Six SEC teams — Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and South Carolina — all have starting quarterbacks identified, and the spring was all about getting those quarterbacks comfortable and confident heading into the 2014 season.
However, eight other SEC teams aren’t so fortunate and either have had ongoing battles or currently have several competing. Let’s go around the SEC:
Leader: Blake Sims
Trailing: Cooper Bateman, Alec Morris, David Cornwell
Buzz: Blake Sims is beginning to separate himself from Cooper Bateman, Alec Morris and David Cornwell. Sims is 40 of 62 (64.5 percent) for 515 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in back-to-back scrimmages, and Nick Saban has commented how Sims is making some plays with his legs, which is different than Alabama has had under Saban. Yes, Jacob Coker will be on campus this summer, but Sims isn’t going to just hand over the keys to the job. Sims and Coker will battle through fall camp for the right to be named AJ McCarron’s successor.
Leader: Brandon Allen
Trailing: Austin Allen, Rafe Peavey
Buzz: You’ll notice last year’s backup AJ Derby isn’t on the list. He moved to tight end this spring and loves it. Brandon Allen is the clear quarterback leader, and he’s finally healthy and making some plays because of it. Bret Bielema has commented this spring that Allen looks different physically, and he had the added advantage because of last year’s experience starting 11 games. Allen finished 2013 with 1,552 yards passing, 13 touchdowns and 10 INTs, but he completed less than 50 percent of his passes. The elder Allen is the clear frontrunner.
Competing: Drew Barker, Patrick Towles, Jalen Whitlow, Reese Phillips, Max Smith (injured)
Buzz: Mark Stoops is playing Kentucky’s quarterback competition close to the vest, but he did say after Saturday’s scrimmage that he’s impressed with redshirt sophomore Patrick Towles and early enrollee Drew Barker. Reese Phillips has also progressed over his two years. Is Jalen Whitlow the odd man out of the race? If Stoops is already impressed with Barker, it’s hard to pick against him being named the starter at this point. However, there’s still time left this spring, and I don’t expect Kentucky to name a starter until a few weeks before their first game in August.
Leader: Brandon Harris
Trailing: Anthony Jennings, Hayden Rettig
Buzz: Although Les Miles and Cam Cameron won’t name a favorite, I will. It’s Brandon Harris. The dual-threat early enrollee wow’d the spring game crowd. He finished 11 of 28 for 195 yards and four total touchdowns, and he also had a game-high 75 rushing yards on six carries, including one touchdown. Yes, it’s a spring game, but he’s clearly the future of LSU’s offense. Yes, Anthony Jennings can still win the job in fall camp, but he’s clearly trailing Harris right now. Regardless of who wins the starting job, the Tigers will lean on a dominant running game and defense. Hayden Rettig is currently third.
Leader: Maty Mauk
Trailing: Corbin Berkstresser, Eddie Printz, Trent Hosick
Buzz: Prior to spring practice, Gary Pinkel said Maty Mauk would compete ‘like everyone else’, but it’s clear this spring Mauk is the guy for the offense. We knew this, but Pinkel wasn’t going to just hand over the keys to Mauk; he wanted to make him earn it. Corbin Berkstresser, Eddie Printz and Trent Hosick will battle to backup Mauk, but it’s clear: Maty Mauk is Mizzou’s signal caller and offensive leader.
Leaders: Josh Dobbs, Riley Ferguson, Justin Worley
Trailing: Nathan Peterman
Buzz: At this point, it’s only safe to say that Nathan Peterman is fourth in the quarterback race. It looked like Justin Worley and Riley Ferguson had created separation from Josh Dobbs, but Dobbs had a fabulous spring game, and it could have created some doubt in the coaches’ minds. Dobbs is the best overall athlete of the three, but Worley’s veteran leadership and Ferguson’s “it” factor will be tough to beat out. At this point, the safe bet would be for Butch Jones to start Justin Worley, with Dobbs and Ferguson waiting in case he needs backup. There’s little separation at the position right now, but my money is on Worley.
Competing: Kyle Allen, Matt Joeckel, Kenny Hill
Buzz: One of the country’s most anticipated quarterback battles was played close to the vest this spring. Kevin Sumlin didn’t have much to say about it. Kenny Hill’s arrest kept him out to close spring practice. Matt Joeckel is the safe pick, as he knows the offense and he looked fine in last year’s opener against Rice, but if you thought Kyle Allen wasn’t ready for the big stage, think again. Allen has a big-league arm, and he’s poised and polished for an early enrollee. Hill is the most like Manziel, but Sumlin won’t hesitate to name Allen the starter, and it will likely be only a few weeks ahead of the first game in August.
Competing: Johnny McCrary, Patton Robinette
Buzz: Derek Mason has an interesting decision on his hands. He can take the safe road with Robinette because he has the most experience, and he’s the veteran of the two. But the offense could reach new heights under dual-threat playmaker Johnny McCrary, who had a nice spring throwing and running. Each played well in Saturday’s spring game, and Mason won’t likely name a starter until fall camp.
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