The SEC quarterback position is a virtual wasteland. Is there any team returning a quarterback unit you would feel at all confident in? Is there anyone in the conference who scares you at all as an opponent? Really, about all the SEC has going for it is that you hadn't heard of Johnny Manziel before his freshman season either, and that turned out okay.
Of the top eight quarterbacks in yards, only one returns, and that's the immortal Dr. Bo. It's that kind of year.
Gus didn't really ask a whole lot out of Marshall, and he delivered. Marshall was efficient, protected the football, and did his best to stay out of the way of the potent running game. However, with a year under his belt, perhaps the reins will loosen a bit as he grows more comfortable in the system. Easily the best QB situation in the conference. That's sad.
Maty Mauk was impressive in relief for Franklin last season, which qualifies as tons of experience in the SEC this season.
Hutson Mason made the most of his opportunity last season and the Dawg offense barely missed a beat with him under center. That could be an illusion, but no one else looks any good, either.
4 OLE MISS
Dr. Bo cares not for your ball security. Sure, he's one of the most reckless players in the conference, but he also puts up lots of yards. He's not for the risk averse, but Ole Miss isn't good enough to play it conservative. He fits the bill perfectly.
5 MISSISSIPPI ST
Dak Prescott is boring consistency. He won't give away games like his cross-state rival, but it's hard to imagine him carrying the team to wins single-handedly. He could use some of that recklessness.
6 SOUTH CAROLINA
A nice, boring fifth-year senior who has come through in a few big games, Dylan Thompson finally takes over the starting job. He's exactly the kind of QB the Gamecocks need, as he will let the rest of the talent shine.
They get Jeff Driskel back from injury, and they need him to be the player he was prior to the injury. The Gator offense came off the rails without him under center.
8 TEXAS A&M
Two outstanding recruits will battle for the job, and Sumlin has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to choosing a rookie signal caller. I'm a lot more confident in the Aggies at this position than their West rivals.
About the best thing that can be said about Brandon Harris is how many QB's have fled the program since he has arrived. He hasn't played a snap, but the sign of his talent is that the upperclassmen didn't feel like they could compete for the job with him.
Blake Sims seems to have the starting job, though no Alabama fan actually wants him to. Sims brings bland competence to the job (and that's a bit of a reach), in stark contrast to Jacob Coker, who must be awesome because he transferred from Florida St.
Justin Worley returns from injury, and none of the other QB's on the roster could take his job. That doesn't really bode well for the Vols.
LSU transfer Stephen Rivers, a guy who had slipped to third on the depth chart, is the nominal starter. Well, not anymore, as he's lost the job as of today.
Another team trying to decide between underclassmen, only not nearly as highly touted.
There is simply no excuse for a team blessed with this much rushing talent to be so pitiful in the passing game. None.
Let's just not and say we did. Where do we even start? There hasn't been this mass exodus of QB talent in the conference in a long, long time. The thing is, it's not that the SEC QB talent is suddenly a barren wasteland. It's a matter of lack of experience, nearly across the board. Predicting QB success is the equivalent of drinking nine bottles of Buffalo Trace, putting your head onto a baseball bat and spinning in circles for 35 seconds, then trying to hit the bullseye on a dart board. Hey, it could happen, but what are the odds?
That's an exaggeration, of course. But for my rankings, I have to value some quality experience over talented inexperience.
Marshall showed flashes of competence as a passer in his inaugural campaign on the Plains, but remained largely inconsistent. Reports through Spring and Summer were that he made further strides as a passer. That should make him a true virtuoso, dual-theat that keeps that Malzahn offense humming hot. He'll miss a game, but Jeremy Johnson is a really quality back-up, and true freshman Sean White, while just a "break in case of emergency" guy, may be the most talented of the trio.
Mason has bide his time behind stud Aaron Murray, but always looked stellar in relief. In a tough spot, he took UGA to a couple of wins, playing efficiently vs. Kentucky and Georgia Tech. Vs. Nebraska, he passed the 300-yard barrier, though tossed a pick and watched his completion percentage crawl back down near 50%. UGA has talented skill guys around him, a quality OC with a track record of maximizing QB play and a veteran OL. Mason should be just fine, even if he's not Aaron Murray.
Mauk brings an exciting blend of arm and leg talent to a Missouri offense that posted over 6.5 yards per play and nearly 500 yards a game last season. Franklin, at his best, was quietly efficient. A nice player that wouldn't do too much to hurt you. Mauk is the polar opposite, as he's likely to be a bit more of a risk taker, but also generate more big, exciting plays.
4) South Carolina
People have been asking for Thompson to see more PT for ages now. Now that he's a senior, he will finally get his shot. He's got some big play ability to him, averaging 8.4 YPA over the course of his career, which should play well for him in Spurrier's vertical attack. His efficiency looked improved last season, though he did toss 3 picks to 4 TDs, so if he's not able to cut down on the turnovers, that could be his demise.
5) Ole Miss
I'm not a huge fan of Bo. His play is wildly erratic. At times, he flashes dominance, like against LSU last season. Other times... the Egg Bowl. Hugh Freeze has Bo tossing it around quite a bit, and even Bo's own sister isn't sure how much faith Freeze has in Bo. Then again, why would he have ultimate faith in a guy that's been so inconsistent?
Everyone's preseason All-American, I'm not going all-in on Dak Prescott after a couple of decent games against Ole Miss and Rice. Dak oozes physical tools, but his passing leaves a lot to be desired. He could improve himself and possibly be the best in the conference, but that'd be a pretty gargantuan leap.
