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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.)


Anonymous said...

McCarron over Bray? Based off what? 48 passes? haha gimme a break Seth. Bray showed he was for real at the end of the season.

Anonymous said...

How long until that anonymous poster starts complaining about Murray as a QB?

Seth, while you never posted a response to those anonymous posts hating on Murray, I guess we all know where you stand on the issue now. I stand with you.

dubstep said...

Tyler Wilson at No. 7? did you watch the sugar bowl?

Anonymous said...

That's true about Bray vs McCarron, anon, but Tenn sucks.

Would you rank the unproven Qb of a bad team ahead of the unproven team over a perennial power?

Just asking, and I'm not an Alabama fan.

Anonymous said...

Not sure how you can have McCarron at #2, ahead of Tyler Wilson (who was lights out when he did play in 2010), Bray (I thought he looked pretty good), and, yes, Garcia (multi-year starter).

Anonymous said...

Tyler Bray did most of his late-season damage against GARBAGE competition.

Their last 6 games were:

@SC (I'll give them this one, they played well with Bray in)

@Memphis, v. Ole Miss, @ Vandy, v. Kentucky, and bowl: UNC.

Come on, it seems to me that Bray still has a lot to prove in this league.

Andrew said...

Bray > McCarron... more experience, looked really good at the end of the year.

Wade said...

Bray vs McCarron:

Who gives a damn? To hell with Tennessee. We'll beat whoever they put in.

Seriously, is it worth arguing about?

The answer is no.

bigeasydawg said...

You do know that Ryan Mallett was the qb in the sugar bowl right? Or am I missing something.

lindsayscottlindsayscott said...

seth, how could you forget about the powerhouse that is Nash Nance? That guy is the truth! Guaranteed he starts over Bray by midseason.

There is a great need for sarcasm font.

Paul said...

Garcia definitely belongs in one of Stewart Mandel's ninth year senior columns.

Billy said...

Blogger's blogs > anonymous posters posts

Billy said...

Andrew the above post is not aimed at you...obviously, you are not an anon poster (didn't see your remarks til I had already posted.)

Shock_The_World said...

This is for all you that want to complain about Murray. How are you going to over look his stats? I know the winning % isnt good, but wins are still a team game. Murray had ppl complaining even before he started one game. Look at Murray's stats even when he didnt have A.J in the first four games, 879 yrds 5 pass TDs 2 picks 2 rush TDs and a comp.% of 61.

Anonymous said...


Wow, Garcia over Murray? You have really lost it. No SEC expert will back you on that one, Georgia bias at work. You must write for a Georgia paper.

Garcia showed up in the big games, Murray didn't. As we all know, how a QB plays isn't measured by the La Laffy's of the world but the Florida's and Alabama. Garcia beat both.

Anyway, thanks for the laugh, I fell in the floor laughing.

Anonymous said...

Let me guess, Seth thinks Crowell is better than Lattimore, and Drew is better than Clowney and Marlon Brown is better thasn Jeffery?

Anonymous said...

comical...Murray didn't win against a team with a winning record. Garcia is light years ahead of the midget. Carolina will have its second win in a row over the dawgs.

Anonymous said...

Garcia is a joke, he'll likely be replaced by Connor Shaw by the end of the first game. People with eyes and brains know that Murray is better.

Anonymous said...

Two years straight South Carolina has landed the #1 recruit in the country. Wow I dont think UGA has ever done that. The funny thing is UGA taking pride in Mike Boo Boo's recruiting efforts. Laughable to say the least. Lets pass around the kool aid and keep kidding ourselves.

Anonymous said...

^^^^^^^^Somebody is jealous they didn't land A.J. Green.

DURRRR said...

Yeah, what an accomplishment to get the #1 recruit two years running when they both live in your state and are both positions of need...

Doug said...

Ranking Garcia is tough. We have had 4 years to see what he can do, and some of it is pretty bad.

Remember that pass at the end of the Kentucky game?

Anonymous said...

Hey Seth, where is Logan gonna end up?

Anonymous said...

Hey anon 8:14 pm, actually Marcus Lattimore was not the #1 player in the country last year. He wasn't even the #1 running back. Either Michael Dyer or Lache Seastrunk were the #1 running backs depending on the site (rivals, scout, ESPN). Seantrel Henderson was the #1 overall player last year. Get your facts straight!!!

BulldogBen said...

Anon@6:32, I think no SEC expert would tell you that Garcia was the reason USC won those games. They'd tell you it was a little RB they had carrying it 30-40 times a game.

