shoulder was clearly bothering him the rest of the way. It could be argued that had Manziel not missed the next drive, A&M might have won the game instead of losing 45-41. Everyone is anxiously waiting to see whether there are any lingering effects moving forward. One thing’s certain: backup Matt Joeckel is a far cry from the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.
1. Vanderbilt Commodores
Starter Austyn Carta-Samuels was on crutches and in tears at the end of Vanderbilt’s upset of Georgia on Saturday. The status of his knee injury is still undetermined, but all signs are pointing toward the negative so far. His replacement Patton Robinette filled in nicely against the Bulldogs, helping the Commodores complete a 31-27 comeback victory.
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