Over the next couple of weeks as we approach SEC Media Days (July 14-17), we thought we’d take a quick look at the SEC’s best when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. Solid quarterback play helped Auburn get to the National Championship game a year ago, and is always a barometer for predicting where a team will finish.
While the Hogs have their starter back in Brandon Allen, the SEC was hit hard by graduation at the position. Eight of the fourteen teams will be going with a new signal caller for 2014. Six teams have quarterback battles that will extend into the fall.
Here’s the RBN take on how the SEC’s 2014 trigger men stack up.
1. Nick Marshall, Auburn, Senior (1,976 PaYds, 14TDs, 1,068 RuYds, 12 Rush TDs in 2013) – Marshall was a bit of a surprise in winning the Auburn quarterback battle a year ago. But once in the saddle, he was a touchdown machine guiding Gus Malzahn’s potent attack. The presence of juco star wide receiver Duke Williams should bolster his passing numbers in 2014.
2. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss, Senior (3,346 PaYds, 18TDs, 10 Ints, 6 Rush TDs in 2013) – Wallace saw improvement in his second season at the helm for the Rebels. While his TD numbers dropped a bit (22 to 18) his interceptions fell from 17 to 10 as his decision making improved. He can still beat you with his legs, which makes him hard to defend in the red zone. Only negative – needs to locate the barber shop in Oxford.
3. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State, Junior (1,940 PaYds, 10TDs, 829 RuYds, 13 Rush TDs in 2013) – A warrior a year ago, Prescott played through injuries the whole season while missing two games. We think Dak is ready to make the next step to an elite SEC quarterback in 2014 as the Bulldogs continue to improve his supporting cast. Dangerous run-pass threat.
4. Dylan Thompson, South Carolina, Senior (783 PaYds, 4TDs, 3 Ints in 2013) – Some may be surprised to find Thompson this high on our list, but he has proven himself over the last few years serving as Conner Shaw’s backup. Has 3 career starts, with 14TDs. Can move in the pocket to buy time, and should allow the Gamecocks – favorites to win the East – to not miss a beat.
5. Maty Mauk, Missouri, Sophomore (1,071 PaYds, 11TDs, 2 Ints in 2013) – The first underclassman on our list, Mauk was impressive subbing for James Franklin last season. He showed tremendous poise as a freshman, and has proven to be a very vocal leader this spring for the Tigers. While we expect Mizzou to take a step back in the standings this year, we think Mauk will be a very productive player in this league for the forseeable future.
6. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M, True Freshman (6-4, 195, Scotsdale, AZ Desert Mountain HS) – As the Aggies look to replace the legend in 2014…enter true freshman Kyle Allen, who was ranked the #1 pro style quarterback in the 2014 class by Rivals.com. With senior Matt Joeckel transferring and returning backup Kenny Hill being arrested/suspended, Allen has the job almost by default. Should produce nicely in Kevin Sumlin’s high octane offense, and with A&M’s porus defense, he should get penty of chances to be on the field.
7. Jacob Coker, Alabama, Senior (250 PaYds, Int in 2013) – After backing up Jameis Winston at Florida State last season, Coker’s decision to transfer to Alabama was music to Nick Saban’s ears. Tide senior backup Blake Sims failed to impress anyone in the spring, so we think it’s Coker’s job to lose. He is coming off a November knee injury/surgery, but if he can be ‘serviceable’, the Tide should be right there competing for another West crown.
8. Jeff Driskel, Florida, Junior (477 PaYds, 2TDs, 3 Ints in 2013) – We haven’t given up on Driskel just yet, whose 2013 season was cut short with a broken ankle in the third game. Decision making has plagued the junior in his first two seasons, but we think new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s up-tempo style will be a better fit for Driskel’s run-pass approach. The Gators rebound and Driskel will be a big part of that in 2014.
9. Brandon Harris, LSU, True Freshman (6-3, 190, 4.5 Bossier City, LA Parkway HS) or Anthony Jennings, Sophomore (181 PaYds, TD, Int in 2013) – In our first true QB battle on the list, a true freshman is battling Anthony Jennings, who took LSU on a 99-yard last minute drive to beat the Hogs in 2013. We think the freshman Brandon Harris, who posted 54 total TDs in his senior year, emerges here and wins the job. He is electric in the open field and is destined to be a dual threat star in this league. Huge upside.
10. Hutson Mason, Georgia, Senior (968 PaYds, 5TDs, 3 Ints in 2013) – Mason waited patiently for his turn behind All-SEC performer Aaron Murray for the last few years. After Murray injured a knee late in the year, Mason made two starts and performed very well. We think the Bulldogs will look to lean heavily on star running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, so Mason’s numbers probably have a bit of a celing as a result.
11. Brandon Allen, Arkansas, Junior (1,552 PaYds, 13TDs, 10 Ints in 2013) – We had Allen #11 on this list a year ago and, unfortuneately he did nothing to change our minds. No doubt his shoulder injury in 2013 sapped his already average arm strength, and prevented him from being able to practice during the week. But what concerns us even more is his poor decision making – throwing into coverage, staring receivers down, etc. This was on display in the spring game as well, forcing his coaches to blame ‘a vanilla game plan’ for the performance. Allen’s 49.6 completion percentage in 2013 was last among starting SEC quarterbacks.
12. Justin Worley, Tennessee, Senior (1,239 PaYds, 10TDs in 2013) or Joshua Dobbs, Sophomore (695 PaYds, 2TDs, 6 Ints), or Nathan Peterman, Sophomore (45 PaYds, 2 Ints) – What a mess. All three of these guys got starts last year with Dobbs and Peterman playing after Worley went down with a thumb injury in Week 7. We think Worley can again win the starting job in the fall, and with Butch Jones slowly improving the Vols talent around him, we think Worley can post modest gains in his numbers if his decision making can improve.
13. Patrick Towles, Kentucky, Sophomore (233 PaYds, TD in 2012) – Towles redshirted in 2013, getting healthy and working on his delivery. A physical specimen at 6-5, 235, Towles has the arm strength to be a productive quarterback in the SEC. Now with an improved, quicker release, Towles will try to hold off challengers Reese Phillips and Drew Barker in the fall. His supporting cast will continue to hold him back until Mark Stoops can find some help at wide receiver.
14. Stephen Rivers, Vanderbilt, Junior (Transfer from LSU) – Rivers transfer announcement earlier this month really bolstered the Commodores QB prospects who are learning a new offense. Former UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell is Vandy’s new OC. The brother of Phillip Rivers (San Diego Chargers), Stephen was highly recruited out of high school, but could not climb past Zach Mettenberger on the LSU depth chart the last two years. We think he wins the job here over freshman Johnny McCrary and sophomore Patton Robinette, and could surprise to the upside.