Ranking the SEC’s QBs heading into spring practice

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SEC football now has a pulse again, with spring practice opening in a matter of weeks for every team. And the one position everyone points to as being the leader of the team and the face of the program is the quarterback. And how do those starting quarterbacks stack up this spring?

Ranking 14 through 4 isn’t difficult, but you could make a case for the big three of AJ McCarron, Johnny Manziel and Aaron Murray in any order.

14. Brandon Allen, Arkansas
13. Jonathan Wallace, Auburn
12. Austyn Carta-Samuels, Vanderbilt

Brandon Allen looks like the QB for Bret Bielema’s pro-style attack, but he looked shaky at best in 2012 playing for the injured Tyler Wilson. Allen threw for just 186 yards on 49 attempts with one touchdown…Jonathan Wallace gained valuable experience in one of the worst seasons in Auburn history. He started the last four games of the season, throwing for 720 yards and four touchdowns. But he looked like the better prospect for Gus Malzahn’s spread attack than Kiehl Frazier ever did…Austyn Carta-Samuels will be the next starter for the Dores, and he has some weapons to work with in receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. ACS threw for just 208 yards last season, but he threw for 3,655 yards and 19 touchdowns in two seasons at Wyoming before transferring to Vandy. But he hasn’t played much in the SEC yet.

11. Justin Worley, Tennessee
10. Max Smith, Kentucky
9. James Franklin, Missouri

Justin Worley has the most experience returning for Butch Jones at Tennessee. But does he fit Jones’ spread offense? Worley played sparingly last season, and he played more for the injured Tyler Bray two years ago. Worley has thrown for 738 yards and one touchdown in two seasons worth of work…When healthy, Max Smith is a very productive passer. Smith started just three games last season before his season-ending ankle injury, throwing for 975 yards and eight touchdowns. He’ll be potent in Kentucky’s new air attack scheme…James Franklin is better than what he showed in ‘12, but that’s all we have to go on in the SEC. After accounting for a staggering 36 touchdowns in ‘11, Franklin combined for just 10 last season. He never looked comfortable and never looked healthy.

8. Jeff Driskel, Florida
7. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
6. Zach Mettenberger, LSU

First year starter Jeff Driskel won 11 games, but the double-digit wins had more to do with the smothering defense and smash-mouth running game than Driskel’s play. He threw for just 1,646 yards and 12 touchdowns in ‘12, but that’s really all Florida asked him to do. However, the Gators will lean more on their veteran starter next season, and he has to make progress this spring…Bo Wallace is an up-and-down quarterback, and he must learn to take care of the ball in big games. Sunshine threw for 22 touchdowns and rushed for eight more, but he also accounting for a head-scratching 17 INTs. But with a year of experience in the league, Wallace could make a big jump as a passer…Could this be the year Zach Mettenberger breaks out? With Cam Cameron’s history of developing quarterbacks, Mettenberger has to feel giddy about his chances. But there’s a lot of work to do, and he didn’t have the season everyone thought he would in ‘12. Mett threw for 2,609 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven INTs. The ceiling is much higher than his numbers.

5. Tyler Russell, Miss State
4. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia

Tyler Russell protected the ball with near perfection throughout 2012 until the last two weeks, when he through six picks. We’ll pitch him a bone for throwing 24 touchdowns and 2,897 yards, but he has to play better in bigger games. Against ranked teams, Russell threw only four touchdowns with seven INTs…Say what you want about Connor Shaw, but the dual-threat signal caller has won 17 of 20 games as a starter. It isn’t pretty at times, but the pesky Shaw gets the job done in big games with pinpoint accuracy on short to mid throws. Between rushing and throwing, Shaw has combined for 4,752 yards and 43 touchdowns, and yet backup Dylan Thompson could be penciled in at #4 at any time…And here is where it gets tough. Aaron Murray has thrown for 10,901 yards and 95 touchdowns in his career. How in the world is he No. 3 on the list? Despite his 4-10 record against top 25 teams in three seasons, Murray hasn’t been able to win the big game yet, but that’s not all his fault. Georgia tends to avoid showing up against ranked opponents on the biggest stage, and that includes Murray. Over the longevity of his career, Murray has produced numbers, but he has very little accolades and hardware to show for it. Could this be his rewarding year?

