The quarterback landscape drastically changes in 2014. Several signal callers battled this spring for starting jobs and won them.
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Five SEC quarterbacks entered spring as starters and solidified their role with strong springs: Nick Marshall, Hutson Mason, Dak Prescott, Bo Wallace and Dylan Thompson. Conversely, three others – Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel and Maty Mauk – were primary favorites, but the coaching staffs entered with an open mind and made those three compete to secure their job. All three performed well and solidified their role.
However, six SEC teams weren’t so lucky as to clearly name a starter this spring, and here’s what the quarterback picture looks like for not only each of them, but the backup situation for the ones settled, too:
Everyone vs. Jacob Coker: Blake Sims looks like the quarterback who exited spring as the on-campus leader, which basically means – if you believe the Jacob Coker hype – he will be the backup to FSU transfer Coker come fall. Coker can’t show up and just win it, but if the spring game was any indication, he should really like his chances. Alec Morris and Cooper Bateman aren’t out of the races either, and Bateman looked the most ready of the two.
Starter: Nick Marshall
Backup: Jeremy Johnson
Buzz: Marshall’s progression was obvious, and the offense fits him to a T. However, the Tigers also may have the conference’s best backup plan in former Mr. Alabama Football and Basketball Jeremy Johnson, who can sling the rock around the yard. Auburn and Gus Malzahn feel great about the quarterback situation.
Starter: Brandon Allen
Backups: Austin Allen (backup), Rafey Peavey
Buzz: Brandon Allen has a lead on the job, and he should enter the season as the starter. However, could little brother start to put the heat on him in fall camp or into the season? The elder Allen has little breathing room, but he does have a lead on his brother. Rafe Peavey may not see much – if any – action as a freshman.
Starter: Jeff Driskel
Backup: Will Grier (backup), Skyler Mornhinweg
Buzz: Jeff Driskel improved this spring in Florida’s new offense, and Will Grier showed he has a promising future. But Florida welcomes four-star dual-threat signal caller Treon Harris this fall, and Harris is a leader and could push for playing time in some facet. Grier is likely set for a redshirt.
Starter: Hutson Mason
Backups: Faton Bauta, Brice Ramsey, Jacob Park
Buzz: Hutson Mason distanced himself from any of the competitors this spring, and Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey are the primary backups. However, Georgia still hasn’t named ‘the backup’ yet and probably won’t do so until they would have to cross that bridge.
Patrick Towles vs. Reese Phillips vs. Drew Barker: One the few jobs left open, it’s clear Patrick Towles leads the quarterback race. He started the spring game, and he showed up the most on Saturday. There’s still plenty of time for Reese Phillips or Drew Barker to win the job, but there’s some ground to cover with Towles leading. Max Smith didn’t practice this spring due to injury.
Anthony Jennings vs. Brandon Harris: Anthony Jennings entered spring the favorite to land the vacant job, but Brandon Harris exited spring leading. Harris electrified the spring crowd with 270 total yards and four touchdowns. Was that enough to win the job? Not yet, but it’s clear that Jennings trails Harris at this point. My gut says both quarterbacks will play this fall anyway.
Starter: Dak Prescott
Backups: Damian Williams, Nick Fitzgerald
Buzz: Dak Prescott enters the season with the keys to Dan Mullen’s convertible, and Damian Williams, who played pretty well last year, would be the first off the bench. Williams and Nick Fitzgerald both played well during MSU’s spring game, but Prescott has been nabbed by some as a legit Heisman contender.
Starter: Maty Mauk
Backups: Eddie Printz, Corbin Berkstresser, Marvin Zanders, Colby Carpenter
Buzz: Following the Trent Hosick transfer, things became a little clearer behind Maty Mauk. Mauk distanced himself from the other quarterbacks this spring, and Eddie Printz and Corbin Berkstresser are the primary backups entering fall camp. Printz could have a big future.
Starter: Bo Wallace
Backups: DeVante Kincade, Ryan Buchanan, Jeremy Liggins
Buzz: Bo Wallace is set as the starter, but Hugh Freeze has used a dual-threat accomplice the last few years with Barry Brunetti. Jeremy Liggins is the fourth quarterback, but in some short yardage situations he may be first off the bench. DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan showed they were more than ready to lead the offense, each with his own strengths and weaknesses. The Rebels are in great shape here.
Starter: Dylan Thompson
Backups: Brendan Nosovitch, Perry Orth, Connor Mitch
Buzz: Steve Spurrier said before spring practice that nobody was catching Dylan Thompson. He was right, and Thompson solidified his comments. However, the backup situation is fluid with Brendan Nosovitch, Perry Orth and Connor Mitch on a day-to-day, week-to-week battle. Spurrier isn’t even sure who his primary backup is at this point, and he hopes he won’t have to find out in 2014.
Justin Worley vs. Josh Dobbs vs. Nathan Peterman vs. Riley Ferguson: The three main contenders are Justin Worley, Riley Ferguson and Josh Dobbs, who went off in the spring game. Nathan Peterman isn’t completely out of the race, but he trails the other three. So, who will Butch Jones start? My money is on the senior Justin Worley, with Ferguson and Dobbs waiting to scrap for the leftovers. My gut says we’ll see all three quarterbacks during the first few weeks of the season.
Kenny Hill vs. Kyle Allen: When Matt Joeckel transferred I got the feeling that Kevin Sumlin told him the Aggies were going with youth under center. Kenny Hill’s arrest may have him trailing Kyle Allen entering fall camp, but if Allen is named the starter, he will have earned it. He proved this spring he was worthy of carrying this offense. Allen is polished and poised for a freshman. Hill is the most like dual-threat Johnny Manziel, and we’ll likely not know who starts game one until right before the season.
Patton Robinette vs. Johnny McCrary: Patton Robinette and Johnny McCrary battled all spring, and they may welcome LSU transfer Stephen Rivers this fall, who hasn’t officially transferred yet. Robinette has better command of the offense, while McCrary could take the offense to another level with his ability. It’s an interesting decision that will help characterize Mason, his coaching staff and the offensive mindset moving forward.
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