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SEC Football Preview: Quarterbacks


(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

For the next few weeks leading up until the start of the College Football season, I will be previewing different teams, players, and more from the SEC. This week I preview the most important position on the field for each team: the position of quarterback. Teams are listed by alphabetical order.

SEC West

Alabama

The Crimson Tide have the best problem college football. They have a competitive quarterback competition between two fantastic options in Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa.

While Tua is obviously the better passer, he tends to gamble at times which will result in more overall interceptions than Hurts will have. In past seasons, Saban has used Hurts primarily as a game manager and in the ground attack so it will be hard for Saban to go against Hurts as the starter.

However, Tua’s arm talent speaks for itself. I expect Saban will go with the sophomore to start the season under center, and that Alabama will have its best passing attack possibly in Saban’s tenure there.

This program has never had a quarterback win the Heisman Trophy, but that has a strong chance of happening this year if Tua starts and turns the ball over at a low rate. Believe the hype, folks.

Arkansas

We go from one of the best quarterback situations in the SEC at Tuscaloosa, to one of the most uncertain in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks are a team in transition as they are adopting an offensive spread system under new head coach Chad Morris.

While last year’s starter Austin Allen departs, Arkansas does return sophomore Cole Kelley who saw considerable time under center last season when Allen was injured.

While Kelley seems like the favorite just because of his arm strength, experience, and size (6’7) it’s not certain who Morris will pick to run his new spread system as there are other talented QB’s on the roster.

Expect to see an improvement in the air-attack no matter who wins the job thanks to the new pass-friendly system.

Auburn

Welcome to the Jarrett Stidham show. After a solid first year in the SEC (18-6 TD-INT ratio, 3,000+ passing yards) the former Baylor transfer enters this season with not only some Heisman hype but NFL hype as well.

Many scouts have him pegged as a first rounder in next year’s NFL Draft due to his blend of arm strength, accuracy, and size. Even better news for Stidham is that the Tigers return their top 5 receivers from last season.

Even though Head Coach Gus Malzahn loves to run the football, the loss of Kerryon Johnson may enable the passing attack to be utilized more this fall. Either way, the Tigers will be fielding debatably the most NFL-ready quarterback in the SEC next fall, and that is a dangerous weapon to have.

LSU

Tell me if you have ever heard this one before: LSU enters the fall with uncertainty at the quarterback position. While quarterback Danny Etling had a nice season under center last year, it seems like every fall the Tiger’s biggest question mark is at quarterback.

This year is no different as Etling departs and a quarterback competition from the spring rages on. The competition was mainly between Myles Brennan, Justin McMillian, and Lowell Narcisse but none of which separated from the pack.

Enter Ohio State graduate transfer Joe Burrow. I expect him to start week one due to his experience going up against the Buckeye’s talented defense in practice throughout the years.

No matter who starts, the cupboard will be bare. LSU loses Derrius Guice along with their top three receivers. Even with the move to a more pass-happy system, it’s a rebuilding year on offense for the Tigers.

Mississippi

When a player like Shea Patterson transfers, you would think your team would be hurting at the quarterback position. In the SEC however, never underestimate a team’s depth.

When Patterson went down with injury last year, senior Jordan Ta’amu stepped up in a big way for the Rebels. He led Ole Miss to three victories including one such win over rival Miss. State. He also managed to somehow top Patterson in completion percentage and overall quarterback rating.

It’s easy to see why Patterson transferred because he might not be starting this season even if he was healthy. That’s how good Ta’amu is. He may just be the best kept secret in the SEC.

Mississippi State

There may not be a more respected quarterback in the SEC than Nick Fitzgerald. He is as tough as they come and is also one of the most experienced play callers in the conference as he enters his third year behind center.

He is coming off a devastating ankle injury he suffered in the Egg Bowl last season, but expect him to be back at full strength by the time the season starts. While he is an incredible athlete in the open field, Fitzgerald still needs to develop further as a passer as he only completed 55% of his passes last season.

If he can take that next step with the assistance of new Head Coach Joe Moorhead and become considerably more accurate, expect a loaded Miss. St. team to make a lot of noise next season.

Texas A&M

Kellen Mond was an extremely highly touted prospect out of high school, but he suffered a very bad freshman season. Luckily for the Aggies another freshman quarterback in the form of Nick Starkel stepped up and showed considerable promise (60% comp. percentage, 14-6 TD-INT ratio).

With Jimbo Fisher in town I expect Starkel to impress even more in his sophomore season. There will be growing pains as the entire program must adjust to the addition of Fisher so don’t expect a huge year coming from College Station in 2018.

Better days are on the way. In the meantime, Starkel will at the very least be a steady hand at the quarterback position.

