Power Ranking SEC Starting QBs Heading into Spring Practice
Who is the SEC's Top Quarterback?
Though the conference prides itself most on hard-hitting, aggressive defense, the SEC does a very good job of producing quality quarterbacks. The 2013 draft class saw Tennessee’s Tyler Bray and Arkansas’s Tyler Wilson end up on NFL rosters. This season, as many as six SEC quarterbacks, including Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Georgia’s Aaron Murray, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, South Carolina’s Connor Shaw, and Missouri’s James Franklin, have a chance to make it in the NFL.
With all of those players leaving school after the 2013 season, there will be a high amount of turnover across the SEC at the quarterback position for 2014. Texas A&M, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU will have wide open competitions. Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and Vanderbilt all have a definite frontrunner heading into the spring, but none of them have signal-callers with significant experience. That’s not even to mention Kentucky, who went through a rather bizarre quarterback rotation for almost the entire 2013 season and have made no commitment to a particular player for this season.
Auburn’s Nick Marshall seemingly would be in the best situation to succeed, returning along with a good chunk of the offense that got the Tigers into the BCS Championship Game this past season. With that said, not many people knew how good Marshall would be coming into 2013, so it’s very possible in this season of change that another little-known quarterback could burst onto the SEC scene and become a huge star in 2014.
Here’s how the quarterbacks in the SEC stack up as we head into the spring practice season.
14. Anthony Jennings/Brandon Harris/Rob Bolden/Hayden Rettig, LSU
The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Jennings would seem to be the favorite to win this job, but he’ll need to show improvement over the 7-for-19 performance he delivered in the Outback Bowl if he wants to survive in Cam Cameron’s pass-heavy offense. 6-foot-7 Steven Rivers may have been the best fit for the job, but he transferred after the season, so Jennings, Harris, Bolden, and Rettig will battle it out for the job.
13. Riley Ferguson/Josh Dobbs/Nathan Peterman/Justin Worley, Tennessee
The Vols will hope to find more consistency than they had at the quarterback position in 2013, when they started Dobbs, Peterman, and Worley at different points. With that knowledge, it may be surprising to find that Ferguson, the redshirt freshman, is actually the favorite to win the job. Dobbs seems to be the other competitor with a real chance to win the job, but all indications are that Tennessee would like the 6-foot-3, 189-pound Ferguson to be their signal caller of the future.
12. Patton Robinette, Vanderbilt
Patton Robinette, who will be a sophomore this season, has the build to be a successful SEC quarterback, and he got some quality starting experience in the Commodores’ bowl game. He’ll need to be more efficient this year than the 6-for-19 showing he put together against Houston in that contest. It may be difficult for Robinette to find success as Vanderbilt moves on from departed head coach James Franklin and star receiver Jordan Matthews.
11. Maxwell Smith/Jalen Whitlow, Kentucky
Kentucky doesn’t seem to have too much of an idea of what they’re doing at the quarterback position, and they switched between Smith and Whitlow during the entire 2013 season. Those two are once again the favorites for the job in 2014, though other players such as true freshman Drew Barker and redshirt freshman Reese Phillips could compete as well. If Kentucky wants to become a competitive program, their best course of action would probably be to settle on one guy and hope that he can get the job done week-in and week-out.
10. Brandon Allen/Rafe Peavey, Arkansas
6-foot-3, 210-pound junior Brandon Allen had a pretty bad 2013 season, but he picked things up near the end of the year and may be able to carry that success into 2014. If he’s inconsistent once again, the Razorbacks could opt to go with true freshman Rafe Peavey instead. Either way, Arkansas still lacks offensive weapons and is probably a year or two away from being really competitive again, so the Razorbacks’ quarterback may end up looking worse on paper than he is in reality.
9. Hutson Mason, Georgia
Mason, who will be a senior in 2014, doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, but he played well after replacing the injured Aaron Murray near the end of last season. He’s been almost exclusively a pocket passer to this point and may need to add some mobility to his game. He’ll have star running back Todd Gurley as a crutch to lean on if necessary, and he should be competent in running the Bulldogs’ passing game.
