Last year, the SEC blogs got together and ranked the SEC positional groups over the course of the summer. No one has approached us yet about doing it again, and I sure as hell don't want to organize it. However, we did enjoy putting together a ballot, so PaulDan, Billy, and I will once again vote on the position groups and create an ATVS ranking. We just won't submit a ballot to anyone, thereby making our evaluation the definitive SB Nation rating of the SEC positional groups.
We start with the quarterbacks because while it is the glamour position in football, it's not exactly a loaded position group in the SEC. the real stars of the conference are elsewhere. Still, the quarterback is the quarterback, and there will always be a certain cachet there. And away we go...
1 Mississippi State: Is Dak a bit overrated? He's certainly the best QB coming back in the SEC, but that says a lot about the conference as well. He only topped 300 yards twice (and not against LSU!) and threw 8 picks in SEC play. He's still a very good QB, but I'm not sure I buy him a Heisman contender.
2 Texas A&M: Kyle Allen burst onto the scene in November and against four Power 5 opponents, completed over 65% of his passes, threw for 942 yards and 12 TD, and reignited the A&M offense. There's a lot question marks for the Aggies this year... QB is not one of them.
3 Arkansas: Brandon Allen fixed his interception problem and morphed into the perfect Arkansas QB. He completes a decent amount of passes for a good amount of yardage, but really, it's just enough to keep defenders off the running game. He can hurt you if you over-commit to stopping those running backs. He's got limited upside, but he's the right guy in the right system.
4 Tennessee: There's a lot of faith and hope being placed in Joshua Dobbs, but he's built his rep on blowing out Kentucky and not getting rolled by Bama. There's something to build on his 2014, but there are still big question marks.
5 Auburn: Jeremy Johnson threw 37 passes last year. He did post a 201.43 passer rating in those few attempts, but he's largely an unknown. We all are firm believers in Malzahn's offensive genius, but it's worth pointing out Auburn was 7th in the SEC in passing yard/game last year. He's not automatic.
6 Mizzou: Maty Mauk gets the job done despite a sub 55% completion percentage. He did melt down against Georgia, but otherwise, he's the classic boring game-manager. Clearly, Mizzou can win with him, they just don't win because of him.
7 Kentucky: Patrick Towles managed to rack up some big yardage totals primarily by throwing the ball a ton. He's fairly inefficient and erratic. I'm not a huge fan of his performance, but he's managed to achieve "good for Kentucky" and marks my line between the top and bottom half of the SEC passers.
8 Bama: Saban went into last season with a big question mark under center and ended up with one of the most productive passing offenses in the conference. He's in the same boat now, but I refuse to bet against whatever guy he decides on this year.
9 UGA: Hutson Mason did his part and gave Richt a bridge to this season after the end of the Murray era. Again, UGA has to replace a productive QB, and he's got plenty of talent but almost no experience. I'm rooting for Faton Bauta for name purposes, but Brice Ramsey has the inside track. The Dawgs have a stellar QB development track record, but this is one of their steepest challenges.
10 LSU: After a brutal 3-14 for 51 yard game against Auburn, Harris didn't see meaningful action for the rest of the year. However, he appears to have won the starting job due to both his flashes of talent early in the year and Anthony Jennings running afoul of the law. Not having a starting battle might actually help the QB situation, as last year's sort of hung over the team all season.
11 Ole Miss: Chad Kelly didn't transfer in to sit on the bench. Ryan Buchanan saw almost no meaningful action, though he did go 1 for 6 for 5 yards and a pick versus Arkansas, to post one of the worst stat lines of last season. Kelly tore up JUCO after transferring out of Clemson. There's a lot of preseason hype around the Rebels, but this is a gaping hole in the roster.
12 Florida: Treon Harris plays the role of grizzled vet to the Will Grier's talented yet enigmatic underclassman. In games with 10 attempts, he had a completion percentage under 50 percent for four of them, the last four of the season. His one good start was against Vandy. Harris had a percentage under 50%, which explains why Grier is the leader for the job as a redshirt freshman.
