SEC’s 10 best quarterbacks heading into spring practice

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Spring position rankings:

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.

MORE: SEC Spring Predictions 2014

The SEC landscape is totally changing with respect to quarterbacks. The big three of Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray are gone, along with Connor Shaw and Zach Mettenberger, and the position looks much different than last spring.

So, how do all those returning quarterbacks stack up this spring? You’ll get five different answers from five different people who define quarterback differently.

RELATED: 5 spring quarterback battles

10. Justin Worley, Tennessee (SR)
9. Brandon Allen, Arkansas (JR)
8. Anthony Jennings, LSU (SO)

Justin Worley started for the Vols last season before having season-ending surgery on his right thumb. Worley threw for 1,239 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight INTs, completing just 55.6 percent of his passes. Still, Worley would get the nod (for me) over Josh Dobbs…Brandon Allen and Arkansas’ offense had a tough year. The only major threat was the running game. Sure, Allen didn’t have the greatest year, but how many potent receivers did the Hogs really have? Allen will battle with early enrollee Rafe Peavey this spring for the starting job, and he threw for 1,552 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 INTs, completing under 50 percent of his passes…Anthony Jennings takes over the reins of the offense, replacing Zach Mettenberger, who had a fabulous senior season. The dual-threat Jennings threw for 181 yards, one touchdowns and one INT, along with rushing for 18 yards and two touchdowns. If his 99-yard game-winning drive against Arkansas was any indication, look out.

7. Hutson Mason, Georgia (SR)
6. Dylan Thompson, South Carolina (SR)
5. Jeff Driskel, Florida (JR)

Hutson Mason gained valuable experience replacing Aaron Murray, and now, with the hire of Jeremy Pruitt, Mason won’t have to be Murray and score 40 points per game. There’s enough talent around Mason to help ease the transition, but there’s no time to waste. Mason threw for 968 yards, five touchdowns and three INTs. He’s talented, but he needs to hone in on better touch this spring…Dylan Thompson is a weathered veteran replacing Connor Shaw, and he’s played valuable minutes and even looked like he would get more playing time last year had Shaw not had an incredible season. Thompson has thrown for 1,827 yards, 14 touchdowns and five INTs largely in two seasons. He’s been solid, but he needs to take his game to a whole new level…Jeff Driskel returns this spring after breaking his ankle against Tennessee. Remember, Driskel was the Gators’ quarterback in 2012 when they won 11 games. With a spread attack in Gainesville, the offense fits Driskel much better. Quicker reads will happen, and the offense will use his legs more. That benefits Driskel and Florida, and he’s thrown for 2,271 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight INTs.

MORE: SEC Pre-Spring Power Rankings

4. Maty Mauk, Missouri (SO)
3. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss (SR)
2. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (JR)

Maty Mauk can take the Mizzou offense to another level; he’s that talented. While filling in for the injured James Franklin, Mauk threw for 1,071 yards, 11 touchdowns and two INTs, while rushing for 229 yards and one touchdown. Mauk needs to develop his touches on short to medium throws, and he will enter the season as a darkhorse Heisman contender…Bo Wallace is the SEC’s veteran returner. He has the most career passing yards and the most experience. In two seasons, Wallace has amassed 6,340 yards passing, 40 touchdowns and 27 INTs. Still, his game has to improve if the Rebels will be a real contender in 2014, and he’s thrown 20 touchdowns and 20 INTs in SEC play over two seasons…Dak Prescott is one of the biggest risers in the SEC for 2014. Once MSU finally said they’re going with Prescott, the offense developed and Prescott really saved the season. He threw for 1,940 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven INTs, while rushing for 829 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s going to be special.

1. Nick Marshall, Auburn (SR)

Nick Marshall may not be the best ‘quarterback’ in the SEC, depending on how you define quarterback, but he’s the most explosive player at the position. When Marshall turns the corner, look out. He should enter the 2014 season as the SEC’s first-team quarterback. Remember, Marshall only had fall camp to win the starting job, and he improved almost weekly. He threw for 1,976 yards, 14 touchdowns and six INTs, while rushing for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns. We know he can run the football, but Gus Malzahn would like to see the passing game take a big step this spring.

Photo Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • Could possibly be the weakest I’ve ever seen the SEC at the QB position.

    • I would agree with you, especially over the last few years. I really think SEC defense will return this coming season. You also have teams like Texas A&M and Alabama who don’t have a quarterback yet, too. But there are more questions than answers for the SEC’s signal callers entering spring practice for sure.

