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Ranking the SEC quarterbacks is a Herculean effort and one that is met with much criticism, especially when you’re trying to shake out the top three. Not many care who is No. 4 is when you have the trio of Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel.
I ranked the top 10 signal callers based on how I think they’ll perform in 2013. Let’s give this a shot:
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (SO)
2. AJ McCarron, Alabama (SR)
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia (SR)
The electrifying and slippery Johnny Manziel is set for his encore, but don’t count me as thinking he has any type of sophomore slump. I think he improves as a player and a passer, but I’m not sure he equals his crazy 2012 production of 5,116 yards and 47 touchdowns and wins the Heisman again. I’m just not buying into the ‘SEC defenses will be more prepared for him’ theory either, although I know one that will…AJ McCarron won’t post gaudy numbers, and I’m not a stat rat. We’ll never know how good AJ McCarron truly is because of all the great talent around him. He’s thrown for 5,950 yards, 49 touchdowns and just eight INTs. The stoic McCarron leads the Tide in their quest for a three-peat. That’s unheard of…Aaron Murray will surpass nearly every single individual stat in 2013, but he’s still chasing that elusive championship. He’s thrown for 10,901 yards and 95 touchdowns in three years. He’ll go on to break Danny Wuerffel’s career touchdown mark in 2013. An SEC Championship would be the perfect ending to an illustrious career.
4. Connor Shaw, South Carolina (SR)
Connor Shaw is the most underrated player in the SEC. His 17-3 career record screams winner, and his tough, physical and gutsy approach tells me he’ll do anything it takes to win. Steve Spurrier has changed his entire offensive identity for the son of a coach who’s a winner. He won’t throw for 3,000 yards or rush for 1,000, but he’ll win games. That’s Connor Shaw, and I’d be glad to have him lead my offense any day.
5. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss (JR)
6. Jeff Driskel, Florida (JR)
7. Zach Mettenberger, LSU (SR)
One quarterback who should take the biggest step forward is Bo Wallace. He was so good at times with 22 touchdowns, but he was also erratic at times with 17 INTs. We’ll see what type of effect missing spring with a shoulder injury will have, because James Franklin had the same type of injury and surgery entering last season, but Wallace sure does have enough talent around him… Jeff Driskel does a lot for Florida. Sure, Florida’s passing offense was putrid, but Driskel managed the game and rushed for over 400 yards and four touchdowns. The suspect passing game was also a combination of a weak offensive line and receivers who couldn’t create any type of separation. I think he makes a big jump in 2013…Zach Mettenberger’s numbers stand to improve this season with new OC Cam Cameron. Cameron will get Mett more in flow earlier in games by throwing more to backs and tight ends. Mett has two big-time receivers to work with in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham and should reach 3,000 yards. But is Mettenberger a championship quarterback?
One last ride
8. Tyler Russell, Miss State (SR)
9. James Franklin, Missouri (SR)
Several will have a problem with me ranking Tyler Russell at No. 8. He has some natural ability but can be erratic at times. Against ranked teams and Ole Miss, Russell finished with five touchdowns and nine INTs. He’s definitely the leader on offense and improved throughout 2012, but he could experience some growing pains with losing his top three receivers…Ah, yes, James Franklin. He’s the most interesting quarterback on this entire list. He looked so good in 2011 when he was healthy, but he looked so suspect last season. His 36 touchdowns became a distant memory compared to last year’s 10 total. David Yost is gone, and all eyes are on Gary Pinkel and Franklin entering 2013.
10. Dylan Thompson, South Carolina (JR)
Don’t think I’m partial to just starters! Dylan Thompson had ice water in his veins whenever he spelled Connor Shaw in 2012. I’m not suggesting that Steve Spurrier rotate quarterbacks, but Thompson has enough talent and spark to make an impact off the bench if Shaw struggles or gets banged up again.
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