Creating the perfect SEC QB for 2022
This year, the SEC returns a number of incredibly talented quarterbacks. Of course, any talk of SEC quarterbacks starts with Bryce Young of Alabama, who claimed the Heisman Trophy last year.
Then, there’s Georgia’s Stetson Bennett IV, who rose from the ranks of a walk-on to lead the Bulldogs to their first national title since 1980 in 2021. That’s the stuff Hollywood writers dream of.
Beyond those 2 accomplished quarterbacks, there are several other players who bring elite attributes to the table. Kentucky’s Will Levis is being mentioned as a potential No. 1 pick candidate for the 2023 NFL Draft. Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker could work his way into the Round 1 mix.
Elsewhere, Will Rogers of Mississippi State, Anthony Richardson of Florida, KJ Jefferson of Arkansas and a host of other talented and capable quarterbacks will compete to show they have what it takes to pick up wins.
However, only a handful of players can be used to create our perfect SEC quarterback for the 2022 season. So, without further ado, here’s who we chose to make up our elite quarterback:
Arm: Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
Hooker has the strongest arm in the SEC. Yes, that led to him making some comically bad overthrows during the 2021 season, but there’s no denying that Hooker has serious arm talent.
Need someone to attest to that? How about JaVonta Payton, who was on the receiving end of some of Hooker’s longest bombs last year. Here’s Hooker firing a ball 40 yards on a dime to the back of the end zone without even being able to step into the throw due to pressure in his face:
Perfect throw from Hendon Hooker, one hell of a catch by Javonta Payton for 6 pic.twitter.com/aOWE0XDn3W
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 18, 2021
Here he is connecting with Payton for a 75-yard touchdown despite being hit by a Florida defender:
Hendon Hooker to JaVonta Payton for the 75-yard TD bomb.
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) September 26, 2021
Does Hooker need to prove he’s not just a system quarterback who has success in Josh Heupel’s fast-paced offense? Sure. Does he need to work on his reads? Absolutely. But, there’s no coaching arm talent like Hooker has.
Legs: KJ Jefferson, Arkansas
Jefferson is built like a linebacker, standing 6-3 and weighing 245 pounds. He led all returning SEC quarterbacks in rushing yards in 2021, piling up 664 yards. That was behind only Emory Jones (now at Arizona State) and his 758 rushing yards for the Florida Gators.
Jefferson is a punishing runner who isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder against linebackers and defensive backs. He can also go airborne when needed around the goal line, as he showed on this impressive touchdown run against Ole Miss:
I watched this live, but this angle of KJ Jefferson's Superman TD is so much better. Dude jumps from the five yard line pic.twitter.com/0GJN3YOXMe
— Joe Broback (@joebroback) May 17, 2022
Online sports betting has come or is coming to many southern states. Residents of states where legalized sports betting exists can bet on things like the Heisman race, SEC football games each week and more... all right from their mobile device.
But when it comes to using your legs as a quarterback, it’s important to not only use them to run. Sometimes, you have to keep your eyes downfield and use your mobility to buy time for a receiver to get open.
Jefferson displays that characteristic here against LSU, avoiding a sack until RB Dominique Johnson could shake loose from the defense:
KJ Jefferson : 18/25 for 142 yards, 1 TD & a 133 QB Rating; 15 carries for 41 yards
Dominique Johnson : 15 carries for 40 yards; 2 catches for 40 yards & a TD pic.twitter.com/9fYD2jFboV
— Lee Harvey (@AyeThatsLee) November 14, 2021
That’s a great trait for a quarterback to have. All the better if his body frame strikes fear in opposing defenders, too.
Accuracy: Will Rogers, Mississippi State
No SEC quarterback completed a higher percentage of his passes than Rogers in 2021. The Mississippi State star connected on 73.9% of his attempts, which is no easy task, considering he attempted a league-high 683 throws.
For comparison, Hendon Hooker was second in completion percentage at 68%, meaning Rogers bested him by an impressive 5.9%.
Yes, Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense accounts for a lot of Rogers’ success, as the system prioritizes short, quick throws. In fact, Rogers averaged only 6.9 yards per throw, which put him at No. 10 among 13 qualifying SEC quarterbacks.
But, to Rogers’ credit, the Air Raid system only works if you have a quarterback capable of thriving in that environment. And thrive Rogers did.