7) Texas A&M
What I hate here is depth. I think their top two are probably better than Dak, Bo, maybe even Dylan Thompson. Plus they play in an offense with a coach that pumps out big-time QB play on a yearly basis. Odds are, they won't miss much of a beat with Kenny Hill.
Jeff Driskel wasn't even good when he was "good" but he does have experience and finally a coach with some coherence and competence.
Similar situation to A&M in regards to talent, but what is lacking here is history. Cam Cameron looked great in his first run in Baton Rouge, but it's an entirely different challenge to build a passing game around a whole new cast of characters than it is to get a bunch of NFL talents with experience to perform to their talent levels. This group could catapult up quickly.
Cokersiah's Heisman campaign is on hold, as he wasn't able to wrestle the starting gig away from Blake Sims, who excelled as a clipboard holder in Tuscaloosa the past three seasons. Bama's best QBs are both young, and if either of them wind up playing, Bama's season likely went off the rails at some point.
I'll give them the benefit of the talent doubt, as I think Patrick Towles can be surprisingly competent in his first year starting. He was a talented recruit with a lot of raw skills and should be able to produce some results in air-raid minded Neal Brown's offensive attack.
Worley isn't good, so it makes you wonder about the progress of Josh Dobbs, since he couldn't unseat a guy coming off an injury. I liked Dobbs as a recruit, but this is an offense with so much WR talent that will likely be wasted due to ushering in an entire new OL in front of some bad QBs.
Brandon Allen is almost impossibly bad when you consider he's able to play with a very good rushing attack and still not perform. There's some issues in the WR core, but he has Hunter Henry, so that's not the total issue. He's not asked to do much and still doesn't do that well.
They take the biggest step back going from a very okay Austyn Carta-Samuels, to Stephen Rivers, who never took anything more than a couple emergency snaps at LSU, and was passed up multiple times by younger players in his time in Baton Rouge.* Could be a rough year in Nashville.
*Poseur's Note: And apparently passed up one more time. We wrote this earlier in the week, before the news came out that Rivers would not be the starter in Vandy.
Has the SEC ever lost this much talent and experience at this position all at once? Heisman winners, Heisman finalists and multiple record holders. I don't know that things will be quite as dire as some of the national punditry thinks regarding passing games in this league, but there's no question that it's going to take a step back, and that there will be a lot of unproven guys in the spotlight.
Yeah, Nick Marshall isn't exactly the most polished passer, but he runs Auburn's offense well. Plus, Gus Malzahn has an even rarer luxury in this league at the moment: an experienced backup. Jeremy Johnson saw action in five games last season as a true freshman, and managed to complete 70 percent of his throws too.
2. Mississippi State
I'm a big Dak Prescott fan. The concerns are definitely valid -- there's no question that he struggled in some of State's biggest games. But he's the perfect talent for Dan Mullen's offense, he has his best receiver back and, injury aside a solid line in front of him. He should produce.
Maty Mauk did a fine job in relief of James Franklin last season. Hell, some Mizzou fans seemed to think he could take over the starting gig. Losing the No. 1 target hurts, but the other, other Tigers have, for the most part, kept their spread passing game going through these transitions.
They're probably not getting enough credit here. Hutson Mason has been in the system for some time now, and Mark Richt's rarely had truly bad quarterback play. And Mason has one thing that some of the other newbie quarterbacks haven't: the league's best running back to relieve pressure.
5. Ole Miss
I'm with Paul -- Dr. Bo is a little too loose with the ball for my tastes. But there's no doubt he operates Hugh Freeze's offense fairly well. But they have to find a new change-of-pace option with Barry Brunetti finally gone.
6. South Carolina
Dylan Thompson has never been able to handle the job without some help from Connor Shaw, but he's started a few games and even played well at times. Now it's his show. Or at least it is until that first visor hits the deck.
7. Texas A&M
This is the first real projection. The Aggies have recruited well here, and Sumlin's Air Raid attack generally works in new guys well. I'd be surprised if they don't at least get serviceable play.
Well...Jeff Driskel's there, isn't he? Look, I know he was a five-star prospect, and I know that moving back to a spread offense should help him out, but the fact is that Driskel's never really been all that impressive, even before last year's big injury. Going to have to see him meet the hype before I believe it.
Anthony Jennings at least has a start, albeit a poor one on his resume. Brandon Harris is a freshman, but he's also been on campus working with the team for eight months.
I've heard all of the Jacob Coker hype, and clearly he has some degree of physical talent, but the bottom line is that he played poorly in garbage minutes at Florida State and doesn't have the luxury of any time, even spring time, in the Tide's system until the previous month. As for the rest of the Tide's quarterbacks, well, if Alabama really wanted to play Blake Sims or Cooper Batemen, they wouldn't have brought Coker to town in the first place.
The less said about the rest of these guys, the better.
Again, we agree a lot. There is some slight disagreement of slotting, but there are some pretty distinct tiers. Aside from Billy's misplaced faith in Dak Prescott, we all had the same top three and our #1 team was unanimous. After the top three, there's the group of teams with some experience returning, to varying degrees of competence. That's the next three, followed by a group of four which is best described as "Who Knows, But They Always Recruit Well". My slight faith in Driskel is the only thing which prevented us from turning in the same ballot on ranks 7-10. The final four bring up the basement.
4 Mississippi St
5 Ole Miss
6 South Carolina
7 Texas A&M