Hell, Buck Belue looked good with Herschel Walker in the backfield (although Lattimore can't hold Herschel's jock)

This chest thumping by USC people is what I find laughable considering they won the East when it was REALLY bad and got beat down in the SEC Championship AND lost their bowl game.

But, yes, you beat UGA head to head. Great accomplishment.

You also lost FIVE games.

Anonymous said...

Ok, let's look at the guys Murray went head to head with and lost first.

Mettenberger, clearly the best in the sec. He roasted Murray at Georgia.

Brantley, whooped Murray too.

Garcia, whooped Murray too.

So there's your top 3, Mettenberger, Brantley, Garcia.

Anonymous said...

Next, you look at AJ, both Tyler's, and Chris. All better at winning than Murray.

#4 AJ
#5 Tyler
#6 Chris
#7 Tyler
#8 Murray

QB's are measured by W's against great teams, not td's against losing teams.

Anonymous said...

For the life of me, I can't figure out how Seth, or any writer, would put Murray at the top of the SEC list. He scored 7 td's against winning teams. That's it. He went 0-6 against winning teams, winless. He ranks among the bottom in the nation in key areas like the 4th quarter, record against winning teams, etc. Murray couldn't score on UCF, a conference USA team. If you can't win some games against good teams with AJ Green as your receiver, hang it up.

Wade said...

The trolls from other SEC teams are out in full force today. I'm sorry you think Murray is so terrible, but then again, shouldn't you be happy about that? But your panties are all in a bunch, so maybe you don't really believe that at all. You just want to make yourselves feel better by putting Murray down and lying to yourselves.

Sounds to me like some of the kids that post here are scared of what Murray may do against their teams.

"Methinks thou dost protest too much."

Joeski said...

Once again, I find the comments section filled with a bunch of dolts who don't know the first thing about football.

Here's a pro-tip for you: W's are NOT the most important stat for a QB. Why? Because there are 21 other starters (and numerous other players) who contribute to a team's success or failure. Each player can only focus on what he is responsible for, and in Murray's case, the statistics back up the fact that he did a better job than Stafford, Greene, et al. against a similar level of competition (unless for some reason you think that the SEC and the OOC folks suddenly started fielding JV teams just for Murray).

As for Anon @ 9:15, you are a complete idiot.
Mettenberger never directly competed with Murray. He did better against the 2nd team defense than Murray did against the 1's. So, yeah, you're wrong.

Garcia: 12/17 165 yds, 0 TDs 0 INTs
Murray: 14/21 192 yds, 0 TDs 0 INTs
So you're wrong again, Murray actually outplayed Garcia.

Brantley: 16/25 193 yds, 0 TDs 1 INT
Murray: 18/37 313 yds, 3 TDs 3 INTs

So you're wrong A THIRD TIME! Wow!

Why don't you use your skull for something besides storing old gym socks?

Oh, and USC fans, congratulations on a good year, but before you get all arrogant, how many National Championships and SEC championships do you have? Oh yeah! That's right ZERO.

The moral of the story: if you're going to trash-talk, you better be able to back it up with facts. Otherwise, you just end up looking like another slack-jawed dope.

Anonymous said...

Mettenberger beat the soup out of Murray all Spring. Crushed him on G-Day. Garcia & Brantley got the W against Murray too.

Yes, Murray plays well and threw 17 td's against TEAMS WITH LOSING RECRDS, but his 0-6 record against TEAMS WITH WINNING RECORDS proves my point.

Anonymous said...

Murray's signature win so far is against Louisiana Lafayette.

Joeski said...

Again, you're clinging to one fallacious argument that anyone who knows anything about football knows is completely false.

Oh, and like I said, Mett did NOT 'beat the crap' out of Murray in the G-Day game:
Mett: 6/10 150 yds, 2 TDs
Murray: 9/18 98 yds, 1 INT

Was Mettenberger better? Yeah. By a wide margin? Absolutely not, particularly when you consider he was playing against the second stringers and Murray was playing against the first stringers.

You, however, clearly are just a petty nobody who probably thinks just watching football imparts you some measure of expertise, because you clearly like to talk shit about things you know nothing about.

You bore me. If you care to make yourself look even bigger nutjob, feel free, I certainly won't be wasting any more time reading your drivel.

Anonymous said...

If you guys thought Murray was bad in 2010, wait until you see how he plays without AJ Green? Remember South Carolina and Miss St last year?

Anonymous said...

Murray owns the claim for "worst record in history" QB under Mark Richt, dating back until 1985.

Rick said...


Anonymous said...


I did find where Murray was ranked #1. Where?

On the list of worst QB records under Mark Richt in 25 years.

Murray has no peers there.

Anonymous said...

Alabama too high. Arkansas too low.