It’s that time of year again, when we here at ATVS cast our eye over the entire SEC and try and rank all of our conference mates by their component parts. We kick things off with the biggest part of all: the quarterbacks.
Quarterback play in the SEC has ranged from decent to atrocious recently, and it seems to be tilting even further towards the atrocious bucket. But someone has got to be on top of the heap.
1. Ole Miss: I think this is far and away the #1 team. They return a guy who might contend for the Heisman, no one else can say that in the SEC. You know how good Chad Kelly must be to get this kind of plaudits from the LSU blog?
2. Georgia: Why are people just assuming Jacob Eason is gonna unseat Lambert this year? And if he does do that, he will cause the best returning QB in the conference not named Chad Kelly to the bench. That’s one of them good problems.
3. LSU: You’re reading that right. Brandon Harris had better numbers than Joshua Dobbs last year, yet Dobbs is getting all of the hype. I get why, LSU doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt at QB, but Harris was demonstrably better already.
4. Tennessee: It’s not like Dobbs is bad, you see. I really like his game, and he does have a higher completion percentage than Harris, though that’s about his only statistical advantage.
5. Alabama: They could dig up a corpse from the local graveyard and still get decent production at the position. They are like clockwork. I won’t pick against a Bama QB. Neither should you.
6. Arkansas: If Austin Allen is half as good as his brother, the Hogs are set. He’s been in the program for a long time so while he doesn’t have any starts, there is continuity.
7. Texas A&M: Trevor Knight was effective at Oklahoma, but you know A&M will find a way to screw it up and have everyone transfer.
8. Florida: There’s a pretty big drop off to this point, but Florida does have a good collection of talent, so it’s not unrealistic to expect someone to step up. You know, just like last year!
9. Auburn: A lot like Florida. The production was lousy last year, but there’s enough raw talent here that you’d expect someone to step up and be competent.
10. Kentucky: Drew Barker is one of the most heralded QB recruits in Wildcat history. Time to live up the promise.
11. South Carolina: Perry Orth wasn’t awful as an emergency option, but a broken collarbone in the spring stunts his development, opening the door for McIlwain and a revolving door at the position.
12. Mississippi State: So begins the post-Dak era. Good luck.
13. Mizzou: Drew Lock was God awful as a freshman, but he at least had his year thrown to the wolves. But as we said with Jennings, players who post a sub-50 completion rate usually don’t ever become average players, much less good ones.
14. Vanderbilt: Removed Kyle Shurmur’s redshirt last season for no apparent reason. He was terrible, and it wasn’t quality development. Vanderbilt didn’t take long going back to being Vanderbilt.
1. Ole Miss: This is a no-doubter with Chad Kelly back. They also landed Shea Patterson, and that has to factor in from a depth standpoint as well. I’ll say this – wouldn’t surprise me at all if Kelly’s interceptions go up a bit without Laquon Treadwell’s ridiculousness.
2. Tennessee: Josh Dobbs might have been a mediocre passer last season, but he’s the type of running threat that a lot of pundits seem to think Brandon Harris is. They return some pretty good weapons around him too. I’d be really surprised if he doesn’t push the 30 combined touchdown mark this season.
3. Alabama: No excuses. Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts were all four or five-star recruits. They’ll be throwing bubble screens to five-star recruits and handing off to five-star recruits. One of them will figure it out at a level that the Tide can live with.
4. LSU: Harris is the first actual returning starter that Cam Cameron has coached for more than one season, and he was making some nice progress before last November – which again, coincided with a sports hernia. I understand why everybody’s just going to roll their eyes and fail to actually use their brains on this, but he’s more than likely going to take some sort of step forward this year, and compliment LSU’s running game. And transfer Danny Etling provides a backup that at least has a couple of seasons of playing in a Power-5 conference on the depth chart.
5. Arkansas: This is my shot in the dark, but I just have a feeling about Austin Allen, especially in an offense that’s more quarterback friendly that it thinks, and with an experienced group of wideouts around him.
6. Georgia: It seems like Kirby Smart is going to roll with Jacob Eason as the starter – if Greyson Lambert starts the season, I’d be stunned if Eason doesn’t finish it. That’s not exactly ideal, but at the same time if you’re going to throw a QB to the wolves and just live with the growing pains, you’re probably better off doing it with a five-star prospect like Eason.
