Assessing the SEC’s backup QB plans


Often times, the backup quarterback is the most upheld and beloved player on the team. And I’m here to give the backups some love.

Several teams have questions regarding backup plans if their starters – namely Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Jeff Driskel – get hurt this season.

So, what are the SEC’s plans for backup quarterbacks? Which SEC team has the best backup plan, and which team has the worst?

Best backup plan: South Carolina

Skinny: Connor Shaw or Dylan Thompson? There’s been much debate about which player should start, all the while trying to stir up some sort of controversy. However, Steve Spurrier will start Shaw opening week, if he’s healthy, and Thompson should remain the best backup quarterback in the SEC. Thompson had ice water in his veins when he spelled Shaw throughout 2012, but Shaw remains the starter, for now. Spurrier sounds open to rotating quarterbacks this fall. Anyhow, if one gets hurt, the Gamecocks are in the best situation to plug the other in.

Worst backup plan: Florida

Skinny: Jeff Driskel returns as the starter. But after Driskel, things get really cloudy. Last year’s backup Jacoby Brissett transferred to NC State, leaving Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg as the backups this spring. Neither have any relevant game experience. Florida does have true freshman Max Staver coming this summer, but he’ll join the line of zero experience, too. The Gators just better hope that Driskel stays healthy the entire season, but with a running quarterback, there will always be questions regarding his health. Florida is arguably in the worst situation if Driskel goes down.

Here’s the skinny on the rest of the SEC’s backup plans:

Starter: AJ McCarron
Backup: Phillip Ely, Blake Sims or Alec Morris
Buzz: Phillip Ely and Blake Sims continue to battle for the Bama backup job. Sims was named the official backup for the spring game, but aside from McCarron, freshman Alec Morris looked the best out of any of the quarterbacks on A-Day.

Starter: Brandon Allen
Backup: AJ Derby
Buzz: Since backup Brandon Mitchell elected to transfer, AJ Derby jumps into the No. 2 slot. However, freshmen Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell could pass him up in fall camp.

Starter: Kiehl Frazier or Jonathan Wallace
Buzz: Auburn will have five quarterbacks to choose from in fall camp. Returners Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace welcome newcomers Jeremy Johnson, Nick Marshall and Jason Smith. One of the newcomers could win the job, but Frazier should get the opening week nod.

Starter: Aaron Murray
Backup: Hutson Mason
Buzz: If Aaron Murray were to get hurt, Hutson Mason would be the first off the bench. Mason hasn’t seen live bullets yet, but he’s a better option than Christian LeMay and Parker Welch exiting spring.

Starter: Jalen Whitlow, Patrick Towles or Max Smith
Buzz: Kentucky quarterbacks may battle the entire season and week to week for the starting job. Jalen Whitlow looks like the guy right now, with Max Smith right behind him. Patrick Towles could be third on the depth chart.

Starter: Zach Mettenberger
Backup: Stephen Rivers
Buzz: LSU hopes Zach Mettenberger has a big senior season, and backup Stephen Rivers is getting some great experience under new OC Cam Cameron. The Tigers will live and die with Mett in 2013, but they are in good hands for the future with Rivers.

Mississippi State
Starter: Tyler Russell
Backup: Dak Prescott
Buzz: Dan Mullen hopes Tyler Russell has a monster senior season, while prepping Dak Prescott to take over full time in 2014. Prescott fits more of what Mullen wants to do on offense, and he’ll be a solid option in 2014.

Starter: James Franklin
Backup: Maty Mauk
Buzz: Maty Mauk had a strong spring, but it wasn’t enough to make Gary Pinkel replace James Franklin. I assume Franklin will be on a short leash come September, with Mauk waiting in the wings.

Ole Miss
Starter: Bo Wallace
Backup: Barry Brunetti or Maikhail Miller
Buzz: Bo Wallace returns from offseason shoulder surgery, and next to Florida, Ole Miss arguably has one of the worst backup plans in case Wallace goes down. Neither Brunetti nor Miller gave anyone comfort in a case of ‘what if’ regarding Wallace and the offense in 2013.

Starter: Justin Worley or Nathan Peterman
Buzz: Neither Justin Worley nor Nathan Peterman pulled away in the quarterback race this spring, leaving an ensuing battle in fall camp. But rest assured, neither may be the future for the Vols with Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson coming this summer.

Texas A&M
Starter: Johnny Manziel
Backup: Matt Davis or Matt Joeckel
Buzz: Johnny Manziel went from redshirt freshman to Heisman winner in 12 games, and his backup plan is still working itself out with Matt Davis and Matt Joeckel continuing battling it out. Last year’s backup Jameill Showers transferred.

Starter: Austyn Carta-Samuels
Backup: Patton Robinette
Buzz: Austyn Carta-Samuels continually pulled away from Patton Robinette this spring, as most thought he would, but Robinette is just one play away from taking over the Dores’ offense. ACS has more experience, while Robinette is probably more athletic. It’s a good problem to have if you’re James Franklin.

Photo Credit: Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE



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  • I’ve always felt that Saban has leaned more towards Blake Sims being the primary backup to McCarron. Most people only saw Sims’ struggles during the Spring game, but were not aware of his successes during their earlier scrimmages. Sims doesn’t fit the mold of any recent Bama QB (maybe Tyler Watts), but his athleticism is off the charts. It was fun to see Sims and company run more of a Spread offense in his appearances last season, and he even faked out the camera crew late in the Arkansas game.

    Ely and Morris are both pocket passers, and have both shown that they could be worthy replacements if McCarron went down. The thing to remember is that all of Saban’s quarterbacks at Alabama went through growing pains, but all were ready to perform when the time came.

    As for the start of the season, I would expect Blake Sims to have the edge as the #2, but Morris and Ely will also be prepared to step in as needed.

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