Outside of Aaron Murray, the SEC East has questions at quarterback. The biggest aspect of Murray’s game he must accomplish this spring is escaping injury free. Sure, Murray needs reps as he continues to evolve and improve as a passer, but with 10 returning starters, Murray has a comfort level and an intimate knowledge of his weapons.
But for the east’s remaining six teams, the quarterback situation isn’t so clear, and certainly is not as set like Georgia.
Here’s the skinny (rising class year is reflected in parenthesis):
Projected starter: Jeff Driskel (JR)
Backups: Tyler Murphy (JR) and Skyler Mornhinweg (FR)
The Skinny: Will Muschamp has recruited a future powerhouse for the Gators, but the biggest roster concern he has is depth issues at quarterback. Jeff Driskel is the guy, because there is no one else. Backup Jacoby Brissett transferred to NC State, and Florida is faced with developing Driskel this spring. The former No. 1 overall quarterback in high school has potential, but is he a gamer? Driskel’s passing game must develop this spring after leading Florida to just the 118th best passing offense, without having a proven tail back, tight end or receiver. The offensive line will improve, and there will be a talent influx of five freshmen come fall at receiver, headlined by the early enrollee Demarcus Robinson. Exiting week three on the road at Tennessee, Florida fans were talking about their rising young superstar, but exiting the bowl game, there are more questions than answers at the position. Driskel’s development will be the sure sign of whether Florida competes for an SEC Championship or not. The rest of the pieces to a championship puzzle are in place.
Projected starter: Max Smith (JR)
Backups: Jalen Whitlow (SO) and Patrick Towles (SO)
The Skinny: The air attack offense is currently being loaded in Lexington with new offensive coordinator Neal Brown. Brown has a veteran in rising junior Max Smith and two sophomores in Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles. Smith threw for 975 yards and eight touchdowns before his injury in just three complete games, while Whitlow and Towles combined for just 1,034 yards and four touchdowns the entire rest of the season. Smith is the future of this offense, and he can sling the rock. But will he be 100 percent during drills? Whitlow looks like the better athlete, and could he give Smith a run for his money? The good thing for Brown is that there is depth for competition, which will lead to improvement.
Projected starter: James Franklin (SR)
Backups: Corbin Berkstresser (SO), Maty Mauk (FR), Trent Hosick (FR) and Eddie Printz (FR)
The Skinny: Missouri is at a crossroads with their offense. On one hand, their starting quarterback is injury prone in a spread offense, while the future may bode well for running more of a power offensive scheme with new coordinator Josh Henson. Franklin never looked comfortable in ‘12, and he certainly had a fifth of the impact he had in his big 2011 season. Backup Corbin Berkstresser looked capable at times but largely inexperienced. Early enrollees Trent Hosick and Eddie Printz will be in the mix this spring, too. The biggest question is whether Franklin can stay healthy for an entire season and return to 2011 form. The rising senior Franklin has a lot on his shoulders entering spring, but freshmen Maty Mauk may actually be the quarterback of the future.
Projected starter: Connor Shaw (SR)
Backups: Dylan Thompson (JR) and Connor Mitch (FR)
The Skinny: Returning starter Connor Shaw is out this spring after foot surgery, and Dylan Thompson will assume the first-team reps. Freshman early enrollee Connor Mitch is a future star for Steve Spurrier. The biggest decision facing Spurrier entering 2013 is who the starting quarterback will be, and he won’t get a chance to answer that. In fact, it can do nothing but cloud his mind of who the starter may be. Shaw gives the team a running threat, while Thompson has a bigger arm and is more of a traditional pocket passer that Spurrier craves. There’s not a quarterback controversy yet, but this spring will answer no questions, unless Thompson proves he’s worthy to be the starter.
Projected starter: Justin Worley (JR)
Backups: Nathan Peterman (SO)
The Skinny: Tennessee may have four quarterbacks on the roster, but the job is between Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman. Worley is the tall-armed pocket passer, while Peterman has more mobility and could fit Butch Jones’ offense better. Worley threw for only 134 yards last year in mop-up duty mostly, and Peterman has yet to see the field. Either Worley or Peterman will be a better leader than Tyler Bray, but Jones has to exit spring confident on who is quarterback will be entering fall camp. However, by that time incoming freshman Josh Dobbs enters the equation, and he may prove to be better than both Worley and Peterman by midseason.
Projected starter: Austyn Carta-Samuels (SR)
Backups: Johnathon McCrary (FR) and Patton Robinette (SO)
The Skinny: Austyn Carta-Samuels enters his first spring without Jordan Rodgers ahead of him on the depth chart. Although Carta-Samuels has thrown for 3,863 yards in his career, largely at Wyoming, he hasn’t been the starter yet for the Dores’ offense. And he will have dual threat freshman early enrollee Johnathon McCrary pushing him. McCrary probably won’t be ready, but he’ll get some playing time this fall. He will be a future difference maker for the Commodores, but getting Carta-Samuels comfortable will be the primary key to 2013.
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