8. Blake Sims/Jacob Coker, Alabama
Blake Sims, who has served as AJ McCarron’s backup in recent years, will head into spring practice as the Tide’s starting quarterback while facing competition from several highly inexperienced signal callers. However, don’t be surprised if Florida State transfer Jacob Coker, who will enroll in the fall, ends up seizing the starting job. Coker is built very similarly to McCarron and fits the profile of the pocket passers that Nick Saban seems to prefer, while Sims is undersized and has been used more as a runner than a passer over the past three seasons. Regardless of who ends up winning the job, expect Alabama’s offense to have decent success in 2014.
7. Dylan Thompson, South Carolina
Thompson has had some extended opportunities over the past two seasons and has been competent as a passer, although his lack of mobility has been exposed against aggressive defenses. Thompson is facing no competition this year and will have to make improvements in his game to give the Gamecocks an opportunity for success.
6. Matt Joeckel/Kenny Hill/Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
The Aggies will have an open quarterback competition heading into camp, but with the potential that all three candidates have combined with the offensive genius of head coach Kevin Sumlin, it’s difficult to see Texas A&M receiving poor quarterback play in 2014. 6-foot-4, 234-pound Matt Joeckel would seem to be the leader, having delivered an impressive performance against Rice in the season opener while also serving as the backup to Johnny Manziel throughout the rest of the season. However, Hill, who is quicker and more compact than Joeckel, may be the better system fit for Sumlin’s offense. Don’t count out true freshman Kyle Allen, either, as he was one of the top quarterback recruits in the country.
5. Maty Mauk, Missouri
Maty Mauk had some exciting moments when he became Mizzou’s starting quarterback during the heat of their incredible 2013. With that said, his poor 10-for-25 performance against South Carolina was a large part of the reason that the Tigers ended up losing to the Gamecocks and having their BCS championship dreams crushed. A year of experience will be highly beneficial for Mauk, but the undersized scrambler must also show that he can stay healthy during 2014 and provide the Tigers with some much-needed consistency following two years of injuries to starter James Franklin.
4. Jeff Driskel, Florida
Driskel was expected to be one of the SEC’s more exciting players during 2013, but a broken fibula ended his season in September. As a result, the Gators collapsed, and they will be looking to rebound under Driskel’s leadership in 2014. He’s shown his ability to be very consistent as a passer when given the opportunity, and it will be important that he does so this season. With his efficiency and plus size (6-foot-4 and 239 pounds), Driskel has a chance to become the best quarterback in the SEC if he rebounds well from his injury.
3. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
As Prescott heads into his second year as the Bulldogs’ regular starter, he should be aiming to increase his efficiency as a passer while retaining his ability as a threat in the running game. Prescott ran for 829 yards and 13 touchdowns on 134 rushing attempts in 2013, while completing 58.4 percent of his passes. A year of starting experience under his belt should help him to be more consistent, and his strong build will make him a formidable force against the SEC’s physical defenses.
2. Nick Marshall, Auburn
2014 will be an important year for the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Marshall, who needs to prove that he can throw the ball effectively after losing running back Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson, the two biggest components of the Tigers’ running game, to the NFL Draft. While Marshall rushed for an impressive 1068 yards and 12 touchdowns during 2013, he only completed 142 of his 239 pass attempts, numbers that he should be looking to improve upon this season.
1. Bo Wallace, Mississippi
Nick Marshall may have had the most team success of any remaining quarterback in the SEC, but it should be clear that Bo Wallace is the most talented signal caller among the group. The 6-foot-4, 209-pounder finished 21st among FCS quarterbacks in passing yards during 2013 with 3346, and he completed 64.8 percent of his passes while throwing 18 touchdown passes compared to 10 interceptions. Wallace may not have the scrambling ability of someone like Marshall, but he should experience even more success in 2014 as Ole Miss’s program continues to develop.