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Monday, February 14, 2011

Ranking the SEC quarterback situations

This question has come up in a couple mailbag segments, and I promised I would steal it for a blog item. So here we are, for your football fix, a look at the quarterback situations around the SEC.

Important note: This is not a pure ranking of the top players at that position. Rather it’s the top quarterback situations as a whole. It’s a bit more accurate to put it that way since several teams – notably LSU – are going to have a spirited competition in spring practice. Some weight was placed on the backups, but the heavy emphasis is on the quality of the expected starter, or the best candidate to start.

Given the departures, I found that making this list I had a lot more confidence in my ranking of the bottom teams than the ones at the top.

Here’s the list:

Projected starter:
Aaron Murray
Murray went from the team’s biggest question mark in 2010 to one of its only bright spots. He’ll enter the sophomore year as the clear starter. But the Bulldogs are also in better shape with the addition of Christian LeMay; if nothing else there are now three scholarship quarterbacks. It remains to be seen if Hutson Mason or LeMay will be the top backup. There’s a good spring practice sub-plot. But Murray gives the Bulldogs the nod here simply because, on paper, he’s the top returning starter in the SEC and has the full confidence of his coaches. (Unlike, say, the team two spots down.)

Projected starter:
A.J. McCarron
Greg McElroy was the starter but McCarron appeared in every game last season, completing 30 of his 48 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions. The 6-foot-4 McCarron, who will be a redshirt sophomore, was one of the nation’s top QB recruits a couple years ago. The backups offer little experience but a lot of potential, including Phillip Sims. (And he’s not one of the Phil Simms sons, so Desmond Howard can criticize him all he wants.)

Projected starter:
Stephen Garcia
Garcia begins what seems his 18th year of college ball. Hard to believe it was five years ago that Garcia arrived in Columbia as an early enrollee and immediately began making an impact on the police blotter. A lot of people thought Steve Spurrier should’ve booted Garcia early in his career, but Spurrier hung with him – at least as far as keeping him on the team. Now Garcia will be a fifth-year senior, but Connor Shaw got playing time last year, and as always Spurrier won’t be afraid to pull the hook on his starter.

Projected starter:
Tyler Bray
Bray (1,849 passing yards, 18 TD, 10 INT) came on late in 2010, his freshman year, a big reason the Vols rallied to earn a bowl invite. As we know, Matt Simms (1,460 passing yards, 8 TD, 5 INT) did not up to Desmond Howard’s standards. The Vols also signed QB Justin Worley, perhaps the nation’s second-best recruit from Rock Hill, S.C. So there seems to be depth here, and if Bray carries his play into 2011, the Vols could be better than people expect.

Projected starter:
Chris Relf
Relf quietly got the job done last year for the Bulldogs, but he’s still not assured the starting job. Relf was more reliable last year, and has the athleticism to fit Dan Mullen’s spread option. But Tyler Russell, who got playing time as a freshman, has the stronger arm. In any case the Bulldogs have two guys they can go to who are experienced, which not a lot of SEC teams can say. And they also have a Favre – Dylan, the nephew. So if the national media has Favre withdrawal in 2011, assuming Brett really stays retired, hey, hope on down to Stark-vegas!

Projected starter:
John Brantley
Will Brantley be better off in Charlie Weis’ offense, rather than the spread option? The Gators hope so, since Brantley’s 2010 was so underwhelming (an average of 158 passing yards per game, nine TDs, 10 INT). Jeff Driskel, perhaps the nation’s top quarterback recruit, will push Brantley, and is already enrolled. The athletic Trey Burton is still around, but how will Weis use him?

Projected starter:
Tyler Wilson
Wilson, who backed up Ryan Mallett the past two years, enters the spring as the leader. But head coach Bobby Petrino also likes Brandon Mitchell, who will be a redshirt sophomore. The 6-foot-4 Mitchell is a good enough athlete that he was once committed to LSU for basketball. Whoever’s out there, the Razorbacks don’t have the stability that Mallett offered, but in Petrino’s offense the quarterback will still put up big numbers.

