Can your quarterback make a play? In the SEC, everything else being equal, it usually comes down to that. Some coaches are happy just to get a “bus driver” at the position; others look for playmakers who can make their offenses go.
Every year here at RBN we like to take a quick glance over the SEC landscape to check the state of each team’s quarterback situation. This year, nine teams return a quarterback that started at least one game last season. That leaves three — Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama — looking for “trigger men” to assume the role. How do we see it in 2009?
1. Tim Tebow, Florida — Call us old fashioned, but we prefer championships over NFL projections. With one Heisman and two National Championships under his belt, Tebow and the Gators are looking to go back-to-back in 2009. Like him or not, he is a true leader of men.
2. Jevan Snead, Mississippi — After leading the Rebels to a Cotton Bowl victory and nine wins a year ago, expectations are very high in Oxford. With the loss of several offensive linemen, including NFL first-rounder Michael Oher, Snead may find himself on his back a bit more in 2009. Easy schedule though (two FCS opponents) should help pad the stats.
3. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas — Despite breaking the ring finger on his throwing hand, the hard-throwing transfer from Michigan is ready to lead the Hogs. He’s got a coach that wants to throw it, and weapons (WR, TE) all around him. The perfect storm? Still needs to work on his accuracy and touch, but has all the tools.
4. Stephen Garcia, South Carolina — With the transfer of fellow QB Chris Smelley to Alabama, Garcia has virtually no competition heading into the fall. While he has shown to be inconsistent playing in Coach Spurrier’s “Quarterback Carousel,” being the definitive leader now may spur his development. Good game experience.
5. Mackenzi Adams, Vanderbilt — After battling Chris Nickson for the past several years, Adams is ready for his senior season. The former Tulsa Union HS star has shown flashes at Vandy (14 career TDs), but lapses (14 career interceptions) as well. His experience lands him here.
6. Greg McElroy, Alabama — Waiting in the wings behind John Parker Wilson the last two years has allowed McElroy the chance to watch and learn. The bad part is he did a lot of watching, only throwing 11 passes in his career. The ‘Bama faithful believe in him though, and with a swarming defense providing a short field to work with, McElroy should be okay.
7. Jordan Jefferson, LSU — The 6-4, 209 freshman came on strong at the end of the year, and led the Tigers to an impressive blowout of Georgia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Despite being on the wrong end of a Casey Dick to London Crawford game winning toss, Jefferson showed good poise in Little Rock last year. He is the future for LSU, and the future is now.
8. Mike Hartline, Kentucky — With last year’s part-time starter Randall Cobb now a full-time wide receiver, the sophomore Hartline gets the nod full time now. He’s tall, got a good arm, but still learning the SEC. Gives the Wildcats hope for the future.
9. Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee — After B.J. Coleman transferred and Nick Stephens broke the wrist on his throwing hand, Crompton is the Vols starter by default for the moment. Vol fans liked Crompton so much last season, they filled his e-mail and mailbox with death threats. A motivational ploy we’re sure new head coach Lane Kiffin will get used to.
10. Tyson Lee, Mississippi State — Could Lee have a breakout year in 2009 in new head coach Dan Mullen’s spread offense? Maybe. Lee excelled in the spring, and if he can hold off incoming hot shot QB Tyler Russell, look for a good year. MSU is limited by the talent that surrounds him, though.
11. Kodi Burns, Neil Caudle, Chris Todd, Auburn — What’s the old saying…if you have two quarterbacks (or in this case three), you don’t have any! If OC Gus Malzahn can make something out of this bunch, they may very well build a statue of him down on The Plains. No starter was named after the spring, so we’ll keep an eye on this battle in the fall.
12. Joe Cox, Georgia — After watching the Georgia spring game on ESPN, we quickly moved the fifth-year senior to our bottom rung. The “G-day game” yielded only one offensive TD, and that was a rushing score with :09 seconds left in the game. It’s impossible to replace #1-overall pick Matthew Stafford, but when you have limited arm strength and couple that with lack of mobility and experience, it’s not going to be pretty. Some think Cox will be “holding a clipboard“…maybe before the Hogs host the Dawgs in week three.