Breaking Down Every SEC Team’s QB Situation Heading into 2014
Every SEC Team's QB Situation Heading Into 2014
The SEC has been now predominately during their run of national championships as a defensive league, but over the course of the past few seasons, particularly last year, the SEC began to show signs of more explosive offenses and that was due to a handful of talented quarterbacks in the league.
Last year, the SEC had a promising crop of players at the quarterback position that were not only talented, but veteran leaders for their team. If you look at the teams who were the most successful last season in the SEC, you will see that each team had an outstanding quarterback with experience.
Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Missouri, and South Carolina were all led by senior quarterbacks (McCarron, Murray, Mettenberger, Franklin, and Shaw) who had risen up through the programs and started for at least multiple seasons. Texas A&M was led by former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, and Auburn was taken to the National Championship behind the arms and legs of a former corner back Nick Marshall.
The SEC had plenty of talent under center last season, but nearly half of the teams lost their starting quarterbacks from last year and have question marks entering this season. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are a few teams like Ole Miss and Florida who will look to their returning quarterback situations to help guide them throughout a successful conference run.
Here is a breakdown of every SEC team’s quarterback situation as it currently stands entering spring and fall practice.
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The Vanderbilt Commodores lost their head coach James Franklin to Penn State in the off-season, but they return their redshirt-senior quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels.
Carta-Samuels started last year for the first time in his career and made the most of it. Although he tore his ACL and missed the Commodore’s bowl game, he had one of the best seasons a quarterback has ever had at Vandy.
He finished the year No. 10 overall on the single-season total offense charts with over 2,300 yards offense and added 16 total touchdowns to go along with a 68.7 completion percentage.
Carta-Samuels is not necessarily the best quarterback in the league, but he has the ability to lead the Vanderbilt offense in the right direction in year one under new head coach Derek Mason.
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M lost one of their best players in the history of the program when Johnny Manziel declared for the NFL Draft in January, and the quarterback position is an area of concern for the Aggies.
With Manziel gone, the Aggies must turn to either rising senior Matt Joeckel, sophomore Kenny Hill or true freshman early enrollee Kyle Allen.
Allen is the player primed and ready to come in and take over the starting job. He was the No. 1 quarterback in the nation for 2014 recruiting class, and with him enrolling early in January he now has the chance to learn the playbook thoroughly and compete in spring practice.
The quarterback position looks bright for the future in College Station, but it will hinder them from competing for an SEC title again this year.
Tennessee’s offense has been stagnant and lacking a true leader at the quarterback position for a few years now, although Tyler Bray was not bad at times, but I’m not sure that is going to change this year.
They have an excellent group of young, talented receivers, but there is just no one to get them the ball and move the offense like they should be doing.
There will be a two man race entering the spring and summer months between senior Justin Worley who played in eight games last year, and sophomore Josh Dobbs who played in five games but was up and down most of the time. Also in the mix is redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson.
South Carolina Gamecocks
The Gamecocks lost their starter from last year in Connor Shaw, who I believed never got the praise he should have.
Shaw was a determined and fearless leader that led the Gamecocks to multiple 10-win seasons, and now South Carolina Shaw’s back up Dylan Thompson The fifth-year senior has had plenty of experience so far as he has rotated with Shaw in the past, and he has even started three games in his career.
He is a very talented quarterback who, much like Shaw, is a dual-threat option under center or in the shotgun with a talented arm as well as processing the ability to escape the pocket and run. The Gamecocks should be in good shape with the experienced Thompson making the calls.
Ole Miss Rebels
The Rebels return their starting quarterback from a year ago, and he may be the best one in the league.
Senior Bo Wallace is by far the most dynamic weapon on the Rebels squad as he passed for over 3,300 yards and 18 touchdowns last season while also rushing for 355 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is second in school history in total offense (7,085) and passing yards (6,340).
Wallace has Ole Miss on the verge of making a run in the SEC West, especially with their recent recruiting classes, and he has the chance the prove himself as the best quarterback in the SEC this year.
The Missouri Tigers are probably the only team in the country, much less the SEC, to be losing a talented starting quarterback and replace him with a player that is just as talented.
Sophomore Maty Mauk will take over the reigns of the Tigers program this fall after being able to come in and garner some valuable playing time last season while senior starter James Franklin went down with a shoulder injury. Mauk helped lead the Tigers to wins over Georgia and Florida, and he also played in the SEC Championship versus Auburn and threw a touchdown.
Mauk is a versatile, dual-threat quarterback with the potential to become an all-SEC performer this season and lead the Tigers to back-to-back SEC East championships.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State has a good and bad situation on their hands at the quarterback position. They have two players with experience, but of course only one of them can play.