8. LSU
Projected starter:
This will be one of the most fascinating position battles in the SEC. Seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee are back. But new on the scene is Zach Mettenberger, obviously well known around these parts. If the competition makes one of the three take his game up a level, LSU could be great in 2011. Or it could go the other way. Like we said, a fascinating situation.

Projected starter:
Barrett Trotter
Auburn probably banked on … hmm, lemme re-word that … Auburn probably assumed Cam Newton would stick around for two years. So now the Tigers are a bit in the lurch at quarterback, with Trotter the likely but not unquestioned choice. Trotter attempted all of nine passes last year, and isn’t as big or mobile as Newton. (Not many quarterbacks are.) Auburn did sign a highly-touted recruit in Kielh Frazier, but he doesn’t arrive until after spring practice. You have to assume that since Gus Malzahn stuck around, whoever plays quarterback will put up big numbers. But we’re not ranking offensive coordinators here.

Projected starter:
Morgan Newton
Kentucky fans won’t be able to complain about Mike Hartline anymore, and the transfer of Ryan Mossakowski pretty much hands the job to Newton. A junior, Newton started eight games in 2009 and the BBVA Compass Bowl in place of the suspended Hartline. The Wildcats also have a true freshman, Maxwell Smith – not Smart, but Smith – who enrolled in January.

Projected starter:
Nathan Stanley
You’ll be shocked to hear that Houston Nutt signed a bunch of quarterbacks. I know, I know. Stanley actually had the job last spring, then Jeremiah Masoli arrived. Now Stanley is the nominal starter, but the Rebels brought in JUCo prospect Zach Stoudt, who’s already enrolled, and West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti is trying to get an NCAA waiver to make him eligible right away. There’s also Randall Mackey, who redshirted last year. None of these guys have Masoli’s credentials, and even Masoli couldn’t get the Rebels very far last year.

Projected starter:
Larry Smith
Smith is another guy that seems he’s been around forever. He’ll be a senior for new head coach James Franklin, who was the offensive coordinator at Maryland. Another guy to watch may be another senior, Jordan Rodgers, whose older brother Aaron is a fairly good quarterback in his own right.

(So the SEC has a Favre and a Rodgers, and is the alma mater of Bart Starr. Interesting.)


bcdawg97 said...

I'd give the nod to Garcia in that he has the most experience and despite being a notorious headcase, cackalacky managed to still make it to Atl last year. Having another year to grow and mature and as well as lattimore and Jeffrey as proven options for the offense.

As for Murray, the argument can definitely be made for him too (perhaps now your gray blog commenters can stop accusing you of hating UGA - they are relentless). But without a proven wideout (AJ gone vs Jeffrey still there) or running game (SCs is just a bit more set than ours) I look for Aaron to "struggle" a bit out of the gate. Hopefully Bobo finds an identity and finds some consistent playmakers for the offense. In which case, I do think Murray can be #1

Anonymous said...

Kind of off topic, but reading this and thinking through your comments on Weis at Florida, has anyone done a rundown on what type of offense has won the last 5 maybe 10 National Championships and maybe who lost those games and what type of offense they ran?

bcdawg97 said...

I'm a moron - spouted off and as described, it is the whole situation rather than best #1 starter. So that said, I'd still rank SC at least higher than Alabama given that even Garcia's backup has seen action. I'm loathe to do it, but I'd probably put UF and LSU higher. Sure new "scheme" or pick siz machine, but all the principal players have experience, more so than some of the other schools ahead of them.

Ubiquitous GA Alum said...

has anyone done a rundown on what type of offense has won the last 5 maybe 10 National Championships

2010 - AUB = Spread
2009 - Bama = Pro
2008 - UF = Spread
2007 - LSU = Pro
2006 - UF = Spread
2005 - TX = Spread(ish)
2004 - USC = Pro
2003 - LSU = Pro
2002 - OhSt = Pro
2001 - MIA = Pro