I'm going to spend some time in the next few days taking an early look at the talent returning in the SEC in 2010, and just as I did last year, it seems appropriate to start at the quarterback position, which has been downright problematic in the league for the past two seasons.
That's not likely to change dramatically in 2010. Here are the career numbers for the expected 2010 starters at QB around the SEC...
|QB||Team ||Comp ||Att ||Comp%||Yards||TD/Int |
| S. Garcia ||SC||304||554||54.8||3694||23/18|
| R. Mallett ||Ark||286||544||52.6||4519||37/12|
| G. McElroy ||Ala||214||345||62.0||2704||19/5|
| L. Smith ||Van||125||261||47.9||1293||5/8|
| N. Stephens ||Tenn||72||143||50.3||982||5/4|
| M. Newton ||UK||75||135||55.6||706||6/3|
| C. Relf || Miss St ||24||50||48.0||296||5/3|
| J. Brantley ||Fla||36||48||75.0||410||7/0|
| N. Stanley ||Miss||11||23||47.8||163||1/1|
Obviously some of these are still open competitions. Aaron Murray won't necessarily be the starting QB at Georgia, but he's the most likely candidate. Neil Caudle could land the job at Auburn if Cameron Newton, the JuCo transfer, doesn't perform well this spring. Tyler Russell, a redshirt freshman, is as likely to land the job at Mississippi State as Chris Relf. Raymond Cotton could earn the job at Ole Miss, Mike Hartline will push Morgan Newton at Kentucky, and Tyler Bray has a shot at beating out Nick Stephens at Tennessee.
But all of that is simply a long way of saying exactly what we said last year -- The QB situation throughout the SEC is in a state of flux.
Ryan Mallett, in his one-and-a-half seasons as a starting QB at the college level, has more career touchdowns than the bottom eight players on that list combined. Oh, and he'll miss the spring with an injury.
Even in years past, there has at least been a clear-cut top of the SEC QB depth chart, but this season, not one passer in the league has more than a year and some change as his team's starter.
That lack of experience shows up dramatically on the road, where the above listed QBs have a combined record as starters of 12-17 -- and that record is bolstered by a 6-0 mark from Greg McElroy and Morgan Newton. The supposed class of SEC QBs, Mallett and Stephen Garcia, meanwhile, have a combined record of 1-9 in opposing stadiums.
Looking specifically at Georgia, they'll get both Mallett and Garcia this year -- but they'll get Mallett at Sanford Stadium. In opponents' stadiums last year, Mallett was 0-4 with a completion percentage of just 39.3 percent (it was 67.7 percent at home) and four of his six worst games in terms of passing yards. (Note: He also struggled during his bowl game against East Carolina, completing just 15-of-36 passes for 202 yards.) Obviously Mallett should be more mature and better prepared for life on the road in 2010, but still, those numbers are striking.
Aside from Garcia and Mallett, here's the career numbers of the rest of the QBs Georgia is likely to see in SEC play this season: 332 completions, 637 attempts, 52 percent completions, 28 TDs and 18 INTs.
Georgia's non-conference slate includes:
-- Josh Nesbitt, who rarely throws and lost his only big-play receiver to the NFL
-- whoever starts for Idaho State and ULM
-- Tyler Hansen, whose career numbers at Colorado (55% completions, 9 TDs, 8 INTs) fall in line with what UGA is going to see around the SEC
So it's probably safe to say that the biggest test of Scott Lakatos' new secondary in 2010 is going to come in Week 2 of the season when the Dawgs travel to Columbia.But I'm curious... who else scares you? Who would you rank as the No. 2 QB Georgia will face this year?
ADDENDUM: I'm dumb on two fronts...
1.) It's ULL, not ULM. My apologies to Lafayetteians everywhere.
2.) Cam Newton isn't without stats, complete. While at Florida, he was 6-of-12 for 54 yards with no TDs or INTs, which is pretty negligible.
And one other great comment that I forgot to note originally: Scott Lakatos' secondary will get an early test against Stephen Garcia in Week 2, but there really couldn't be a better early test for him, since he just prepared his UConn team for Garcia in their bowl game in which the South Carolina QB finished 16-of-38 (42%) for 129 yards and a pick.