For the next few weeks leading to the start of the College Football season (here’s hoping!), I will be previewing different teams, players, and more from the SEC. Up first is the position that gets all the headlines: Quarterback. While superstars Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa have gone on to the pros, there is still plenty of talent at this position in the conference. These rankings will be updated weekly throughout the season.
1. Jamie Newman, Georgia
The SEC finds itself in a strange position when it comes to the conference’s quarterbacks. Sure, there is plenty of talent returning. However, there is not an obvious, sure-fire No. 1 guy who can easily be marked up as the SEC’s top Heisman candidate. This is exactly why someone who hasn’t played a snap in the conference grabs the top spot in this preseason ranking.
There has been a huge amount of hype behind Newman after he transferred from Wake Forrest to join Kirby Smart and company in Athens. Sure, he played in the ACC which has weaker defenses across the board then the SEC, but Newman looked amazing for the Demon Deacons last season. At an imposing 6’4, 230 pounds, he was responsible for 32 touchdowns in 2019 while only throwing 11 interceptions. Combine that with his 60% completion percentage and 145.3 passing efficiency rating, and Georgia has a quarterback that many pro scouts see as a starter on Sundays.
I expect Newman to struggle at first. Not only do the Bulldogs play Alabama in their third game of the year (as of now) but Georgia loses four starters on its offensive line and star back D’Andre Swift from last season. Despite that, so much talent is still coming back. The Bulldogs have solid depth across the o-line, star receiver George Pickens is back, proven tight end Tre’ McKitty transfers in from Florida State, and the uber-talented duo of Zamir White and James Cook return in the backfield. Expect struggles as Newman adjusts to a new program in the midst of a global pandemic, but my money is on him to end the season as the SEC’s best quarterback.
Passing grade when throwing into a tight window:
1. Joe Burrow – 81.7
2. Jamie Newman – 77.2
3. Trevor Lawrence – 66.3 pic.twitter.com/jTBLTKF5Mf
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 30, 2020
2. Kyle Trask, Florida
Trask is a very intriguing quarterback to evaluate. On one hand, his production from last season speaks for itself: 25 passing touchdowns, 66.9% completion percentage, just seven interceptions, and a 156.1 quarterback rating. He finished on the All-SEC Third team for a reason. However, there are some concerns. First, he has a hitch in his throwing motion that could be taken advantage of by good defenses. And second, the Gators lost their two best wide receivers in the last NFL Draft. Finding pass catchers to step up isn’t always easy.
But in Trask’s case, the positives outweigh the negatives. Under head coach (and quarterback whisperer) Dan Mullen, Trask has vastly improved as a field general. He is a gamer in every sense of the word, and one has to imagine that he is going to get even better heading into his final season in Gainesville. With future first-round tight end Kyle Pitts back in the fold, Trask still has a valuable weapon at his disposal. This is very strange territory to be in, but the two best QB’s in the SEC are both in the East division…for now.
Kyle Trask — One of the best quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft Class
??Timing ??Accuracy??Touch pic.twitter.com/92i8iFv1dd
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) May 14, 2020
3. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
At this point, Mond isn’t fooling anybody. He has been a good, but not great, game manager who is also a solid threat on the ground for the Aggies. The senior has amassed around 3,500 total yards, 30 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in two straight seasons behind center. His completion percentage improved to 61.6% last year, but he still failed to make a major leap into being a true star.
Thanks to almost the entire offense returning in 2020, Mond has another chance to finally take that big step forward. Not only will there be four returning senior starters on the offensive line, but Mond gets 2 of his 3 leading receivers back as well as starting running back Isaiah Spiller. This offense will easily be one of the best in the SEC this season, and I expect Mond’s stats to be a bit better.
More will be said about this in the future, but Texas A&M poses the biggest threat to Alabama in the West this season as the Aggies return almost of their defensive starters as well. It’s Jimbo Fisher’s third year in College Station and I predict that big results will start to show after winning 17 games in his first two seasons at the helm. Considering all of this, Mond will be at the forefront of SEC football in 2020. If the Aggies truly surprise and win the West, it will be because of Mond’s development.
4. Mac Jones/Bryce Young, Alabama
I know, I know. I’m cheating here. This is the only team I made a split decision on and gave both quarterbacks the ranking, but this really could go either way. On one hand, there is Mac Jones who impressed last season after Tua Tagovailoa went down with his injury. Jones’ 186.9 quarterback rating in four starts shows good promise. However, three of those starts came against the likes of Arkansas, Western Carolina, and a Michigan team that never performs well in bowl games. The other start came in a loss to Auburn where Jones threw two interceptions.
On the other side is the uber-talented Bryce Young, who was ranked by many as the best quarterback in the 2020 class. His tape speaks for itself. Young is an explosive athlete with a cannon for an arm. He is the future of Crimson Tide football. But is now the time for Young? Coach Nick Saban was not afraid to pull the trigger and give the reigns over to Tua instead of veteran Jalen Hurts. Will he do the same thing here even in the midst of this pandemic which could make it hard for a true freshman to get in the flow of things? Either way, the winner of this job gets to throw to Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. This is still one of the most talented rosters in the sport. It’s Alabama. No way am I ranking either of these guys any lower than this.