    • I was about to say something similar. I mean, what is this world coming to when Nick Marshall is the top returning QB? Don’t get me wrong, he runs Gus’ offense very well and I’m worried about how much better he’ll run it next year, but as the article states, it depends on what you consider to be a QB and he is an athlete who happens to be a QB, not the other way around.

      • Dawg, Jon, and Kent, this is a common feeling when football trends toward QBs who have to become skilled slight-of-hand Auburn, scramblers aTm, option men Missouri and more. But in those years when quarterbacks were limited, there limited skills might have seemed finer, but the truth is the game was always waiting for them to do more. Same for every position on the field. When any position becomes more versatile that 11 man line up becomes better. One example among so many, a Missouri receiver threw the touchdown pass to another receiver to stop Georgia’s comeback bid in that game. That doesn’t make him a worse receiver, it makes him and the other 10 players a better unit.

    • Jon and Kent, Quarterbacks are more exciting now than they ever have been in the history of football. Do you really think that the job you are doing should be appreciated what your employer’s customers wanted from you 20 years ago, or by what your next job will want?

      In 2014′s game all 11 players, not just quarterbacks, need to win more games in their league plus perhaps that one essential out of conference match up that gets them ranked high with the committee. It couldn’t be more exciting than it is. Who’s plan will make the other’s 11 (including the quarterback) change?

      Last year had some defense duals like South Carolina at Missouri and some slug fests like the SEC Championship. They were all great. Please don’t wish for football to become “whoever gets the first field goal wins”, because if that happens there will be more than empty stadiums everywhere in NCAA football.

    • As I was looking down this list I was thinking this same exact thing. Driskel is top 5, Marshall is number 1. Crazy how the SEC was stacked just last year with

  • Mason will need to improve the speed of his decision making. Maybe I was spoiled with Murray back there, but Mason too often seemed to take too long to throw.

    • Mason will look ten times better by the time of the Clemson game barring a heap of injuries. Take what happened when they loss all of their WR’s and try to wrap your mind around losing a quarterback on top of that. With all the timed routs we run in a game it disrupted our entire offense.

  • Bo Wallace is only that high because so many schools are starting new qbs. He is garbage and the reason Ole Miss lost the egg bowl as he accounted for 4 total turnovers. He cannot throw the football. Even Hugh Freeze threw him under the bus after the game. Ole Miss isn’t going anywhere with him at qb.

  • Just like a bull pup to wine about another’s schools player when msu s qb has the stats of a mediocre high school player

    • Our 3rd string qb outplayed him in the egg bowl… I rest my case.

      • Also look at how unstable our qb position was dak only played about 3/4 of the season. Also it is funny how y’all like to rag on our qb when your coach recruited him.

        • Ole Miss lost, but your third string qb did not outplay Wallace. Neither one of them scored a touchdown. It was more of a stalemate ( a bad one in fact) Stat wise Ole Miss out gained State through the air and ground. Just be happy that your defense had a great game. As far a Dak goes, Keith Lewis dropped a pick six in the 4th quarter that would have sealed the game. If Dak thows the pick, do you then say that he sucks because he lost the Egg Bowl? Football is a game of chance. Dak has a lot of potential as well as Wallace.

        • Although Damian didn’t get credit for the touchdown(Josh Robinson), he had an option qb keeper that was the big play on the drive. He led our 1 touchdown drive in the regulation of the game. It can’t be overstated that Damian took care of the football till Dak came in the game at the end because I believe Ole Miss lost because of Bo Wallace.

  • Bo Wallace is the best QB coming into this season. He is the most complete QB. Marshall is a great athlete, but he’s not a complete QB right now, if he was better at throwing the ball then I would say he was the best. Prescott has yet to play a full season, so all that he has going is hype. Last season Wallace was playing with a bum shoulder and missed all of spring training. This season his shoulder should be at full strength and he will finally get to go threw a spring practice. Jon Cooper is predicting that Marshall and Prescott will improve enough, so that’s why he has them at No. 1 and 2. Wallace has proved that he throw the ball and run, and beat good teams. Yes he has had turnover problems, but not all of them were his fault and last year his shoulder was really weak, so that caused him to under throw the ball a lot. Just ask LSU fans how good Wallace can be, he sliced them up with ease, two years in a row.

