Could the 2016 class revitalize quarterback play in the SEC?
Nearly every recruiting cycle, approximately half of the Southeastern Conference football programs are ranked inside of the top 25 of the consensus team recruiting rankings.
That has been a consistent trend that hasn’t changed much and is evident when you look at the current 2016 team rankings (247Sports Composite) where LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, Auburn and Florida make up half of the top 10.
Given the league’s geographic footprint includes some of the most fertile recruiting territory in the country, including three of top four talent-producing states (Florida, Georgia and Texas), it’s no surprise that SEC teams generally recruit high-level talent.
In recent seasons, however, it’s fair to point out that the league has had widespread issues at the most important position on the field — quarterback. Play at that position has been average at best as a whole and doesn’t stack up to other power five leagues.
It has been a position that has been quite transient of late. This offseason, we’ve already seen Patrick Towles transfer from Kentucky and a pair of promising young signal callers in Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray transfer away from Texas A&M. Both were five-star prospects. Allen was the No. 1 quarterback nationally in the 2014 cycle.
Glancing at the rosters around the league, there are very few ideal situations at quarterback at any school. The Aggies actually were in better shape than most other programs before the departures.
Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee are what I would consider “in good shape” at quarterback right now.
- The Crimson Tide will be breaking in a first-time starter for the third straight year, but there is depth.
- The Razorbacks have a transfer from Southern California in Ricky Town to go along with Austin Allen and Ty Storey.
- Chad Kelly likely is back for Ole Miss next year and five-star freshman Shea Patterson arrives with this class.
- Vols true freshman Quinten Dormandy looked good in relief of starter Josh Dobbs this season, plus there is Sheriron Jones, who has loads of potential and incoming freshman Jarrett Guarantano is ranked as the No. 1 dual-threat signal caller for 2016 by 247Sports Composite rankings.
The good news for the SEC is that top-shelf quarterback prospects are still flocking to the league. The three best pro-style quarterbacks — Jacob Eason (Georgia), Patterson and Feleipe Franks (Florida) — all are heading to the league.
Four of the top five dual-theat quarterbacks, including Guarantano, Brandon McIlwain (South Carolina), Woody Barrett (Auburn) and Jalen Hurts (Alabama) are SEC-bound as well.
This position is very unique in the sense that it’s so hit or miss in terms of evaluation and development. We see that in the NFL where roughly half of the first-round picks at quarterback ever play up to their lofty draft status.
The transition from one level of football to the next is particularly unique for a quarterback because of difference of the speed of the game and the need to adjust to it in the decision-making process. It’s something that has to be adjusted to mentally as well as physically and it’s nearly impossible to predict with any amount of accuracy how that adjustment will go.
Then you throw in that only one quarterback at a time plays and it makes it the toughest position on the field to recruit because you basically get a shot at one guy per recruiting cycle (two at the most) and you have to make it count or it can severely damage your program. It’s not like recruiting at say, offensive line, where if you sign five and three turn out well then that’s a good recruiting class. You are either batting 1.000 or .000 for an entire cycle.
So who knows if the Class of 2016 will be the class that brings good quarterback play back to the SEC or not. There are a lot of good scheme fits and there is a lot of potential here, but it’s just that for right now.