7. Texas A&M: This is kind of a begrudging ranking here, but things only get worse on the list after this. Trevor Knight caught lightening in a bottle three years ago in the Sugar Bowl and has been living off that reputation ever since, getting benched for the Belldozer in the process at Oklahoma. And his tenure at Texas A&M will probably go just like every other guy they’ve had since Johnny Football rolled out of town – big numbers in the gimme games and not much against defenses with a pulse.
8. Mississippi State: Well, they have bodies and that’s a decent place to start when you’re replacing the best quarterback in school history. And there’s a bit of experience with Nick Fitzgerald and Damian Williams around. By this point, I don’t think anybody has anything to be excited about.
9. Auburn: Another JUCO transfer coming in, with John Franklin III fitting more in the Nick Marshall mold as compared to Jeremy Johnson. That may not help the passing game much, but if Auburn can get some running production from that spot, it usually helps the rest of the offense.
10. Florida: Let’s see…there’s Luke Del Rio, a thrice-transfer with all of 18 career passing attempts, or a true freshman that was universally considered a developmental prospect, talented though he might be. Granted, Jim McElwain is used to working with a limited cupboard, but this could be pushing it.
11. Kentucky: Well Drew Barker, it’s your time to shine. Seems like you’re the only star in the Big Blue sky though.
12. South Carolina: The OBC really didn’t leave much behind here for Will Muschamp.
13. Mizzou: Well, given that he gets to face a solid defense at practice, Drew Lock should be used to working under pressure, I guess?
14. Vanderbilt: Wait, Vandy actually still has those?
1. Ole Miss: Yeah, this is easy. Kelly was one of the premier dual threat QB's in the country last season and he's a SR in the SEC West which is a godsend for teams.
2. Georgia: Whether it's Eason or Lambert I expect them to be fine. Eason's got incredible amounts of talent and Jim Chaney is a great developer of QB's. And Lambert was very solid last year and has another year of experience under his belt.
3. LSU: Harris did what he was asked and at times even more for LSU before November. That's obviously a blemish, but he also played hurt. And he's a JR with 14 games played in the SEC. That's massive.
4. Tennessee: Dobbs was very solid, though not quite as good as Harris even with Harris' injury. But Dobbs finished well and his running ability is a plus as well.
5. Alabama: Yeah, they're gonna be good again. I don't know who it will be, what his strengths and weaknesses are, but Kiffin will find a way to make it work even if it's as boring as possible.
6. Arkansas: I sort of went here by default. Austin Allen hasn't played, but it's his 3rd year and his brother has helped him a lot as well I'm sure. Also, love Dan Enos to help him along. But from five down its a bit of a crapshoot.
7. Auburn: Again, another I don't know sort of picks. Sean White showed some good promise, having solid games vs Miss State, UK, and Arky. But he only threw 1 TD to 4 INT. There's talent there, though.
8. Texas A&M: Trevor Knight was not good at OU. He wasn't bad, but he was 25 TD/19 INT with a 124.9 passer rate in a conference that sprays the ball around. He has playing experience, which is a plus, but I'm not confident.
9. Florida: Yeah, I don't have much of a clue. Luke Del Rio seems like the favorite, but he's been at 3 schools and we haven't seen him play. Austin Appleby is their Danny Etling. Bad Purdue QB who has experience and may have gotten better since he's not at Purdue.
10. South Carolina: Considering what Perry Orth got thrown into, he performed alright. Not sure how big his upside is, but he's a competent starter.
11. Kentucky: Barker's seemingly been supposed to be the guy for two years now. Gotta step up sometime.
12. Mississippi State: I don't think we realized just how good Dak Prescott was while we were in school. He's a huge loss. Not sure what's next.
13. Missouri: Drew Lock had one of the worst seasons in SEC history as a freshman. Which means things can only get better.
14. Vanderbilt: There's just nothing there.
2. LSU: Ahem, what? Yes, you read that correctly. Look, I know LSU deserves absolutely no benefit of the doubt at the position, but the thing is, you don't have to give them any. Harris' numbers were perfectly sufficient for a second year player, 1st year full-time starter. He was a middle of the pack QB last season in a year that featured great seasons from the aforementioned Chad Kelly, Dak Prescott, as well as Brandon Allen. Of course I'm being bullish here, but he's entrenched now and all his skill players are returning with him. There's plenty evidence to suggest a big jump is coming. He needs to wildly improve his completion %, but if he does that, he could threaten as the top QB with all the support he'll find from the running game.