2. AJ McCarron, Alabama
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

AJ McCarron has won back-to-back national championships. And if he had as many attempts as Aaron Murray over the last two seasons (789 compared to 642), his numbers would be much more prolific. McCarron has registered 5,950 yards passing and 49 touchdowns, compared to just eight INTs, in just two years as a full-time starter. I mean, what’s a championship quarterback have to do to get to No. 1? Don’t championships mean anything anymore?…You give me one quarterback for one game who will elevate the play of those around him, and I’m taking Johnny Manziel. The prolific slippery star now has the target on his back, and we’ll find out how he handles all the hype of one of the best seasons ever in college football history. But entering spring, Manziel is the No. 1 difference maker in the SEC. His 5,116 yards and 47 touchdowns is wicked, considering he had zero experience, but even with his staggering play, Manziel has room for upside. Now, can he avoid that sophomore slump?

Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • Ironically, as little as we’ve seen from Dylan Thompson, he’s a star. Great looking player. Spurrier has 2 QBs better than half of the team has one. Go figure.

  • So, you’re telling me, McCarron was the better quarterback in the SEC Championship game? There’s really not a better way to compare the two but when they went head to head in Atlanta last year. McCarron basically turned the ball over twice, handed it off fifty or so times, and found the inevitable play action pass wide open downfield. Compared to Murray, when the game was on the line, HAD to step up and convert very difficult throws and he did. Passing behind a very average offensive line, I might add. McCarron had two offensive tackles the size of small cars, that run blocked better than anyone in the country. Interior of the line was no different. Some are thinking Warmack is the best guard to come out in years, and Jones was obviously very good as well. And Murray was passing against the number one defense in the country, compared to UGA’s inconsistent, razor thin defense. I don’t really care that you have McCarron a spot ahead of Murray in your little rankings, I just believe credit should be given where it’s been earned.

    • “I don’t really care that you have McCarron a spot ahead of Murray in your little rankings”
      Quote O’ the Month

    • Gentlemen…you’re arguing that Murray should be ranked ahead of McCarron because of the SEC Championship game? Really? Murray thew just as many picks and TDs as McCarron and completed a less % of his passes. And it was McCarron, NOT Murray, who made the big play at the end. You said it yourself. Murray’s final drive is the story of his career. He gets there and looks good doing it, but he can’t put it in for the score when it matters the most. If McCarron had the attempts Murray had in his career, the numbers would look much different.
      But I’m a Tennessee fan. What do I know?

      • A big difference is Murray had about 80 more pass attempts and had about 900 more yards on top of a higher YPA, Murray has broken the 3000 yard mark every season and McCarron hasn’t even touched it yet.

        Both QB’s look almost identical but if we’re ranking QB’s shouldn’t the O line be a part of that judgement? McCarron has been sacked only 35 times the last two season while Murray was been taken down 58 times. The difference going into the spring is Alabama has holes to fill while UGA returns their whole O-line.

        • Thankyou! Glad Im not the only one who realizes this

        • Yeah, but the reason McCarron didn’t have as many attempts is because Saban believes in the running game more than the QB. 350 yards on the ground I guess I would too. McCarron wasn’t going to win the game against Georgia. Murray could be Bama’s defense

    • Well seeing as Aj has a WAY better passing efficient rating, and murray had the SAME exact chance that Aj had in the LSU game and that was to drive down the field with 1 and a half minutes left and he couldn’t get it done i think the top 3 are good rankings. everybody has that one off day. Not to mention Aaron also has 32 pics in his career…that is ridiculous Where as Aj has thrown 8 in two years, he threw THREE pics against Florida who was at the time ranked 12th in the nation in defense so i wouldn’t put Aaron Murray ahead of Aj to save my life.

    • And…the one inevitable play action bomb for a TD was underthrown.

