This is the first in a series of posts evaluating the SEC offensive skill positions.
Over the next couple of weeks as we approach SEC Media Days (July 17-19), we thought we’d take a quick look at the SEC’s best when it comes to the offensive side of the ball.
But unlike 2011, most SEC teams are not searching for their man at quarterback this year. Nine of the fourteen (14!) teams have last year’s starter returning…or seem happy with their guy. The rest have quarterback battles that will carry over into fall camp.
Here’s the RBN take on how the SEC’s 2012 trigger men stack up.
1. Tyler Wilson, Senior, Arkansas (3,638 PaYds, 24 TDs in 2011) – Wilson showed us a lot last year when, game after game, he stood in the pocket under duress and delivered strikes to the best receiving corps in the SEC. A great leader, with an NFL arm. Can make all the throws, but without the trio of Wright, Adams and Childs, can he put up the eye-popping numbers again in 2012?
2. Aaron Murray, Junior, Georgia (3,149 PaYds, 35 TDs in 2011) – Murray has been lights out his first two years at the helm in Athens. Throwing for more than 3,000 yards in each of those seasons, Murray has all the tools. His running game should be much improved with super frosh Keith Marshall, making the Bulldogs one of the SEC’s best offenses.
3. A.J. McCarron, Junior, Alabama (2,400 PaYds, 16 TDs in 2011) – We were higher on McCarron than most were last year and he did not disappoint. Leading the Tide to the National Championship in 2011, the 6-4 junior will look to shoulder more of the load in 2012. Like most Saban quarterbacks, he will not beat his team as evidenced by throwing only five interceptions last year.
4. Tyler Bray, Junior, Tennessee (1,983, 17 TDs in 2011) – The Vols were off to a good start last year before Bray broke his thumb and missed five games. The 6-6 junior can really sling it and with giant targets like Justin Hunter (6-4, 200), Da’Rick Rogers (6-3, 208) and Cordarrelle Patterson (6-4, 205), we like Bray to have a breakout season in 2012.
5. James Franklin, Junior, Missouri (2,865 PaYds, 21 TDs in 2011) – Franklin will give the Tigers a chance this season as they make their transition into the SEC. A run-first mentality (981 rushing yards in 2011) made Franklin one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country a year ago. Against SEC defenses though, the junior, who is coming off shoulder surgery, may have to change his approach to stay upright.
6. Tyler Russell, Junior, Mississippi State (1,034 PaYds, 8 TDs in 2011) – The last two years, Russell has paid his dues by splitting duty with MSU quarterback Chris Relf. With Relf graduated, Russell looks to build on the Bulldogs recent success. Russell is a true pocket passer, so it will be interesting to watch how Dan Mullen changes State’s offense to fit Russell’s strengths.
7. Zach Mettenberger, Junior, LSU (92 PaYds, TD in 2011) – After a “shaky start” to his college career in Georgia, the former coveted recruit is trying to resurrect his career with the Tigers. Mettenberger has the size (6-5) and arm strength to be a productive starter in the SEC, and with the best running game in the SEC to lean on, should find himself in the hunt for a title.
8. Jordan Rodgers, Senior, Vanderbilt (1,953 PaYds, 9 TDs, 10 Ints in 2011) – Rodgers helped lead the Commodores to their fifth bowl game in school history in 2011. The brother of Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers, Jordan is a run-pass threat and seems to just do what it takes to win games. Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels pushed him in the spring, but we look for Rodgers to hold him off and improve on his 2011 numbers.
9. Jacoby Brissett, Sophomore / Jeff Driskel, Sophomore, Florida – What a mess. After watching as the “Jeff Brantley Experiment” came to a painful close, Brissett (206 PaYds) and Driskel (148 PaYds) saw limited duty in their first SEC campaign. Both were highly recruited out of high school with Driskel being the #1 ranked QB in the nation. The pair are learning a new offense after the departure of OC Charlie Weis to Kansas. Both will probably play.
10. Connor Shaw, Junior, South Carolina (1,448 PaYds, 14 TDs in 2011) – Shaw had a good sophomore campaign taking over the reins from the maligned Stephen Garcia in mid-season. Another dual-threat player, the 6-1 junior uses his legs to buy time in the pocket. He has proven to be a heady player, who can be a serviceable quarterback in this league – nothing more.
11. Bo Wallace, Sophomore, Ole Miss (4,604 PaYds, 53 TDs in 2011 at East Mississippi CC) – While we don’t envy head coach Hugh Freeze’s plight of having to pick up the pieces left by Houston Nutt, the 6-5 Wallace might be a nice piece to build around. The 2011 NJCAA Player of the Year, rejoins Freeze at Ole Miss after spending a year at Arkansas State in 2010.
12. Jameill Showers, Sophomore, Texas A&M (40 PaYds in 2011) – It’s hard to imagine a worse scenario — entering the toughest conference in America, with a quarterback who has virtually no experience, and who is learning a new offense. But that is what the Aggies face with Showers in 2012. New head coach Kevin Sumlin knows what he’s doing, and will get all he can out of Showers. Tough sledding in the SEC, though.
13. Clint Moseley, Junior / Kiehl Frazier, Sophomore, Auburn – With former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn now at Arkansas State, it’s likely the Tigers will take a step backward in 2012. Neither Moseley (800 PaYds, 5 TDs) or Frazier (34 PaYds) looked like an SEC starter last season. With Moseley suffering a shoulder injury in the spring, many think Frazier will take the first snap in the fall.
14. Max Smith, Sophomore / Morgan Newton, Junior, Kentucky – The Wildcats don’t look to have much on paper going into the 2012 season, as these two battle to be the man. Smith (819 PaYds, 4 TDs) should win the job as Newton (793 PaYds, 8 TDs) has shown little to no accuracy and is coming off shoulder surgery.
Next time, we’ll take a look at the SEC’s best running backs.