Senior Tyler Russell returns after starting games throughout his career in every season and is currently Mississippi State’s all-time leader in passing efficiency (136.38) and is only one passing touchdown away from the school record in that category.
Yet, Russell has plenty of competition from redshirt sophomore Dak Prescott who poses as a dual-threat option in the shotgun.
Both Russell and Prescott bring a talented package, and I would expect both to be featured in the Bulldogs offense this fall.
The Tigers always have a talented team, but the quarterback has been one that has held them back in recent years.
Graduating senior Zach Mettenberger had two solid years in the Bayou as a starter, but now the Tigers will turn to either a true sophomore or freshman to lead their team. Sophomore Anthony Jennings returns after starting the bowl game last season after Mettenberger tore his ACL in the final game of the season and played well for a true freshman.
Jennings with have competition from freshman early enrollee Brandon Harris who was one of the most talented quarterbacks in last year’s class as he was rated as the No. 3 overall dual-threat quarterback in the nation.
Ultimately, Harris is the man of the future, but I would expect head coach Les Miles to go back and forth between the two this season.
Kentucky did not have the season it was hoping to have under first year head coach Mark Stoops, but the Wildcats are looking to turn things around beginning this season and it starts with their quarterback.
The Wildcats return their starting quarterback Maxwell Smith from last season as he threw for nine touchdowns and over 1,200 yards. Also returning for Kentucky is sophomore Jalen Whitlow who played in all 12 games at quarterback. Whitlow threw for five touchdowns and 1,033 yards and also ran for six touchdowns and over 600 yards as he led the Wildcats in rushing yards.
Whitlow adds a dimension that Smith does not, and I believe that is why he will be the starter come August. Also, incoming freshman all-American Drew Barker could sneak in and become the No. 2 quarterback during the season.
The Georgia Bulldogs lost their senior quarterback Aaron Murray, who for all his criticisms by fans, ended his career as the SEC all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns.
Behind Murray, redshirt senior Hutson Mason has patiently waited nearly five years for his chance to lead the Bulldogs, and next year’s team is all his.
Mason was able to start two games last season and play over half of another when Murray tore his ACL in the 11th game of the season. Mason played well in the first two, wins over Kentucky and Georgia Tech, but he struggled in the bowl game final versus Nebraska.
Once again, the Dawgs are primed at a run for an SEC title. Can Mason do something in one year that Murray could not do in four? Georgia hasn’t won an SEC title since D.J. Shockley led them to one in 2005 in his first and only year as a starter.
To say the Florida Gators struggled last season would be an understatement. The Gators return starter Jeff Driskel, who led them to the Sugar Bowl in the 2012 season, after he suffered a torn ACL in week three last year.
Driskel has had his own share of struggles throughout his career at Florida, and he will likely be pushed by incoming freshman Will Grier for playing time as the season progresses.
Florida’s offensive struggles under head coach Will Muschamp are evident, and the Gators need better quarterback play if they want to recover from their 4-8 season a year ago.
The Auburn Tigers are one of the few teams in the SEC that do not have a quarterback issue to worry about.
The Tigers return quarterback Nick Marshall, who player corner back for Georgia out of high school, as he looks to once again win an SEC title for the Tigers in 2014.
Marshall had his share of passing struggles throughout the season, but his ability to run the ball effectively helps his play-action with the deep ball.
Marshall is not your prototypical quarterback, but in Gus Malzahn’s offensive system he is the perfect fit.
The Arkansas Razorbacks rely heavily upon the run game, but they must get more out of their quarterback play as they return junior quarterback Brandon Allen.
Allen started last season as a freshman and played in 11 games and threw for 1,552 yards with 13 touchdowns.
Arkansas had a treacherous first season under Bret Bielema in which they went 3-9 and were unable to come up with any wins in the SEC. The quarterback play must and should improve with Allen starting in his second season as the Razorbacks look to climb the standing in the tough SEC West.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The Crimson Tide graduated their leader at quarterback, A.J. McCarron, who helped the Crimson Tide win two championships while he was the starting quarterback.
Alabama must now usher in a new era at the quarterback position with a lot of question marks.
The leader heading into the spring is senior Blake Sims who has played sparingly throughout his career in Tuscaloosa, but the real battle for the position may come between redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman and incoming freshman David Cornwell.
The Crimson Tide have plenty of talent on the field and in the coaching booth, but the quarterback play is a huge question mark entering the season and could prevent them from winning the SEC West again.
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