    • I’m not necessarily going to argue who is 2 and who is 3. They each have their valid claims, as has been pointed out. I do have beef with people saying “if McCarron had thrown more, he would have Murray’s stats.” I’m sorry, but this logic is flawed on many levels. A QB who throws 30% of the time doesn’t just double his stats when he throws 60% of the time. It just doesn’t work that way. McCarron plays in a VERY run-oriented offense meaning defenses are always selling out on the run play (evidenced by the mentioned big play in the SEC Championship. No way a freshman beats Swann and Rambo, they sold out on the run which made that play…trust me, I have watched it 200 times!). Meanwhile, Murray plays in somewhat of a balanced offense, but still a propensity to pass. It is much harder for a QB to put up big passing numbers when the defense respects the pass. If McCarron played in the UGA offense, he would certainly not have Murray’s numbers.
      Let’s not forget that McCarron also struggles in big games. Take the A&M game. When his team needed him to make a short play in traffic, he threw a pick. While the TD/INT numbers looked the same in the SEC Championship game, apart from the one big play McCarron had against an overaggressive run-stopping mentality of a defense, he struggled mightily. Poor accuracy. Terrible timing.
      As said, credit should be given where credit is due. They both deserve credit, but Murray is simply a better pure QB than McCarron. McCarron is a guy who generally wins ballgames (but you can’t take away from the insanely overpowering run game Bama has).

      • “Generally wins ballgames”…as in 25-2 with 2 Nattys. UGA had the best RB in the league in Todd Gurley. I wouldn’t trust Murray with the game on the line if my life depended on it.

      • Thanks, Erik. Great comments. I actually didn’t say his numbers would be as good as Murray’s if he had the same number of attempts. I did say McCarron’s numbers would be much better than they are currently, and it’s a stretch to say they would be as good as Murray’s. McCarron is an elite QB who isn’t asked to do elite things.

    • I’ll take McCarron over Murray the interception machine any and every day.

  • Ok…well I think everyone knows where I stand on this…but Ill say this anyways:
    1. QB is undoubtedly the most important individual position on the field…BUT When your OL/RB consistently gets you 6-8 yards a carry on 1st down I can only assume playing QB gets a little easier. Any arguments there?
    2. To say that if AJ Mac “had as many attempts as Murray his numbers would be more prolific” isnt necessarily true. Nobody really knows because he’s never had to. But I would bet that if forced to throw 30+ times a game consistently his INTs and in completions would be higher due to the safeties staying back in position.
    3. In Murray’s 14 games considered “Big Games” he has completed 52% of his passes for 3,086 Yards 25 TDs and 17 INTs. Let’s address that as if it were one season: now that may not be an All- American season but most coaches around the country would take it. And these are 14 of the best teams in the country…who all have what? GREAT DEFENSES. In fact during those 14 games Murray was sacked 42 times. 35 of those came in his freshman and sophomore years. So I would say considering the duress he was under as an underclassman for 10 of those games that was a pretty damn good season.
    4. If my points prove anything at all its that while the QB is the most important individual on the field, He isnt always the determining factor in a win or loss. AJ is a solid QB and has done what was needed to win behind the Best OL and Defense in the nation for the last 2 years. Aaron Murray Carried his team as a freshman/sophmore behind average OLs and inconsistent Defenses but finally got some help from the running game in 2012.

    • Great stuff, as usual. I was in the minority that Murray had the better individual season in 2012 than McCarron. Is Brad Johnson a better QB than Dan Marino because he won a championship. Nah. I would certainly trust McCarron more than Murray with the game on the line.

      • I trust Murray to have the balls to thread the needle 20 yards down the feild to any given target not worrying about the INT. While II trust McCarron to make a perfect screen pass to richardson, Lacy, Yeldon and watch the OL go to work. But hey… I liked Brett Favre too.

  • The bottom line is Aaron Murray is a paper champ.. That’s. all. If I needed a winner for one game, hell, I might even take Connor Shaw over Murray. He’s tougher mentally. 17 wins in 20 starts is crazy good.

  • There’s no doubt that Johnny Football is #1, but I think Arron Murray should be #2, Connor Shaw at #3, then AJ McCarron at #4.

  • Seriously? You have James Franklin 9th? He may be the best QB in the conference, next to maybe Manziel, when he is healthy. He will be hungry, and healthy this year, and I expect him to have a great senior season.

  • You know what AJ McCarron would say to all you whiny Georgia fans?? “You don’t win enough bud!?

  • What’s not to love about watching Johnny Manziel on the football field? Go, Johnny, go!

