Could This Be the “Year of the Quarterback” In the SEC?
The SEC isn’t exactly renowned for its quarterback play. Stud running backs litter the conference’s history books, and we all know how people in the Southeast brag about those SEC defenses. That’s been the league’s bread and butter for what feels like all of eternity.
Sure, players like Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, and Dak Prescott are in the midst of solid NFL careers. There was the insanity Tim Tebow’s meteoric rise, the championship pedigree of A.J. McCarron, and the electricity of Johnny Manziel. But, how many times has the conference featured several stud “franchise” type signal-callers? When is the last time the SEC was this deep at the quarterback position? The way it’s shaping up, 2017 could become the year of the quarterback in the Southeast.
SEC Quarterback Power Rankings
14. Jake Hubanek, Texas A&M – I’m not even sure Hubanek will be the guy for the Aggies, but at the moment, he has the most experience. Still, not winning a single conference game last year can’t instill much confidence in the Aggie faithful.
13. Quinten Dormady, Tennessee – How do you go about replacing one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC (Joshua Dobbs)? Well, it certainly doesn’t bode well that the Vols don’t appear to have a clear starter at this point in the year. It’s a make or break year for coach Butch Jones, and I honestly would not be surprised to see the bottom completely fall out. Dormady appears to be the favorite for the job. But, how much confidence does that inspire? I’m not sure – I don’t trust Jones, though.
12. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt – I understand that Commodore fans are excited to be entering a season without a wide open quarterback competition. But, the fact that Shurmur threw more interceptions than touchdowns last season is cause for concern. Don’t forget: Ralph Webb is the star of this team.
11. Malik Zaire, Florida – Feleipe Franks has a wealth of talent, but isn’t ready to take over the starting job (barring a disastrous start by the other Gator quarterbacks). Zaire looks like the safest option to contribute this season. That said, Zaire hasn’t solidified his position.
10. Danny Etling, LSU – The Tigers aren’t built to win games by throwing touchdown bombs on every possession. Etling has shown that he’s an adequate game manager, but little more. He could benefit from new OC Matt Canada, but we’ll have to wait and see.
9. Stephen Johnson, Kentucky – There’s a lot of upside to Johnson. He finished 2016 strong, with a dynamic performance against in-state rival, the Lamar Jackson-led Louisville Cardinals. If the Wildcats want to take the next step, they’ll need Johnson to play well. If he lives up to his potential, he could be one of the surprises of the SEC this year.
8. Shea Patterson, Ole Miss – The Rebels are ripe with uncertainty this season. Patterson has a lot of talent, but the team around him appears to be in free fall. Can he overcome that? Maybe, but the questions surrounding the program offer more questions than answers. Still, he’s good enough to be considered among the second tier of SEC quarterbacks.
7. Drew Lock, Missouri – Lock was quietly productive on a bad team last season. It may not matter. Mizzou could be bad again, but hopefully, it won’t completely overshadow a steadily improving and productive quarterback. Lock finished 2016 with 3,399 yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. That completion percentage (54.6%) needs to come up, though.
6. Jacob Eason, Georgia – The hype for Eason continues to roll on. Sure, the guy has a lot of talent, but we can’t ignore the fact that he had one of the worst quarterback ratings in the entire conference in 2016. 16 touchdowns just isn’t going to cut it.
5. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn – Gus Malzahn may have the kid who can save his job. But, playing Big 12 defenses is a lot different than playing SEC defenses. Stidham has shown immense potential – he was stellar in Auburn’s Spring game. As long as he’s more Nick Marshall than Jeremy Johnson, the Tigers should be good.
4. Jake Bentley, South Carolina – Bentley came on like a rocket to end 2016. Gamecock fans have plenty of reason for optimism, but he still has a way to go before he cracks the top three. 390 yards and three touchdowns in the bowl game shows promise, but the Birmingham Bowl is far from the gauntlet that is a full SEC season.
3. Jalen Hurts, Alabama – There’s a chance that the two best quarterbacks in the SEC could reside on the Crimson Tide roster. But, Hurts held off Tua Tagovailoa enough to secure the starting job. After a stellar 2016 campaign, he’s the guy until further notice. Hurts needs to develop as a better passer before he can be considered the best in the SEC, but he’s still in the conversation.
2. Austin Allen, Arkansas – Joshua Dobbs and Chad Kelly were the only SEC quarterbacks to have a higher quarterback rating than Allen last season. He completed 61.6% of his passes, throwing for 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. All the while, he endured 34 sacks (most in the SEC). Think of what the best pure passer in the SEC could do if Arkansas could actually piece together a decent offensive line. The Razorbacks could be deadly.
1. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State – Fitzgerald is a bona fide dual-threat quarterback, and that’s what gives him the edge over Allen. He should have the Bulldogs heading to a bowl game this season. Hell, if things shake out right, the Bulldogs could stun the rest of the SEC West. The dude had 1,375 rushing yards in 2016 to pair with his 2,423 passing yards. He finished with 16 total touchdowns (T-1st in the SEC). There’s no reason to think this kid is slowing down any time soon.
Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. A strong advocate of GSD (get shit done) and #BeBetter, he’s down to talk Tennessee Titans and Alabama Crimson Tide football over a beer any day. Check him out covering the WWE for WrestlingNews.co. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley, @WrestlingNewsCo