Look at this game against Auburn from 2021, when Rogers threw for 415 yards and 6 touchdowns in a come-from-behind win. He’s at his best in the red zone, where it’s usually much harder for quarterbacks to succeed since the defense doesn’t have as much ground to cover:
🐶 415 Pass Yds
🐶 6 Pass TD
🐶 25-point comeback vs. Auburn
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 13, 2021
He’s a guy who knows how to put the ball where only his receivers can get it. That led to a huge amount of success in 2021. The sky’s the limit for him in 2022.
Vision: Bryce Young, Alabama
Young could probably be at any spot on this list, as he did win the 2021 Heisman Trophy thanks to his incredible skills. But his vision is what truly sets him apart. He is elite when it comes to moving around in the pocket and keeping his eyes down the field.
This do-or-die drive in the fourth quarter of the Iron Bowl illustrates that perfectly. Young has multiple occasions where he gets the ball out of his hand just before taking a costly sack. He also is able to find open receivers while scrambling:
We don’t give Bryce Young enough credit for this drive. pic.twitter.com/8YbGhH3H5c
— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) August 1, 2022
He isn’t always inclined to take off running at the first sign of trouble. Yes, he is talented with his legs, but he knows it’s more efficient to move the ball through the air if you can.
Then, in the SEC Championship Game victory against Georgia, Young was able to see that speedy WR Jameson Williams had a step on his defenders despite double coverage. Naturally, he hit Williams in stride for a 55-yard touchdown.
As long as he can keep seeing the field this well in 2022, we should expect another big year from the reigning Heisman winner.
Confidence: Will Levis, Kentucky
Levis plays with a gunslinger mentality. Yes, it gets him into trouble at times, as he threw an SEC-high 13 interceptions. But it also leads to him making some huge plays on throws other SEC quarterbacks wouldn’t even think to attempt.
He has a little bit of Brett Favre in his game, and I, a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan, mean that as a top-tier compliment. Will Levis has never met a throw he doesn’t think he can make, and I like that confidence in my quarterbacks.
He’s also not afraid to lower his shoulder and run the ball when the situation calls for it. Heck, he had 4 touchdown runs against rival Louisville in 2021:
— Eli Gehn (@EliGehnTV) November 28, 2021
His decision-making needs to improve this fall, but he’s not on this list for his decision-making. He’s on it because he plays the game with a fearlessness that I admire.
Leadership: Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia
What makes Stetson Bennett a good quarterback? He doesn’t have the prototypical size. He doesn’t have a cannon. He isn’t the fastest quarterback in the SEC (though his speed and running ability are certainly underrated).
No, what makes Bennett great is that he makes winning plays. It’s that simple. He’s been doubted his entire career. But, last year, only one quarterback got to say he started for the national championship-winning squad, and it was Bennett.
His teammates trust him. His coaches trust him. Even if some of the fans were calling for him to be benched, he managed to brush that aside while continuing to play winning football. He has that “it” quality that makes champions. Tom Brady wasn’t the strongest or fastest quarterback at Michigan. He didn’t have the biggest arm. But once he got to the NFL, he made the plays needed to win.
Bennett has some of those same qualities. He’s a guy his teammates will happily fight for, and that’s a tough quality to find.
Big-play ability: Anthony Richardson, Florida
Anthony Richardson is an incredible talent. Even in part-time duty alongside Emory Jones in 2021, Richardson’s talent stood out. And he has a knack for making huge plays with his arm and his legs.
Check out this run against Florida Atlantic:
Anthony Richardson TD run 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/4f3A9W2m2j
— Our Two Bits (@OurTwoBits) September 5, 2021
The following week, he did this against USF:
Anthony Richardson’s first pass of the game
75-yard TD 🚀 #CFB
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 11, 2021
In that same game, he had an 80-yard TD run where even a cramp couldn’t stop him from outrunning the entire USF defense:
Anthony Richardson out outruns the entire USF defense for an 80 yard TD, despite an apparent cramp or injury during the play. Gators fans everywhere united in hope and prayer that it's the former and not the latter 🙏 pic.twitter.com/LNhQVtwzkY
— libgator (@lib_gator) September 11, 2021
Richardson makes big plays in his sleep. If he can stay healthy and play the entire season for the Gators in 2022, the sky’s the limit for what he can accomplish.