When a team names its starting quarterback, the hope is that quarterback will start every game. Things don’t always work out that way, however, and it helps to have a backup ready to take over at a moments notice.
These five SEC teams won’t have to worry if the starter has to miss a play, a couple weeks or even the rest of the season.
Option 1: Jalen Hurts
Option 2: Tua Tagovailoa
Skinny: When the quarterback who took a team to the national championship game returns for another season, it’s safe to say that team has one of the most enviable depth charts in not just the SEC, but college football. Despite the return of Jalen Hurts, there was arguably more buzz this spring out of Tuscaloosa about freshman Tua Tagovailoa, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback of the 2017 class according to the 247Sports Composite.
While Hurts’ job is considered safe, it’s not hard to see why Tagovailoa is already turning heads at Alabama.
Watch this throw by Tua Tagovailoa – pressure in his face, had to throw it off his back foot yet hits his moving receiver in stride pic.twitter.com/9TiHFZrc6Q
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) April 25, 2017
To state the obvious, Tagovailoa’s early enrollment makes him a much more prepared backup than a summer enrollee freshman. While it’s a very young depth chart of a sophomore (Hurts) and two early enrollees (Tagovailoa, Mac Jones), it’s hard to imagine there’s an SEC team that wouldn’t want to swap scholarship quarterbacks with Alabama given the chance.
— BamaVideo (@BamaVideo_) April 22, 2017
Option 1: Jarrett Stidham
Option 2: Sean White
The Crimson Tide isn’t the only school in Alabama excited about a new quarterback. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham aired it out in Auburn’s spring game, showing off his arm strength by connecting on four passes that went 30 yards on longer. It’s been a while, but Tigers fans were reminded of what a functioning, wide-open passing attack looks like.
— Kyle Burger (@kyle_burger) April 8, 2017
While Gus Malzahn hasn’t made it official, it’s clear that Stidham will be the starter, and Auburn will be a contender in the SEC West. If something happens to Stidham, Malzahn has a nice insurance policy in Sean White, last year’s starter. White has familiarity with Auburn’s offensive linemen and receivers, and wouldn’t be fazed by having to come in off the bench in a big game. There are obviously reasons White is losing his job to Stidham, but as far as backups go, it’s hard to do better than a former starter.
Option 1: Jacob Eason
Option 2: Brice Ramsey/Jake Fromm
The best news for Kirby Smart in 2017 might be a non-transfer. Backup QB Brice Ramsey recently decided he will not transfer from UGA and instead finish out his remaining eligibility with the Bulldogs. In a way, it’s like Smart just got to move one of his top quarterbacks to the class of 2018.
After signing Jacob Eason in 2016, Smart landed another top recruit in the 2017 recruiting class, Jake Fromm. Due to a lack of depth, it looked like Fromm would almost certainly be Eason’s backup (though there was some chatter about him possibly competing for the starting job). Before Ramsey changed his mind, it was almost certain that Fromm would play in 2017 and start his four-year clock. With Ramsey on the roster, Fromm might not have to take a snap in 2017, and could redshirt.
If Fromm redshirts, he’s a redshirt freshman when Eason becomes a true junior. Ever since Eason signed with Georgia, it has been assumed that the former 5-star recruit would leave for the NFL after three years. Waiting to start Fromm’s four-year clock helps Smart with the long-term depth chart at the position.
Getting Ramsey back for emergency snaps or mop-up duty this season could help the Bulldogs down the road if it results in an extra year of Fromm on campus. Even if Fromm redshirts, he will certainly prepare every week as if he’ll be needed. If Eason were to suffer a serious injury, Fromm would likely take the starting job over Ramsey.
Jake Fromm's first touchdown pass of his Georgia career pic.twitter.com/3VbYlKL4je
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) April 22, 2017
Option 1: Feleipe Franks/Malik Zaire
Option 2: Malik Zaire/Feleipe Franks
Option 3: Luke Del Rio
Florida is different from the above teams as there’s no clear starter, but Jim McElwain has quite a few options. Feleipe Franks, a former 4-star recruit signed by McElwain, has been learning the playbook and throwing to Gators receivers since January 2016. Former Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire, a graduate transfer, is a veteran starter (albeit only a few starts) with a skill set that differentiates him from his teammates. Luke Del Rio, meanwhile, has been on campus since the summer of 2015 and won the starting job in fall camp last season.
The real value for Florida is here. The ability Malik Zaire has to evade pressure & create positive plays is his biggest asset IMO. pic.twitter.com/HaYbKpA1gl
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 4, 2017
Based on Franks’ spring, Del Rio, who has been sidelined since Week 10 of last season, would not have held on to the starting job for this season. He does, however, make for a great third-string option if Franks and Zaire are both out. In an emergency situation, McElwain would likely feel more comfortable asking Del Rio to step in than redshirt freshman Kyle Trask. The vast majority of snaps, however, should go to Franks and Zaire barring injuries or off-field issues.
— Ashlyn Sullivan (@ashlynrsullivan) April 8, 2017
Option 1: Stephen Johnson/Drew Barker/Gunnar Hoak
Option 2: Drew Barker/Stephen Johnson/Gunnar Hoak
Option 3: Gunnar Hoak/Stephen Johnson/Drew Barker
It’s not often we see Kentucky quarterbacks featured on a “best” list (no offense, Big Blue Nation), but Mark Stoops has to like his quarterback depth chart. Barker, last year’s starter out of camp, missed this spring recovering from back surgery, leaving Stephen Johnson and Gunnar Hoak to compete for the job. Johnson has nine starts under his belt, including the win over Louisville in Week 13. Hoak, on the other hand, actually had the better spring game. In all three scenarios, there’s an experienced starter waiting on the bench if needed.
Gunnar Hoak takes his turn at the Yankee Concept. Added some real run action with the pull protection. pic.twitter.com/Lqa96iig1e
— todd greenwell (@GreenwellTodd) April 15, 2017