Better or worse? Describing every SEC team's QB situation in 2020
Nothing stays the same. That includes the state of SEC QB play in 2020.
The league just lost a trio of immensely talented QBs. All 3 won an SEC championship, 2 won a national championship and the other reached the title game.
Joe Burrow had the single greatest season in the sport’s history. We know LSU’s QB situation won’t come anywhere near his record-breaking 2019 campaign.
But what about the rest of the league? Should fans feel optimistic or fearful? Will the QB play be better, worse or very similar?
Alabama: Slightly worse (but much better than you think)
Here’s the thing: Mac Jones is fully capable of throwing for 35+ TDs in 2020. (He averaged a TD pass every 10 throws in 2019.) He doesn’t have Tua Tagovailoa’s NFL future, but he still has explosive wideouts, NFL-caliber running backs and one of the best lines in the country. This offense is set up to succeed … and it will.
It can’t possibly be any worse than 5 guys sharing snaps and splitting starts — most of the yo-yoing a result of indecisiveness and poor play as opposed to injury.
Feleipe Franks will end every bit of that nonsense and throw for 25+ TDs in 2020.
Auburn: Slightly better
Bo Nix will be a year older, but I still don’t like his mechanics. His sidearm delivery reminds me more of a shortstop than an All-SEC QB. Accuracy will continue to be an issue. But he’s the guy and the offense will be built around him, so you can expect him to surpass his freshman numbers (2,542 yards, 16 TDs). The number that really needs to jump is YPA. It was just 6.7 last season. Real progress/development will push that closer to 8.0.
I hear the Emory Jones talk and wonder: The only way that Dan Mullens considers switching from Kyle Trask to Jones is if he isn’t convinced Florida has the wideouts to keep throwing it 35 times a game.
Trask proved he is effective and efficient. That might sound like “average,” but he was better than that. Yes, the Gators will have an overhauled receiving corps in 2020, but it’s a much more troubling sign if Mullen, after 3 recruiting classes, hasn’t found answers on the outside.
I do, however, like the flexibility and schematic edge that the Gators have with 2 completely different QBs.
The knee-jerk reaction will be, “What?” Followed by expletives. All good. I’ve heard it all. A few more won’t bother me.
The simple truth is, for whatever reason, Jake Fromm regressed significantly in 2019. I’m convinced one of the reasons he left early was he didn’t think 2020 would be much different.
It will be though. Kirby Smart hired Todd Monken to overhaul/upgrade the passing game. It was a year too late for Fromm, but it will help grad transfer Jamie Newman.
I’ll be stunned if Newman doesn’t throw more than 24 TD passes (Fromm’s total) in 2020. Heck, he threw 26 last season for Wake Forest.
Kentucky: Better (but not nearly as much fun to watch)
Terry Wilson’s injury essentially ended Kentucky’s ability and willingness to throw the football. But then Lynn Bowden reminded us there is more than 1 way to win. Bowden was as fun to watch as Joe Burrow — just in exactly opposite ways.
Kentucky threw 9 TD passes in 2019. Obviously that total will grow, probably triple, in 2020.
Ideally, Wilson is fully healed and Joey Gatewood is eligible for 2020, giving Mark Stoops 2 capable options.
Burrow threw 60 TD passes in 2020. LSU threw 59 combined in 2015-2018.
I’ll be genuinely impressed if Myles Brennan gets to 25 in 2020.
Moving along …
Mississippi State: Better
Sorry, Joe, but this is what a real QB guru looks like.
Much like Dan Mullen, Mike Leach will scheme his way to 3,000 yards and 30 TD passes. Moorhead’s QBs totaled 2,333 and 19 — in 13 games — last season.
Honestly, I don’t have a real good feel for the Tigers. New QB, new head coach — neither nearly as proven, either.
Eli Drinkwitz has a reputation as an offensive savant. His App State team certainly scored in bunches in 2019. It made just enough plays to knock off North Carolina and South Carolina, too.
I need to see a bit more, but if you’re a Tigers fan, you certainly are expecting more than 17 TD passes again in 2020.
Ole Miss: Better
Why? Lane Kiffin.
Sometimes it’s as simple the man calling the offense.
The interesting thing will be to see how Kiffin handles the QBs. John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral are so different, but both are effective.
Expecting the Rebels to throw more than 11 TD passes in 2020 is the easiest “over” in the league.
South Carolina: Better
Admittedly, the bar is low. The Gamecocks threw just 12 TD passes in 2019. (They threw 32 in 2018).
Injuries (Jake Bentley) and inexperience (Ryan Hilinski) no doubt contributed, but so, too, did the Gamecocks’ indecisiveness. They never figured out what exactly they wanted to be on offense.
That’ll change in 2020. Mike Bobo was hired to fix the offense, and he will.
That’s not necessarily a reflection of the QBs. Wide receivers play a key role, too, and Tennessee is losing its 2 best in Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway. They accounted for 1,600 receiving yards and 14 of the Vols’ 19 TD receptions last season. No other Vol had more than 1 TD reception.
Couple that with the star-studded offensive line returning, and I expect Jeremy Pruitt to lean even more heavily on the running game in 2020.
Texas A&M: Better
It’s go time for Kellen Mond and the Aggies.
The schedule isn’t as brutal. The learning curve should be complete. Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rogers are off to the NFL, but leading receiver Jhamon Ausbon returns after a breakout junior season. He’ll be joined by All-Freshman SEC TE Jalen Wydermyer. Isaiah Spiller, a natural receiver, proved to be a threat out of the backfield. He’ll have a prominent role.
Modest goals for Mond in 2020: 3,300 yards and 30 TD passes. If the Aggies truly hope to contend, Mond will need to contend for the SEC passing TD title.
Consider this an even murkier situation than Missouri.
Vandy has a new offensive coordinator in Todd Fitch and a QB competition following graduation and transfers. Fitch has a reputation of developing QBs, but it will be tested in 2020.
Who wins the job? It’s too early to tell. The Commodores signed JUCO Jeremy Moussa, who has the most game experience in the QB room.
It’s logical to look at their situation and say “worse,” but Vandy only threw 10 TD passes last season.
Expecting 1 TD pass per game isn’t unrealistic, is it?