3. Tennessee: Like Billy said, Dobbs is the player a lot people seem to want Harris to be. He's a much more skilled runner, and infinitely more dangerous with the ball in his hands in that regard. Let's not forget he's a full year ahead of Harris on the development scale, and producing passing numbers entirely similar across the board. He's got weapons and Tennessee should be favorites in the East this season. But for all the hype they are getting on offense, they were barely, if even, better than LSU last season. Let's not forget that Tennessee's OC is Mike DeBord, from that same Michigan vein that Miles and Cameron come. This will be a good offense, but they are overhyped right now.
4. Alabama: Jake Coker did about what Bama needed last season and nothing more. He was hardly sensational and definitely not a game changer, but they seem to do a great job getting guys to play within the confines of their system and adapting their offense to their strengths. Credit to Lane Kiffin, who has been a much better OC than most of us wanted to believe he would. I imagine Blake Barnett will be just fine, though this is their first trip to the well with a true underclassman since A.J. McCarron.
5. Arkansas: I'm going with confidence in coordinator/system here. Austin Allen steps in to assume the role left by his older brother. I know next to nothing about Austin Allen, but they do a pretty good job protecting their QBs here and putting them in position to succeed. Wouldn't surprise me if he was up near the top.
6. Georgia: Grayson Lambert stinks. His respectable completion percentage and lack of turnovers were a byproduct of UGA reigning in the offense to protect him. I was at the game when he completed fewer than 50% of his passes against Vanderbilt. This is while Nick Chubb is going for almost 200 yards. This did nothing to raise my confidence in him. I suspect he will start the year and eventually yield to the infinitely more talented Eason, who will flash brilliance but take his lumps learning the ropes of the SEC, much like Brandon Harris and Kyle Allen last year.
7. Auburn: Like Arkansas only with proven failures! Auburn's passing offense was atrocious last season. Sean White still has a lot of promise, and he needs to make a gigantic leap merely for them to be proficient. Then again, they could say fuck all to the passing game again and turn to JUCO transfer John Franklin III, who is similar to Nick Marshall, where they've found success before.
8. Texas A&M: Trevor Knight, a QB who has consistently struggled with the passing game was brought in to mesh with Noel Mazzone, A&M's new spread passing OC, what could go wrong!
9. South Carolina: I give bonus points, I guess, for returning something here, but Will Muschamp and offense are like a wet fart.
10. Mississippi State: Probably the place I can mostly swing and miss. Their incumbent will have zero experience, and Mullen didn't get much out of his offense until Prescott matured, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. That's as nice as I can be.
11. Kentucky: It's the Drew Barker show. That's like the Drew Carey show, only worse.
12. Florida: LOL. Good luck Feleipe. Catch you on the other side.
13. Missouri: They booted their merely bad QB, so now they are stuck playing their tremendously awful one. I dunno, maybe Josh Heupel's got some tricks....
14. Vanderbilt: Their fans are resigned to talking about the good old days of Jay Cutler. That's how bad it's gotten.
The SEC is never really QB heaven, but this has the promise of a particularly stank bunch.
Paul hits on the biggest point in his closing comments. We felt last year that we had hit the nadir of quarterback play in the SEC, but it appears it somehow got even worse. The SEC keeps bringing in heralded recruits at the position, and they keep failing at a staggering rate. It’s what makes Alabama’s consistent competence so amazing.
There’s also some obvious tiers to the ratings here. Ole Miss is all alone at the top, followed by five schools fairly tightly packed in the ratings, ending with Arkansas. A&M and Auburn are on an island as the conference’s middle class, and then there’s just buckets of crap at the bottom.
Maybe State or Kentucky has some bust out potential, but it seems pretty bleak here. Hell, we’re rating A&M as league average, and that should terrify every SEC fan. If Chad Kelly doesn’t make the All-SEC team at the end of the year, either someone had an unexpected great season or Kelly got hurt.
Not much disagreement here. Georgia is the only team that inspired any real spread in the rankings, and we all had them on essentially the same muddled second tier. We are all, disappointingly for the first go around, all on the same page.
1. Ole Miss
7. Texas A&M
10. Mississippi State
11. South Carolina