Ranking 2014 position groups by team: Quarterback
Breaking down every team’s roster with an emphasis on experience and potential impact, here’s a team-by-team look at the SEC’s best position groups at quarterback heading into the 2014 season. We’ve ranked the SEC’s best players by position, but depth is often a concern.
- SEC’s best players by position
- Team Position Rankings: Quarterbacks
- Team Position Rankings: Running Backs
- Team Position Rankings: Wide Receivers
- Team Position Rankings: Offensive Line
- Team Position Rankings: Defensive Line
- Team Position Rankings: Linebackers
- Team Position Rankings: Defensive Backs
Note: These are based on every team’s roster at the quarterback position, not starting quarterback rankings.
14. Kentucky: The starting quarterback race is soon coming to an end in Lexington and sophomore Patrick Towles looks to be the guy heading Neal Brown’s offense. Preferably, the Wildcats would like to redshirt true freshman Drew Barker and put second-year player Reese Phillips behind Towles. Maxwell Smith, Kentucky’s only scholarship quarterback who has started a game, has fallen a few spots back after missing spring practice in his recovery post-shoulder surgery.
13. Arkansas: Bret Bielema has delivered a repeated stance this fall that Brandon Allen is the Razorbacks’ quarterback, a redshirt junior who underperformed in the role during the 2013 campaign. Allen’s adjusted QBR (58.5) didn’t rank among the top 60 college quarterbacks, but Bielema insists he expects a better performance this fall. Allen’s brother, Austin, is his backup who has provided some competitive pressure in practice. Should things go south in a hurry by mid-September, Austin Allen could see action.
12. Vanderbilt: First-year coach Derek Mason and his offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell have a decision to make before game prep soon begins: Who starts at quarterback, Patton Robinette or transfer Stephen Rivers? Robinette has the most experience for the Commodores, but Rivers, the younger brother of San Diego Chargers starter Philip, fits the pocket passer mold. There’s also redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary who gives Vanderbilt a different element with his athleticism. He likely won’t win the job, but it’ll be difficult to keep his play-making ability off the field.
11. Texas A&M: Though coaches were mum after the Aggies’ first scrimmage last weekend, Texas A&M believes the offense will be in good hands with either quarterback vying for the starting spot this fall. Kenny Hill appears to be the immediate starter when his team opens at South Carolina on Aug. 28 since he’s played a bit as Johnny Manziel’s backup, but heralded true freshman Kyle Allen could be the future for Kevin Sumlin’s offense. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital likes what both quarterbacks bring to the table and says both passers are ready to go.
10. Tennessee: Butch Jones hasn’t had many good things to say about his quarterback battle during fall practice, questioning each competitor’s leadership abilities and overall lack of improvement. Back at full strength after seeing his junior season cut short, Justin Worley’s going to be the first guy in the huddle when the Vols take on Utah State, but he’s on a short leash if turnover numbers persist. Tennessee lost some depth, and perhaps a starter, when Riley Ferguson transferred after spring practice, but Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman are capable of handling the offense if Worley fails.
9. LSU: Though not as experienced at the position as a couple teams behind them, the Tigers have the potential to be game-changing at the quarterback position this fall with sophomore Anthony Jennings or perhaps five-star freshman Brandon Harris. Jennings opened LSU’s fall practice with the first-team offense, but Harris, coming off a fantastic spring, has also gotten reps with the projected starters. Les Miles will make the final call, but offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said both players have improved since the start of August and the competition has been stiff every day in practice.
8. Georgia: The Bulldogs’ offense may not look the same when they take the field against Clemson in a few weeks, but coach Mark Richt isn’t expecting much of a production loss following Aaron Murray’s exit. He’s expressed confidence in fifth-year quarterback Hutson Mason throughout the summer and believes he can handle the expectations left in the record-setter’s wake. Mason has playing experience with a couple of starts and knows this is his team. Redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey and third-year sophomore Faton Bauta are battling for the second team spot.
7. South Carolina: Steve Spurrier’s comfortable at quarterback for the fifth consecutive season heading into his team’s opening game, a far cry from the ineptitude at the position during his early years in Columbia, S.C. Senior Dylan Thompson knows the offense, understands its intricacies and has received substantial playing time during his career despite being Connor Shaw’s backup the last few seasons. Redshirt freshman Connor Mitch has separated himself from the rest of South Carolina’s passers as the second-team guy, followed by Perry Orth. Redshirt sophomore Brendan Nosovitch threatened to transfer after burying himself on the depth chart, but has since switched positions to a tight end-wide receiver hybrid.
6. Florida: Super thin at the position last season, injuries and transfers led to eight losses, an obvious position of interest the Gators think they have fixed heading into the 2014 campaign. Jeff Driskel has regained his spot as the face of Florida’s offense after being sidelined for most of last season and should have a statistically-worthy junior campaign under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator and quarterback expert Kurt Roper. Tyler Murphy’s decision to transfer to Boston College after the season left redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg in a battle with two youngsters — Will Grier and Treon Harris — for the backup role. Florida will likely redshirt Grier or Harris once one freshman quarterback separates from the other as a potential contributor.
5. Alabama: It’s a safe bet Nick Saban hands Jacob Coker the keys to the Crimson Tide offense despite senior Blake Sims’ two-year stint as A.J. McCarron’s primary backup. Coker appears to be the quarterback who can better execute first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s style and can handle the pressure associated with being a transfer starter at an SEC favorite. Sims has been around longer, but Coker has the bigger upside and it makes more sense for Alabama to go with the player it’s viewing as a game-changer. Sims didn’t help his cause by performing poorly in the spring game.
4. Missouri: Despite the loss of veteran quarterback James Franklin, the Tigers’ offense could be even better this season with Maty Mauk, a redshirt sophomore who has already proved he can be a prolific threat through the air and on the ground in Mizzou’s hurry-up scheme. Mauk played in 13 games last season, contributing 11 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. He’s lethal outside the pocket, an element that separates him from junior backup Corbin Berkstresser. Berkstresser has seen action in several contests during his career but is locked in a battle with second-year player Eddie Printz for second team reps.
3. Ole Miss: Barring injury, the Rebels are excited about the potential production they get from multi-year starter Bo Wallace, the SEC’s career leader by a longshot in yards, completions, attempts and touchdowns. While Wallace has proved he’s dual-threat capable at times, Ole Miss may utilize Jeremy Liggins, a 300-pound sophomore and JUCO transfer tight end, in certain short-yardage packages. DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan are both redshirt freshmen, not quite ready to step in without worry. One of the two will likely become Wallace’s primary backup, but Liggins will get more snaps this season as a situational player.
2. Mississippi St.: Billed as the Bulldogs’ top quarterback heading into a season in several years, Dak Prescott’s overall performance will dictate just how far Mississippi St. can contend for an SEC Western Division championship. Prescott could lead the SEC in rushing at his position if Auburn decides to air it out a bit more with additional weapons for Nick Marshall. Damian Williams, a sophomore, appeared in six games last fall with minimal results. He’ll be the second team quarterback ahead of true freshman Nick Fitzgerald.
1. Auburn: The Tigers are set at quarterback the next three seasons, an ideal scenario for offensive juggernaut Gus Malzahn. JUCO transfer Nick Marshall exploded onto the scene as a first-year starter for the league champions last season and has the talent to win the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year award as a senior. The guy playing behind him, Jeremy Johnson, will appear in certain packages and has a better arm. Junior Jonathan Wallace is a forgotten man with four career starts, but he’ll have a shot at competing with Johnson for the starting job in 2015.