Creating the perfect SEC quarterback for 2021
The SEC lost a few high-profile starting quarterbacks this offseason. Alabama’s Mac Jones, who finished No. 3 in the Heisman voting, went No. 15 overall to the New England Patriots. Florida’s Kyle Trask, who finished No. 4 in the Heisman race, went in Round 2 to the Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Elsewhere around the league, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond was a Round 3 pick of the Minnesota Vikings. Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent.
While we see who steps up to take those guys’ places, there are still a number of talented quarterbacks returning to fields around the SEC this fall.
Which QBs have the best skills? Here’s what skills we’d use to compile the perfect SEC quarterback for the 2021 season:
Arm: JT Daniels, Georgia
Daniels’ arm talent is undeniable. Even dating to his time at USC, he had one of the best throwing arms in college football. He’s done nothing to dispel that notion in Athens.
He can launch the ball 50 yards on a dime with the flick of his wrist:
JT Daniels’ sequence:
1st down: dropped TD
2nd down: dropped TD
3rd down: holding penalty
3rd & 20: Touchdown pic.twitter.com/Glgkz3EISX
— Wes Blankenship (@Wes_nship) November 22, 2020
He has the arm strength to zip a pass into traffic while rolling out:
JT Daniels throws the first TD of his Georgia career. pic.twitter.com/PgdoQFDcAE
— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) November 22, 2020
Even when the defense has a route played fairly well, he has enough of a cannon to get the ball to the receiver a split-second before the defender arrives, as he showed during Georgia’s spring game:
JT Daniels in Georgia’s spring game
🚀 324 yards
🚀 3 TD passes
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 17, 2021
When you have an arm like Daniels has, you can get away with making throws that would end in turnovers for QBs with lesser arm strength.
Legs: Emory Jones, Florida
When it comes to speed and natural instincts as a runner, no one beats Emory Jones of Florida. I had John Rhys Plumlee in this position last year, but he’s playing more receiver these days. Meanwhile, Jones finally gets his turn to start after waiting behind Kyle Trask the past couple of years.
He’s already shown what he can do with the ball in his hands against top teams. Against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game this past season, Jones came in and had this strong 17-yard run:
Emory Jones with a 17-yard run on his appearance in the game pic.twitter.com/3SIPiY0l9Y
— libgator (@lib_gator) December 20, 2020
He also came in during the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma and showed his power on this 1-yard run:
Oh que les Gators avaient besoin d'un drive comme ça !
TD QB Emory Jones ! 🐊
Florida 10, Oklahoma 17pic.twitter.com/fC76GrY2jN
— TBP College Football (@thebluepennant) December 31, 2020
Yes, he threw up while walking back to the sidelines after the play, but he proved his toughness by running through the heart of an underrated Sooners defense.
Jones carried the ball 32 times for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2020. That’s good for an impressive 6.8 yards-per-carry average. We’ll see how coach Dan Mullen uses his running ability this fall now that he’s the starter.
Body: KJ Jefferson, Arkansas
At 6-3, 240 pounds, Jefferson looks like a linebacker. In fact, he’s bigger than many college linebackers.
He’s a couple of inches shorter than former Arkansas starter Feleipe Franks, who was 6-6, but he has 20 pounds on Franks. His size makes it easier for him to see over the offensive and defensive lines, and it also helps him stand tall in the pocket and deliver strikes down the field:
KJ Jefferson to Treylon Burks for 68-yard touchdown.
Burks has been unguardable at times this season.pic.twitter.com/a2YtmFCC9Y
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) December 5, 2020
Keep an eye on that Jefferson-to-Treylon Burks connection this fall. If Jefferson can make big plays, Burks will be open more often than not.
Accuracy: Matt Corral, Ole Miss
By completing 70.9% of his passes last season, Corral is the SEC’s returning leader in completion percentage. Yes, he also threw 14 interceptions, but that comes from trying to do too much at times. He had 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions against LSU and an awful 2-touchdown, 6-interception performance against Arkansas.
When he diagnoses the play correctly, he puts the ball on the money almost every time. Here’s his pass chart from the South Carolina game (4 touchdowns, 0 picks, 87.5% completion rate):
Matt Corral's pass chart vs. SCar
— SEC StatCat (@SEC_StatCat) November 16, 2020
The “0 interceptable passes” stat is a good one. It’s something he’ll need to do more of this fall. Here’s the chart from his 6-touchdown, 0-interception game against Vandy, in which he tore the Commodores’ secondary apart with hitches:
Matt Corral's pass chart vs. Vandy
96.8% Adj Comp
71.4% Depth Adj Accuracy
79.4% Success Rate
14.7% Explosive Pass Rate
20.6% RPO Throw Rate
8.82% Pressure Rate
12/34 attempts targeted a hitch, no other route saw over 3 targetshttps://t.co/Oco9S9fOe7 pic.twitter.com/mufVNQG4Sz
— SEC StatCat (@SEC_StatCat) November 2, 2020
And, finally, here’s his 4-touchdown, 0-pick day against a tough Kentucky defense:
Matt Corral's pass chart vs. Kentucky
88.9% Adj Comp
54.8% Depth Adj Accuracy
68.9% (!!!) Success Rate
13.8% Exp Pass Rate
61.3% Air Yard Makeup
6.90% Uncatchable Pass Rate
0 Interceptable Passeshttps://t.co/Oco9S9fOe7 pic.twitter.com/DX3087pOcJ
— SEC StatCat (@SEC_StatCat) October 4, 2020
He won’t have Elijah Moore tearing up defenses this fall, but with his performance last year, he has one of the most accurate arms in the SEC and should have enough talent to improve in 2021.
Poise: Connor Bazelak, Mizzou
Bazelak tore his ACL at the end of the 2019 season against Arkansas. But he returned in time for Week 1 this past fall. He didn’t start for the Tigers in Week 1 against Alabama, but he ended the game with a touchdown run.
He took a few big hits during the season. Every time, he got back up and continued to compete. That drew praise from head coach Eli Drinkwitz:
Drinkwitz on Connor Bazelak: "He has incredible poise. … He really doesn't get rattled and does a nice job keeping his eyes downfield."
— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) October 24, 2020
For a guy who was only a redshirt freshman, he also showed he can make his way through his progression when his first read isn’t open:
Connor Bazelak hits Keke Chism over the middle to cut the Missouri (-1) deficit to 34-18 and cash the over (49)
— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) December 19, 2020
He’ll need to improve his production this year (7 touchdowns, 6 interceptions in 2020), but he’s shown he has the makings of a star. We’ll see if he takes that next step in 2021.
Big-play ability: Bryce Young, Alabama
Young takes over the starting duties at Alabama from Mac Jones, who is now a New England Patriot. In limited playing time last season, Young only accounted for 1 touchdown, but what a touchdown it was:
That escapability, making a rusher miss and still delivering a touchdown pass, is going to make Young a tough quarterback to defend in 2021. He can beat defenses with his arm and his legs, as he showed in high school:
Alabama five-star QB commit Bryce Young threw for 520 yards and seven touchdown passes in a California state playoff semifinal game last night.
Back-to-back playoff games with seven TD passes.
— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) November 23, 2019
I am excited to see what he can do this fall. I think he’ll become a star eventually. Whether it happens this year will play a big part in whether Alabama can repeat as national champion again.