The 5 most intriguing SEC quarterback storylines in Week 1
Man, does it feel good.
Week 1 has finally arrived after the longest offseason ever, and if that doesn’t give you goosebumps, I don’t know what does.
There are no shortage of storylines, specifically as it relates to SEC quarterbacks. Everyone has a battle. Maybe not “everyone,” but it does seem like there’s definitely more unsettled quarterback situations than usual.
That means we’re going to learn a lot in Week 1. That can be anything from whether a second quarterback is involved in the game plan to how a new coordinator calls plays.
To say something is “intriguing” just means that it has my interest. It’s not to say that it’s automatically the best. But it’s the thing that I’ll find myself paying closest attention to on Saturday.
These are my 5 most intriguing SEC quarterback storylines in Week 1:
5. What are the early returns on the Bo Nix/Chad Morris connection?
I’m definitely taking the “under” on whatever the bar for expectations is with Nix and Morris. Why? That’s probably a bit more on Morris because of how disastrous his offenses were at Arkansas, no matter who started at quarterback. I have serious reservations about how that’ll turn around calling plays for Nix, who struggled with consistency and efficiency as a true freshman.
How does Auburn, with 4 new starters on the offensive line, hold up against an experienced Kentucky front 7? As strange as it sounds, the Wildcats are a great barometer for Nix taking that Year 2 step that many are expecting. Will we see some interesting wrinkles from Morris dialing up looks for Anthony Schwartz? Or will it look like Nix can’t get rid of the ball all day?
I don’t know. But if Nix plays well in the opener against a rock solid Kentucky defense, it would be a major positive for Auburn’s chances of competing in this 10-game conference-only schedule.
4. How will Terry Wilson and Feleipe Franks look coming off major injuries?
Both saw their 2019 seasons come to a devastating close in Lexington last September, albeit on different nights. Now, both Year 5 quarterbacks are hoping for a comeback season.
For Wilson, his surroundings are arguably more favorable now than they were in 2018 when he led Kentucky to its best season in 4 decades. He has 3 proven tailbacks and 3 preseason All-SEC guys blocking for him. Wilson’s ability to stretch the field with his arm will be a weapon for Eddie Gran. We should see that more than we saw when Wilson was last fully healthy. The question is how much will we see him create with his legs.
I suppose that question also applies to Franks in Kendal Briles’ offense. Given how Franks learned to thrive with his legs in Dan Mullen’s offense, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some similar concepts.
Feleipe Franks. QB sneak.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) August 25, 2019
Will Franks be timid coming off the first major injury of his college career? Or will he fully embrace being a true dual-threat quarterback? Either way, Franks is in for a daunting, yet familiar challenge against Georgia.
Wilson and Franks will return against the likes of Kevin Steele and Kirby Smart, respectively. That’s not ideal. But hey, welcome to 2020 in the SEC.
3. What kind of introduction is it for the grad transfers in their SEC debuts?
Collin Hill and KJ Costello are both facing an uphill climb in 2020. I say that because obviously this hasn’t been a normal year to go to a new program. The fact that it coincides with facing 10 teams from the nation’s best conference — and not the Mountain West or Pac-12 — is just another reason why Hill and Costello have challenging roads ahead.
Hill opens against Tennessee, which was one of the best defensive teams in the country in the latter half of 2019. On top of that, Hill’s new fan base will watch him with an eyebrow raised knowing that Ryan Hilinski is waiting. Of course, Hill is starting because of his familiarity in Mike Bobo’s offense. If Hill looks the part and pulls off a big Week 1 win, it’ll do wonders for a pressure-packed situation.
As for Costello, he gets to run Mike Leach’s offense, which is certainly an enviable position. How will Leach’s offense translate to the SEC? That remains to be seen. Throwing the ball 50 times per game isn’t something this conference is used to. And oh, Costello will take on LSU, which was perfect last season, lost a lot of production, but is going to be “much better” on defense, according to Ed Orgeron.
Baptism by fire? Yep.
2. How does Lane manage Matt Corral and John Rhys Plumlee?
Whoever starts at quarterback for Lane Kiffin will be getting the keys to a Ferrari. Maybe that won’t look like the case in Week 1, but long term, go ask Kiffin’s 5 different all-conference quarterbacks from 2014-19 what it means to start for him.
My gut says that Corral will be QB1. And by “gut,” I mean all that we’ve heard out of camp. As a Plumlee supporter, that’s a bummer. What he can do with the ball in his hands is special. One has to think that if Corral is indeed the starter, Plumlee is going to find his way on to the field. He’s too good of a ballcarrier not to get some touches.
No. 1 LSU got the win …
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) July 3, 2020
Kiffin clearly wanted to keep his plans close to the vest, especially with a brutal Week 1 matchup against Todd Grantham’s defense. Corral and Plumlee are completely different players who require different types of defensive discipline. That won’t be lost on Florida.
It’ll be interesting to see how we’re talking about the Ole Miss quarterback situation after Week 1. Will all of us be sold on the idea that Corral makes Kiffin’s offense tougher to defend? Or will there will be more clamoring than ever for Plumlee?
Whatever the case, Kiffin’s got quite the quarterback decision in Year 1.
1. Who’s the man for Georgia?
Have you heard that there’s a quarterback battle in Athens? Oh, you have?
That battle, which lost Jamie Newman via opt-out, is much different than anyone could have predicted 9 months ago. USC transfer JT Daniels and D’Wan Mathis are going to dominate headlines well beyond Week 1. Kirby Smart said that he expects Daniels to be cleared for contact by Saturday, but will he immediately be declared the starter?
Mathis earned some rave reviews in camp for his big arm and playmaking ability. How that translates to live game action, we don’t know. The same could be said for Daniels, who hasn’t taken hits since his season-ending injury at USC a year ago.
We do know that Todd Monken’s offense will look different than what we’re used to seeing in Athens. Georgia is going to test teams vertically more than it did with the previous offensive staff. Getting 4 new starters on the offensive line up to speed will impact that a great deal.
In the event that Georgia runs it up on Arkansas in the Sam Pittman bowl, perhaps we even see both quarterbacks. Still, the intrigue lies with whether the new QB1 in Athens is Mathis or Daniels.