SEC’s 10 best quarterbacks heading into spring practice

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.

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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.

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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.

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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