Will Drew Lock be the best QB in the SEC East in 2017?
As the 2017 college football season approaches, several SEC East teams have quarterback concerns.
Only four teams — Missouri, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Georgia — have established starters, and Georgia’s staff insists it has a competition with true freshman Jake Fromm performing well over this spring.
Florida has two talented redshirt freshmen in Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask with eyes on the starting job as Luke Del Rio recovers from injury and Kentucky has a legitimate battle between Stephen Johnson and Drew Barker for the top spot.
Meanwhile, Tennessee is trying to find a replacement for longtime star Joshua Dobbs and Vanderbilt will continue to use the underwhelming Kyle Shurmur.
One team that doesn’t have a question at quarterback is Mizzou. The Tigers will start junior Drew Lock for the second consecutive season.
After gaining some experience as a freshman in 2015, Lock was the full-time starter in 2016 and threw for 3,399 yards and 23 touchdowns for the 4-8 Tigers.
The 2017 season will be a big one for the strong-armed signal caller, as Lock looks to take the next step to cement himself as one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks.
Assuming that Georgia QB Jacob Eason and South Carolina QB Jake Bentley will be Lock’s biggest competition for SEC East supremacy, here’s a look at how the Mizzou junior stacks up against his most-talented foes:
Lock vs. Jacob Eason
The biggest advantage Eason has over Lock is that he performed better against SEC defenses in 2016.
Though Lock put up better numbers overall, Eason performed the best against the best teams on Georgia’s schedule.
Lock threw for 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while completing 53.3 percent of his passes against conference foes. Eason threw nine touchdown passes and four picks while completing 53.9 percent of his throws. Three of those TDs came at Missouri, including the game-winner with 1:29 left.
Lock will likely put up better numbers than Eason in 2017 as well, but that’s more due to Mizzou’s offensive scheme and stable of talented receivers than anything Eason is doing wrong.
Plus, the Bulldogs have Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in a backfield that will serve as the focal point of the offense.
Lock vs. Jake Bentley
No other quarterback made as much of an impact in such a short time as Bentley, who burst onto the scene at South Carolina in a big way starting in Week 8 against UMass.
The true freshman (who, perhaps you heard, should have been in high school still) threw for 1,420 yards and nine touchdowns to go with only four interceptions in seven games.
Bentley went 4-2 in his six games during the regular season, leading the Gamecocks to bowl eligibility (they lost to USF in the Birmingham Bowl) and matching Lock’s season-long win total in the process.
Lock was in a similar situation his freshman year, taking over for the suspended Maty Mauk, but he didn’t have nearly the same level of initial success Bentley had.
However, until Bentley proves he can play that well over the course of a season against defenses designed to stop him, Lock’s experience will give him a slight edge.
It’s not hard to imagine Lock leading all East quarterbacks in yards and touchdowns next season. (He’s the division’s returning leader in both categories.) In fact, with Mizzou’s wide-open, fast-paced offense, it’d be surprising if Lock didn’t lead the division in most statistical categories.
However, Lock will have a lot of work to do to lead the Tigers to a better record than Eason’s Bulldogs and even Bentley’s Gamecocks.
So, while Lock has the talent to be the division’s best quarterback, his biggest challengers have better supporting casts around them.
Therefore, Lock will probably be the SEC East’s top thrower, but he and the rest of the Tigers will still likely be looking up at South Carolina and Georgia in the division standings.