10 SEC QBs (from the past 10 years) we didn't appreciate enough
As that great college football analyst Joni Mitchell once wrote, “Don’t it always seem to go/that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?”
OK, so maybe Joni isn’t the best source of college football wisdom, but if she was talking about (semi) forgotten SEC QBs, she’d be right. Whether it’s underappreciating fan bases or even SEC media, sometimes credit isn’t necessarily given where it’s due.
As we gear up toward another round of spring games and another round of hoping this QB might actually be the answer, here are 10 SEC signal-callers from the last decade that might not have gotten quite all the love they deserved.
Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
Dobbs wasn’t thought of in the same light as drop-back UT passers like Peyton Manning or Casey Clausen. And sure, he struggled against the SEC’s big dogs (although who at UT hasn’t in the last two decades?) Because of his issues, some UT fans didn’t appreciate what he accomplished. For one thing, the 9-win seasons he led in 2015 and 2016 haven’t been equaled since at UT (the Vols had last reached that level in 2007). For another, while his 7,138 passing yards are 5th in UT history, his 9,298 total yards are 3rd all-time — behind only Manning and Clausen. His 85 total touchdowns are between the two.
Austin Allen, Arkansas
Allen wasn’t even the most famous Arkansas QB in his own family, and after following Tyler Wilson and older brother, Brandon, all he did in his first year as a starter (2016) was pass for an SEC-best 3,430 yards and lead Arkansas to the Belk Bowl. Sure, his senior year was tough, but that 2016 season is still the level Arkansas is trying to reach again — and Austin Allen is probably a forgotten part of what now looks like glory days.
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
The only two 3,000 yard passing seasons in Auburn history belong to Dameyune Craig and Jarrett Stidham. At the time, Auburn fans couldn’t wait to hand off the reins from Stidham to Bo Nix. A couple of years and a coaching change later, a 10-3 regular season like Stidham led in 2017 would probably be acceptable for the Tigers. At the end of the day, Stidham is 6th in Auburn history in career passing yards (5,952) and in TDs (36).
Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Two 10+ win seasons at LSU. No, we’re not talking about Joe Burrow, although he did it too. Mettenberger led the Tigers to two 10-3 seasons at LSU, and was basically forgotten for it. Yes, it came on the heels of a national title game appearance in 2011. But after Mettenberger took the job in 2012 and 2013, LSU went through 4 seasons without a 10-win campaign until they got Burrow on the job. Mettenberger passed for 5,783 in two full seasons and a handful of 2011 snaps. His 3,082 passing yards in 2013 is 1 of only 4 3,000 yard seasons in LSU history.
Stephen Johnson, Kentucky
Kentucky signed JUCO transfer Stephen Johnson late in the process as injury insurance. Unfortunately, 4-star QB Drew Barker did get injured, and Johnson became UK’s starter for 2 seasons, leading the Wildcats to consecutive bowl trips (in 2016 and 2017) for the first time since 2009 and 2010. Johnson was never a stat compiler, passing for 4,342 yards in his 2 years. But Kentucky’s passing game has struggled even more since he graduated. And he’ll always have that glorious game in 2016 when he outpassed Lamar Jackson in an upset of Louisville.
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
He wasn’t Dak Prescott. Nobody else in program history has been, either. In fact, Prescott remains the only MSU QB to pass for 3,000 yards in a season. Fitzgerald, by comparison, was kind of ho-hum as a passer. But he ranks 3rd all-time with 6,207 yards, so he wasn’t exactly chopped liver. He also had a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons (and missed a 3rd by 16 yards) and is No. 2 all-time on the MSU rushing list (and holds the record with 46 rushing TDs). Granted, Mike Leach will probably have QBs throwing for 6,207 yards in a season (slight exaggeration). But he won’t have them rushing for anything near what Fitzgerald did.
James Franklin, Missouri
No, not that James Franklin. The Mizzou QB who was the first Tiger QB in the SEC, the guy who led Mizzou to a division title in their second year in the league — that James Franklin. Drew Lock definitely put up much bigger numbers, but Franklin, whose 6,962 passing yards is still 4th in Mizzou history, certainly had his moments. Franklin also rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns at Mizzou, and again, that division title should be respected.
Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt
Rodgers’s career stat line isn’t especially amazing, even compared to Kyle Shurmur’s, but his 4,063 passing yards in 2 seasons (7th in Vandy history) don’t account for him leading the Commodores to a 9-4 2012 season, which was the program’s first winning SEC campaign since 1982. Rodgers’ 2,539 passing yards and 15 passing touchdowns in 2012 are both top-10 marks on Vandy’s single-season record books.
Connor Shaw, South Carolina
He was in, he was out. Steve Spurrier loved him, Spurrier benched him. Carolina fans could be forgiven if they ran a little hot and cold on Connor Shaw, since their coach did the exact same thing. But Shaw was (mostly, kinda) at the helm for the trio of 11-2 seasons from 2011-2013 that are Carolina’s high watermark. Especially amazing was a 2013 season in which he threw for 24 touchdowns and a single interception. Spurrier probably pulled him after he threw it. For his career, Shaw passed for 6,074 yards and 56 touchdowns.
AJ McCarron, Alabama
McCarron is definitely the most famous QB on this list, and not just for Brent Musburger’s love of his girlfriend. Yes, A.J. is (still) the leading passer in Alabama history, but he’s probably feeling a little intimidated and neglected by virtue of the super QBs who followed. First there was Jalen Hurts, who could make most of the throws and all of the runs. And then Tua Tagovailoa, who could probably do it all blind-folded. All Mac Jones did was write the greatest single-season by a Bama QB ever. McCarron might have been more of a game manager than an explosive headline-grabber. But winning 2 nattys will be remembered, even if it was back in the days of the safe, conservative Alabama offense instead of the all-out explosions we’re seeing now.