— Overtime (@overtime) July 26, 2020
5. KJ Costello, Mississippi State
This is the ultimate dark horse candidate to end up on an All-SEC team by season’s end. First off, Costello is a very talented quarterback who might be flying up draft boards as the season moves along. Not only is he 6’5, 215 with a strong arm, but he already has valuable experience behind center. In his junior year at Stanford, Costello threw for over 3,500 yards, 29 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions, and a completion percentage of 65%. He sat out most of his senior season due to injury and is now on the Bulldogs where he’ll play in head coach Mike Leach’s pass-happy offensive scheme.
Even if Costello struggles a bit with the transition to the SEC and even if the Bulldogs run the ball more with star back Kylin Hill back for his senior season, I just don’t see a world where Costello is going to have a huge drop off production. In a best-case scenario, he puts up huge numbers in Leach’s system. He has never had a quarterback with Costello’s skillset. I’m not sure how many games they will win, but this offense will put up numbers. Bet on it.
6. Bo Nix, Auburn
It was an up-and-down freshman season for Nix. The peaks showed off his obvious talent, and the valleys….well, they weren’t great… But he still was a true freshman playing against SEC defenses. Life can be tough sometimes. He will take a step forward in his sophomore season, but how far forward is yet to be determined. While his three top receivers are all back, the entire offensive line has to be rebuilt. He has the ability to really outplay this position, but it feels like he is still one year away from really leaving his mark on the conference.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 1, 2019
7. Myles Brennan, LSU
I don’t like playing guessing games. But when you make a ranking like this, you go with what’s available. As everyone is aware, LSU is going to be very different next season as most of the previous starters left for the NFL. That leaves junior Myles Brennan to pick up the remaining pieces. Star receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Terrance Marshall are back so the cupboard isn’t completely empty. Again, this is a total guess, but as long as Ed Orgeron is at the helm then I have faith that the Tigers will be good. So Brennan gets a pass here.
8. Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee
Why, yes! I am the KSR writer who is putting Guarantano over Terry Wilson. I know, I must love misery. All kidding aside, I am just trying to make the most unbiased decision possible. Wilson is the much better runner, but Guarantano has simply proved to be the better passer thus far in their careers. With the Volunteers returning just about their entire offense in his senior season, Guarantano will have his best year yet.
Tennessee QB, Jarrett Guarantano after leading them to a win over Missouri & clinching a bowl berth.
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) November 24, 2019
9. Terry Wilson, Kentucky
Can Wilson outplay this ranking? Obviously. So put away any hate for me ranking him this low. At the end of the day, he still only had a passing efficiency rating of 133.9 and an average of seven passing yards per attempt in his one full season as a starter. While he is a better runner, Guarantano has him beat in both of those passing categories. The Wildcats love to run the football, and they are pretty efficient at doing so. Where Wilson is placed on this ranking from a week-to-week basis might not matter at all to UK’s overall success.
Terry Wilson ?? CJ Conrad FOR THE WIN! pic.twitter.com/hyJZ2TtFow
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 27, 2018
10. Ryan Hilinski, South Carolina
Hilinski showed promise and was impressive at times as a true freshman quarterback in 2019. However, the Gamecocks struggled against a very tough schedule and finished 4-8 all while he had a quarterback rating of 113.4 (yikes!). Things will not get much easier in 2020. Hilinski will have to take a big step forward if South Carolina is going to jump both Kentucky and Tennessee. Admittedly, I don’t have much faith in that happening.
11. John Rhys Plumlee, Ole Miss
It’s easy to say that Plumlee is the best running quarterback in the conference after he accumulated over 1,000 yards on the ground as a true freshman. However, as with Wilson, Plumlee still needs to improve in the passing game after he only completed 52.7% of his passes last year. And yes, that’s pretty bad. Plus, there is no guarantee that he will beat out talented Matt Corral for the starting job either. It’s also just Lane Kiffin’s first year in Oxford. Not much should be expected from the Rebels in 2020.
No. 1 LSU got the win …
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) July 3, 2020
12. Shawn Robinson, Missouri
Robinson is a transfer from TCU where he was a total mixed bag behind center. He only completed 59% of his passes there while compiling a TD-INT ratio of 12-8. Add in the fact that Missouri greatly disappointed last season and only returns four starters on offense in 2020 and you have neither that much hype or optimism for this team.
13. Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
After being all over the place during his time at Florida, Franks transferred to Arkansas after seeing the writing on the wall with Trask being the new guy behind center. His overall talent level is better than this ranking, but I don’t have much faith in an inconsistent quarterback on one of the worst teams in all of the power five conferences. I don’t see much room for success for Franks and company in a stacked West division.
14. Jeremy Moussa, Vanderbilt
Moussa is a JUCO transfer so he is a bit of an unknown overall. There is no guarantee that he is going to win the starting job over the likes of Ken Seals and Danny Clark either. The Commodores haven’t had a winning record in over six seasons, and that seems likely to happen again. This is a pretty safe pick for the last spot in this weekly ranking for now.