    • The one season wonder that hasn’t played South Carolina or Georgia, played Arkansas while they were trash and Florida when they were decent at best, that team? Lol, in all honesty this was a down year in the SEC. If A&M had played Bama, Arkansas, or LSU last year in the state the conference was in, they wouldn’t even be ranked. And people would refer to Manziel as “that poor little texas qb”

      • A&M did play LSU! And Bama played Arkansas when Arkansas didn’t even have their starting QB. Bama didn’t even play Florida! So your strength of schedule argument is weak. So you’re saying that AJ had 1 bad game and that’s why Manziel beat Bama at home?? That’s a joke! There’s a reason he won the Heisman (and as the first freshman ever). I’m not a Aggie fan but try to give credit where credit is due…if you’re able.

      • one season wonder is sooo correct!~ you all must have wondered how is it that an unknown, un heralded freshman qb could beat some of the better teams in the SEC! well, “second verse, same as the first” he is going to be just as fast this year, just as quick, just as slippery as last year – and during the off season hes working on his passing skills – just my thought, but second year wonder doesnt have the same ring to it

  • I’m a bama fan and I think skill wise, Murray and Manziel (this year) are better QBs than AJ. They just don’t have the support staff (Cooper, Lacy, Yeldon, etc.) that AJ does, that’s why they weren’t as successful. AJ’s decent and’ll get the job done if it comes down to it, but honestly, he’s not all that. It was extremely frustrating watching him make mistake after mistake this season, luckily they only cost us one game but still. He’s a good qb, he just doesn’t make good decisions and he’s not mobile.

  • I think we can all agree that both McCarron and Murray excel in their current offensive systems. But how would they do in each others system with those two being the only swapped players?

    With Alabama’s dominant run game that feeds into it’s screen & PA game, most QB’s could do well. Murray could play that role just as well as McCarron does.

    I, however, seriously doubt McCarron could run UGA’s system as well as Murray does. He has a decent arm and workable accuracy, but I don’t think he can make all the throws as regularly as Murray does.

    Also, you CANNOT hold that final play against Murray. The ball was clearly tipped, and the short receiver made the dumb move (although the natural reaction of ANY receiver) to catch it, rather than knock it down. The ball was intended to be a fade to the endzone (right pass to make), but was tipped by the Alabama lineman. Calling that Murray’s fault is ludicrous.

  • What a shocker. Dawg fans aruging Erin Murray over AJ McCarron STILL. The same Erin Murray who will leave Georgia with nothing in the way of championships over the guy that already has 3 national championship rings, and has been the BCSNCG MVP. The same way that made the plays TO *win* the SEC championship game last year, instead of losing yet another big game.

    Get a clue; no one in America agrees with you. Have fun getting your teeth kicked in by South Carolina again this year.

    • As a Georgia fan, I don’t doubt McCarron is a good QB. But the point I’m trying to make is that if you single them out, apart from their teams, McCarron is not the better QB.

      I’m about as athletically gifted as a lemur with epilepsy, but with that supporting cast of RB’s, OL, and defense, I probably could have beat Notre Dame this year, and LSU last year. McCarron makes a handful of key passes in each game, but the workhorse of that system is the running game and that stout O-Line. Murray would do just as well in his system as McCarron does.

      You are equating to the whole team winning as him being the better player. It does not work that way. Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl with the Bucs in 03, but that doesn’t mean HE was all that good. McCarron has superior talent AROUND him, which makes him look far better than he really is. It’s happened countless times in college football history.

      If you had a system that revolved around the QB, Murray would be the much better choice. McCarron is a high quality game manager who won’t lose you games, but nothing more. His arm won’t win you games. The same can’t be said about Murray. Any other QB in the conference (except MAYBE Shaw) would work as well in that system. Without Murray, Georgia wouldn’t have won half the games they did in his tenure. Without McCarron, Alabama would still have those 3 titles.

    • Yes AJ’s talented just like McElroy was. He’s playing 3rd string somewhere now i the NFL isn’t he?? The rest of the team has nothing to do with the national championships. It’s all AJ. I guess we’ll see who goes first during the draft what the real experts think. I’d put my money on Murray over AJ.

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