SEC East

Florida

The Tebow curse has been a real one for this program. Ever since he left, the Gators have yet to field a consistent, good quarterback. Even when they had one in Will Grier he was forced to transfer.

Expect those days to come to an end with the arrival of quarterback whisperer Dan Mullen. Feleipe Franks and Emory Jones will battle for the starting spot this fall. I expect Franks to start out the season, but I really think that Jones will be starting by the time November rolls around.

Jones is incredibly talented, and he committed to Florida only after Mullen was hired. Seems like the plan is for Jones to be the quarterback of the future for the Gators. I expect better numbers from a much-improved unit this year thanks to a better system being in place.

Georgia

Oh boy. This is the most controversial quarterback unit in the SEC. If you think having to choose between Hurts and Tua was tough, try picking a starting quarterback between Jake Fromm and Justin Fields.

Of course, this is a win-win scenario for the Bulldogs as both are truly great players. I really, really like Fromm’s talent. If he can keep away Fields from overtaking the starting spot, I think that Fromm will be selected early in the 2020 draft.

But that’s easier said than done. Many people think that Fields will eventually become the starter this season which is crazy to think about. If Head Coach Kirby Smart does decide to go that route than Fields better be the next Deshaun Watson. Starting out the freshman in a tough SEC is a risky move to say the least.

Kentucky

Heading into this fall, the Wildcats’ quarterback unit is by far the worst in the conference. Now before all you Kentucky fans come after me understand this: I’m not saying it will be that way during the season.

The Wildcats simply don’t have a single quarterback with even a second of playing time in Division I football. No other team in the SEC can say that. However, even with that lack of experience everything isn’t all doom and gloom Lexington.

The competition is between Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak who are both talented. Wilson is incredibly fast and is a good runner, while Hoak may be the more polished pocket passer.

However, both had inaccurate springs and neither separated. Not having a truly good quarterback has held back a very talented UK squad, and it will do so again this fall if neither Wilson or Hoak can prove to be consistent.

Missouri

Remember how I said that Stidham was debatably the most pro-ready quarterback in the SEC? Well that debate exists because of Missouri’s Drew Lock. Lock set the conference on fire last season, and he also carried a mediocre Missouri squad to a winning season.

Expect more of the same this year as most of the offense around him returns. Lock is a prototypical pocket passer with his great size and arm strength. However, like Fitzgerald he needs to work on his accuracy as he only completes 57% of his passes.

If he becomes more accurate, then I think it’s very possible the Tigers could finish second in an SEC East that’s wide open after Georgia. This guy might just be the No. 1 overall pick next spring if Missouri has a breakout year.

South Carolina

Jake Bentley had mountains of hype heading into his sophomore season after he showcased a lot of talent in his first year in Columbia. The results were pretty average as he led the Gamecocks to a much improved 9-4 record.

Now that South Carolina has proved they are a good team in the SEC, they need to take that next step into becoming a great team. That begins and ends with Bentley. If he can take that next step and have a Drew Lock-type of season, then the Gamecocks will make some serious noise this fall.

If he stays at around the same level he is at now, then expect another season like last year for the Gamecocks.

Tennessee

After a truly terrible season last year the Volunteers are turning the page with a new head coach and possibly a new quarterback. Graduate transfer Keller Chryst comes over from Stanford to bring assistance to a passing attack that badly needs it.

Tennessee’s offense as a whole was trash last season, but Chryst could help change all of that. He was a very highly touted quarterback out of high school, and he was solid at Stanford.

While Jarrett Guarantano showed some promise last fall, it’s obvious that he needs more time to develop. Sitting behind a pro-style quarterback like Chryst should only help his college career. Expect an improvement in stats from this unit.

Vanderbilt

This is Kyle Shurmur’s team. He had a breakout season in 2017, however the Commodores still finished with a losing record while also missing out on a bowl game.

Despite a 26-10 TD-INT ratio from Shurmur, Vanderbilt looked like one of the worst teams in the SEC in the second half of the season finishing with a 2-7 record.

Shurmur is another big, talented pocket passer and I expect him to have another good year. He does need to become more accurate as well, but the Commodores have a lot of other problems to worry about first. Sadly, it probably won’t matter how well he plays because Vanderbilt seems to be at least another year away.

Article written by John Reecer

3 responses to “SEC Football Preview: Quarterbacks”

  1. UKFootballYall

    No worries, I feel really good about all of our guys! If they have even half of the grit and competitive spirit that SJ had, along with their skill sets, it will be a breakout season to remember!

  2. ukkatzfan

    Your writing is not user friendly. First sentence is bad After a couple of teams, I had to fast forward to UK and skip the rest. Will try ONE more position break down. If not better, I will have to pass on your articles.

    1. ukkatzfan

      The Crimson Tide have the best problem college football.