13 South Carolina: There's a bunch of guys who have seen virtually no action, but the Ol Ball Coach is still there to coach ‘em up. If anyone can keep this group from total disaster, it is one of the great coaches in SEC history. Still, this seems like a down year.
14 Vandy: Jonathan McCrary started five games last year and was, um, well, he played quarterback. He won the starting job in the sense that everyone else lost, so they just let the freshman take the reins. He should improve, but it really didn't take long for Vandy to go back to being Vandy again.
LSU's far from the only team with a big question mark here, and the teams that appear to be in the best position are largely not considered title contenders, oddly enough (depending on how much of a believer you are in Tennessee this year).
What's also interesting is the lack of depth. Not only are teams breaking in new starters, but they're also filled with complete unknowns in reserve as well, which is something to consider if you want to rank the units by their overall quality.
1 Mississippi State: If we're going on what's been proven, Dak gets his due for what he did last year. Now, will there be some regression without that extremely veteran supporting cast? Perhaps. But right now he's earned the title of the league's best.
2 Arkansas: Brandon Allen is the league's second-most efficient returning quarterback, he's a senior, and he's consistently improved in the last two seasons. His ceiling almost certainly is the lowest of anybody else in the top half of this list, but right now his floor is the most solid.
3 Missouri: Maty Mauk threw 26 touchdown passes last year, and his season was roundly considered disappointing. Think about that for a second. Much like Allen, his floor is likely still higher than most on this list, even if he isn't ready to hit that ceiling yet.
4 Texas A&M: Like Poseur said, Kyle Allen has real star potential, in an offense that tends to be QB-friendly. The question is, is he really ready to break through, or will the league catch up to him the way it did Kenny Trill? What's more interesting to me about A&M, is that for all their success with this position, they are in almost the same position LSU is in terms of depth, with just a true freshman and an emergency JUCO recruit behind Allen.
5 Kentucky: Patrick Towles flashed some nice talent last season, and was prolific through the first two thirds or so of the year, but kind of hit a wall late. There's even been talk of him losing his job to Drew Barker. Although that probably speaks well of what's on hand in Lexington.
6 Tennessee: Josh Dobbs exploded with some big games last season, and probably has the highest ceiling of anybody on this list in terms of how he fits Butch Jones' spread offense. I just want to see more before I'm willing to push him farther up the rankings.
7 Auburn: The Other Tigers have a dramatic shift here with Jeremy Johnson replacing Nick Marshall, and while I don't think it will be nearly as hard to adjust play-calling to Johnson's skillset (remember Chris Todd?), I do wonder if he's ready to perform with a cast that's largely functioned around Marshall.
8 (tie) Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina: To me, these three programs are all in the same boat right now. They've all traditionally been able to trot out decent quarterbacks, but they're all kind of in new realms in terms of a lack of experience. Nobody at Georgia was able to really take the job this spring, and now they're taking a graduate transfer from Virginia that really struggled. That's not an indication of confidence.
Likewise, South Carolina's Connor Mitch attempted just six passes last season. That's the lowest total of any Gamecock backup QB since Stephen Garcia was on hand. And it's not like he shined in the spring, either.
In Alabama, they're facing the greenest QB situation any Nick Saban team has had this century. Jacob Coker has been on campus for all of one year, failed to win the job once (when he was brought in specifically to do just that) and couldn't distance himself from the rest of the pack in the spring. Behind him are a bunch of freshmen.
As Poseur said, all three of these teams have shown they can transition quarterbacks without too many hiccups. But they've never quite had this situation before.
11 LSU: I am 100-percent certain that LSU will show improvement at this position in 2015. But that's an incredibly relative term after last season, and the skepticism is justified. Still, there's a strong, talented arm in Brandon Harris and a supporting cast that will be in a much better position to help out.
