Successful SEC coaching staffs know what they’re doing, or they wouldn’t be paid millions … but sometimes even the proven ones can swing and miss.
Let’s face it, only one SEC team was really interested in Johnny Manziel a few years ago–and to be nitpicky, Texas A&M wasn’t even in the SEC at that time. If Manziel was good enough to win a Heisman as a redshirt freshman, pushing the Aggies to national prominence, why didn’t everybody go after him?
I’m not saying the two quarterbacks I’m about to present are Manziel … that wouldn’t be fair to John Wolford or Shuler Bentley.
A) These two kids are proven winners and they produce
B) No, they aren’t 5-foot-7, both are 6-foot-1 or taller
C) They both live in SEC territory
They’re just not getting much love from the conference. And I’m having a hard time understanding that. But again, I don’t get paid millions.
Wolford is a Jacksonville (Fla.) quarterback who has broken all kinds of state records in Florida. He is committed to East Carolina. Shuler Bentley has been wildly successful at Byrnes (S.C.), and he’s committed to Old Dominion–an FCS program that will eventually move into the FBS. Schools like Cincinnati have offered, but Bentley has said he’d stick by Old Dominion–but in the past he has stated that his ears might be open to overtures from certain SEC or ACC schools. Fans might recall that Byrnes, a national powerhouse, is where South Carolina RB great Marcus Lattimore played his high school football.
Wolford told Saturday Down South that he has seen a bit more interest ramp up after his impressive senior season. He broke a career total offense state record that Tim Tebow once possessed, and he broke a national record for single-game total offense when he accounted for 773 yards and 10 touchdowns in a playoff game a few weeks ago. As his senior season became more headline-grabbing, Wake Forest stepped up and offered, California started heating up the phones, Penn State plans to swing by this week and may offer soon and rumors swirled that Florida is curious and Mississippi State had a conditional offer out at one time. But with the way the quarterback position works, the domino effect for the elite BCS-type kids really gets rolling during a player’s junior year. Once those spots are filled, there is rarely any wiggle room. Wolford knows and understands this.
But there is precedent in recent years for late QB additions in the SEC. Wolford is committed to East Carolina and emphasizes that he is very happy with the Pirates’ coaching staff, but one has to think that if an SEC school came calling last second, it would be hard to turn down that offer–and one would think the East Carolina coaches would understand. Wolford turned heads this year, throwing for 3,317 yards and 38 touchdowns while rushing for 931 yards and 14 scores. He finished his career with 13,403 yards of total offense, and was responsible for 162 TDs.
“People have told me that Florida has noticed,” Wolford told SDS. “And that’s their biggest question mark, especially with the quarterback situation they have right now. I know they’re happy with who they have coming right now (Will Grier), but I’m right in their backyard. I don’t know if it was a height issue (Wolford is 6-foot-2). I respect their decision, but I don’t know that I understand. I am so happy for all of these schools that have offered that have given me an opportunity to play, it was always my dream to play college football. If things stay the way that they are, I will always use that as motivation on the field.”
This year, Bentley passed the 5,000-yard mark for passing, and threw 71 touchdowns. Yes, he’s 6-foot-1–a bit under that 6-foot-5 robo-QB many programs covet–but the kid is a winner. He just captured South Carolina’s Gatorade State Player of the Year honors, and he’s thrown for 13,000-plus career yards. Bentley told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper earlier this year that he’d be willing to listen if an SEC or ACC school came calling. The newspaper asked because so far it appears Old Dominion may have too good a quarterback to hold onto.
Both quarterbacks are rated three-star prospects.
All I can say is this: If SEC schools don’t think these two guys can play, I would just advise them not to schedule East Carolina or Old Dominion in the next four to five years. I have a feeling some BCS-conference schools are going to pay (with an upset loss or two) for overlooking these two.
Editor’s note: All rankings used by Saturday Down South, individual and team-wise, refer to the 247Sports.com composite ranking.