It is no surprise that Alabama’s pass defense was better than most last season. It might be somewhat of a surprise that they finished just 33rd in that category during 2018.

Sure, many of the yards came in garbage time with the Tide up big and the reserves in, but that was the worst finish since 2014, when they allowed 226 yards per game through the air. And it was an issue during the postseason when Georgia, Oklahoma and Clemson each topped 300 yards and combined for 8 passing TDs.

The good news is that the Tide are set, if not a little lean on the depth side, in the secondary with the return of Patrick Surtain II, Shyheim Carter, Xavier McKinney and Trevon Diggs, who is returning from a broken foot. This will help the defensive line, which must find replacements for Quinnen Williams and Isaiah Buggs up front.

As usual, Nick Saban will have ‘Bama in position to be one of the top defenses in the country. That’s not what opposing QBs want to hear. Here’s a ranking of the quarterbacks that the Tide will face this season.

12. Josh Adkins (New Mexico State)

Adkins became the full-time starter midway through last season, and he didn’t disappoint. Against Liberty, the redshirt sophomore threw for 402 yards and 4 TDs with no interceptions. He finished the season with 2,563 passing yards but threw just 13 touchdowns to 9 picks.

11. Jack Abraham (Southern Miss)

It was a tale of 2 seasons last year. Abraham threw 10 of his 15 TD passes in the first 3 games, then cooled off. He didn’t throw 2 in another game and 7 of his 10 interceptions came in that stretch. After missing 2 games at the beginning of November, Abraham finished with just 287 yards and 2 TDs combined in his last 2 games against Louisiana Tech and UTEP, respectively.

10. Tyrie Adams (Western Carolina)

The Tide defense will have to be ready for the talented Adams, who begins his fourth year as the start for the Catamounts and already owns the school’s career passing touchdown record with 53. He put it all together last season, throwing for 2,417 yards and 16 TDs while rushing for 1,006 yards and 10 scores. He has been described as the best dual-threat QB in FCS.

9. Quentin Harris (Duke)

Harris takes over for Daniel Jones, who Duke would like to remind you was the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft … even in Harris’ bio. Kidding aside, the 5th-year senior isn’t a stranger to starting as he was with the first team twice last year to fill in for Jones. In those 2 starts against Baylor and North Carolina Central, Harris put up 376 passing yards and 6 touchdowns with no interceptions while also rushing for 117 yards and a score.

8. Nick Starkel/Ben Hicks (Arkansas)

Both are graduate transfers, but Hicks might have an advantage for the sole reason that he spent 2 seasons under Razorbacks’ coach Chad Morris at SMU, putting up excellent numbers. In their last season together in 2017, Hicks threw for 3,569 yards and 33 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions, putting the ball in the air 472 times. Starkel, a transfer from Texas A&M, appeared in 7 games for the Aggies in 2017, completing 60% of his passes for 1,793 yards and 14 scores with 6 interceptions. Starkel has perhaps 2 advantages in the race: He has played in the SEC and has 2 seasons of eligibility.

7. Tommy Stevens/Keytaon Thompson (Mississippi State)

Both can run, a critical element of Joe Moorhead’s offensive system, so whoever is more consistent in the passing game will win the job. They both also are familiar with Moorhead as Stevens was under his tutelage for 2 seasons at Penn State and Thompson backed up Nick Fitzgerald last season.

6. Matt Corral (Ole Miss)

Corral will be working in new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez’s system and could be a star. With Rodriguez asking him to do more running than Jordan Ta’amu did, Corral becomes a dual-threat quarterback, something he showed he could do in limited time last season, throwing for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns while rushing for 83 yards and 2 scores.

5. Joey Gatewood (Auburn)

Assuming that Gatewood, who is battling with Bo Nix for the starting position in fall camp, is still the starter in the Iron Bowl, the Tide will face a big athletic quarterback who will finally have some experience with the game on the line. Listed at 6-5 and 233 pounds, Gatewood has a big arm and can run a little bit, fitting into Gus Malzahn’s offensive scheme well. Will he remind people of a certain quarterback in 2010, or will he be a bust? We shall find out.

4. Jarrett Guarantano (Tennessee)

The Vols’ quarterback probably has some bad memories from last year’s game, as he got knocked out with an injury and completed just 5-of-10 passes for 63 yards. Guarantano showed flashes of his ability last season (328 yards, 2 TDs in a win at Auburn) but finished with just 12 TD passes on 246 attempts.

3. Jake Bentley (South Carolina)

Bentley was good last year (3,171 yards, 27 TDs), but an SEC-worst 14 interceptions hurt his cause. Entering his senior season, the question is: Can he become great? The Gamecocks have been waiting. The last time Alabama visited Columbia, in 2010, Stephen Garcia led the Gamecocks to an upset over the top-ranked Tide. That’s a tough comparison, but Bentley will get the opportunity to match it.

2. Joe Burrow (LSU)

As Burrow discovered last season, playing against ‘Bama can prove rough. The Tide shut out the Tigers. The Ohio State transfer completed just 18-of-35 passes for 184 yards with an interception … and that was in Baton Rouge. Still, Burrow has shown he can win in tough environments and played his best ball after the Alabama game last year. He’ll need a Texas A&M or UCF-type performance to upset Alabama, which has owned the Tigers over the past 8 years.

1. Kellen Mond (Texas A&M)

Mond has a lot of hype entering the 2019 season and Year 2 under Jimbo Fisher. Like many of the quarterbacks the Tide will face, he can put up yards via the air or ground. Last season, Mond threw for 3,107 yards and 24 touchdowns to 9 interceptions while rushing for 7 touchdowns on 474 yards. He played well against Clemson and LSU but had his worst performance against Alabama.