12 Ole Miss: Hey, remember when we had spring games like that? Chad Kelly sees like the best option here, and off-field concerns aside, this is a guy who's only highlight at Clemson was a dramatic meltdown in the first half of their own spring game. He's got a lot to prove.
13 Florida: Treon Harris played like the homeless man's Jordan Jefferson last season, and Will Grier redshirted. That's all the Gators have here. Jim McElwain is one of my favorite quarterback coaches in the game, and he's going to earn that paycheck this season with a severely limited offense.
14 Vanderbilt: The Commodores had the lowest team pass-efficiency rating in the SEC last season, and of the four quarterbacks that contributed to that effort, the highest-rated individual, Patton Robinette, has left the team. Woof.
Can I be the contrarian here? No? Too bad.
1 Tennessee: Count me in on the Joshua Dobbs movement. Entering his 3rd season at Tennessee, I think Dobbs is ready to take it to the next level and features what may be the best WR group in the conference as well. He played well down the stretch, despite a stinker vs. Vandy through the air. I could see him ascending to being the top signal caller in the offense.
2 Auburn: What? How can you pass on Dak at one and not have him at 2 at worst? I think Dak is a fine, quality player, who will suffer this year from the losses around him. I think Johnson is a guy with much more throwing polish than Nick Marshall. He's probably not Cam Newton, but he might be the best thing Gus has had since him. His talents in this offense are going to be prolific.
3 Texas A&M: HUH!? Kyle Allen is legit. I believe. The offense will do him favors, but he should just keep growing as a player.
4 Mississippi State: Good spot for Dak. He's a good player that had a wonderful year last season, but I think he'll take a step back with less talent surrounding him.
5 Arkansas: I don't think Allen is the most talented out there, but he's the most experienced and a nice fit in this offense. He'll be protected by a team that runs the ball 40+ a game, every single game, but that's the way Bert wants it.
6 LSU: This is purely about the fact that Brandon Harris is maybe the most talented player in the conference and should be starting with incredible talent around him. If they find a way to bang this up again, they'll be near the bottom... again.
7 Missouri: I'm not a huge fan of Mauk. He's turnover prone. He's a free wheeling gambler who doesn't make enough plays to back up his mistakes.
8 Georgia: I like the crew here, and I think Brice Ramsey will end up taking the gig. Georgia rarely has bad QB play, so I doubt much changes here.
9 Alabama: I guess I'm turning the corner on Kiffin a bit? Because I look at this group and don't see much. There's not much experience, but there is good talent. But now they don't have an elite WR talent to bomb it to and pray. This could be the most marginal Bama offense in the Saban era.
10 Kentucky: I don't like Towles as much as my brethren. He's just an okay player.
11 South Carolina: They always seem to be on the cusp or cycling through a batch of guys, but never great. Admittedly, they could be higher.
12 Ole Miss: We've yet to see Hugh without Dr. Bo, and his offense probably results in some production from the position, like Malzahn, but I don't know that there's much I like here.
13 Florida: Likely to rise once Will Grier gets his bearings.
14 Vanderbilt: How long before Derek Mason is heading back to Stanford?
Boy, am I boring or what? My ballot lines up with consensus ballot all the way down to slot #10. That's just creepy. PaulDan turns in the most interesting ballot, as his custom, and I really don't find much to disagree with it despite our huge variation. It's mainly because so many quarterbacks are so close in this league, so it's tough to quibble with Billy just throwing his arms up in the air and declaring a big tie.
On top of that, I share his skepticism of Dak, and really, my ranking of Towles is a place holder for all of the inexperience elsewhere. His relatively high rank is more of a condemnation of the rest of the SEC than full-throated praise of his abilities.
This is the second straight year the SEC QB pool looks weak. I'm not sure if this is a genuine trend or just one of those bizarre blips. And for all we know, some of those young arms are going to bust out. Please let it be Brandon Harris.
The final ranking:
1 Mississippi State
2 Texas A&M
11 South Carolina
12 Ole Miss