    • As an Ole Miss fan, I believe that Bo’s stats are a product of Hugh Freeze’s system. Stats wise, Bo would be the top quarterback of the group. Until his arm heals, though, I am not sold on him. Based off of production last season, I believe that Good Bo can be the number one quarterback on that list. Realistically, though, I would take Mauk over everyone else if I had to choose one. Prescott and Marshall have to show that they are both more than just runners. Overall this quarterback group is short on NFL potential. Good Bo could make an NFL roster in some form or fashion. Bad Bo, though, is what keeps Freeze up at night. He really needs to show consistency in SEC play. Some of that could be cleared up, though, if we can find a feature running back this Spring.

  • Do you honestly go to bed at night telling yourself that Jeff Driskel is better than Dylan Thompson? Dylan already has more marquee moments than Driskel and Driskel has played 3 times the games…..

    • I do..Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep at night.

    • On a side note, wouldn’t you consider wins against ranked Florida State, LSU and South Carolina marquee moments? I would also say South Carolina took the ball out of Thompson’s hands against UCF and Missouri to win last year, primarily the only two games he played meaningful minutes, right?

      • I would definitely call those marquee wins, I don’t know so much about a certain moment in those games though. Especially the S. Car game considering we repeatedly handed them the ball inside our own ten the entire first quarter (still having nightmares over that one). What I meant by moments are the game winning touchdown pass in the bowl game, or the dominating performance over Clemsux. I would probably credit those marquee wins more to Florida’s defense, although Driskel did play his part. Dylan is going to need to show up more this year though than he did last year i.e. the mizzou and UCF games.

  • This is maybe the weakest crop of quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. Every person listed could end up having the best stats by the end of the year. Nick Marshall is gonna have to sling it alot more without mason around.

  • Yes i’m an Auburn fan but I think I speak for everyone with saying that Nick Marshall is far ahead of the pack and with Sammy Coates and the #1 WR D’Quille Williams on the corners and with our brutal running game..We’re the team to beat and our defense is going to be 4 x’s better…WE’RE COMING..WDE!!

  • Nick and Dak are leaps and bounds ahead of Bo. You would think by the time you are a SR all ball handeling issues would be corrected. I am a State fan at heart but always pull for Ole Miss except for the Egg Bowl. If Ole Miss is going to get to the next level they need a quaterback , Bo is not the man for the job. I keep hearing Bo had a weak shoulder well Dak was hurt too and as for as LSU goes they beat themselves with bad QB play , what Zack threw like 5 int’s?? The fact is Ole Miss has talent on both sides of the ball and this should be their year but with Bo at the helm I don’t think so.

  • You guys should just go ahead and put Devante Kincade as the #3 QB. I’m thinking he gets a shot this year, then immediately shows that he’s better than Bo. Unlike Bo, he’s actually intelligent enough to know more than 10 plays for the no-huddle.

  • Dang.. the SEC QB play gone be hella weak this season. Guess defense will reign supreme once again!! Marshall could be top 5 amoungst RBs (and prob will be) in SEC but QB? No sir

  • Lots of comments referring to “most complete” QB. Title of the article says “Best”. Marshall may not be the most complete QB or at least has yet to prove it. He has proven that he is the best and qualifies as such from being a pure athlete. His time as a DB puts him at a unique advantage which he proved with the 4th quarter of the Iron Bowl flipping the pass to Coates for the tie. With any improvement at all in his passing, which is currently not bad but admittedly not the best, he is the clear winner among SEC QBs. I agree that the field is not as strong as in prior years. Like all prologue, this is merely fun banter. The proof will be in performance. Some will step up and amaze us and some will disappoint. Happens every year.

  • Nice to see Mauk listed as the highest ranked underclassman. He could possibly be the face of SEC QBs the next few years. The sky is the limit for him, gonna be fun watching him play.

    • The receiver corp. at Missouri now has to make that championship improvement they couldn’t quite make under Franklin/Washington/Lucas/Waters. One issue is getting open. Another is Mauk understanding when they will be open vs. what defense. And there were games last year when the receivers should have caught a higher % of balls. Franklin’s solution to inadequate play calling and receiver coaching last year was to throw uncatchable balls and wait for the next play call. What will Henson do? Will he let Mauk run and have Berkstresser ready+Printz ready?, or will he continue to say throwing uncatchable balls are the best end result to a play where the defense stays on the bull? One thing for sure, Mauk is going to make the receivers go deep, put up, or shut up and sit down. This is where Beckham will either become a fit NFL receiver or have his will power shown to need improvement.