Gary Danielson handicaps SEC QBs, shares his biggest concern for 2019
There’s no shortage of experienced quarterbacks in the SEC. That was evident by the presence of 9 quarterbacks at Media Days.
That, however, doesn’t mean the quarterback crop is loaded in the conference. As good as the quarterback lineup might look, it lacks one particular quality. Schools used to have a competent backup if the worst-case happened. That’s pretty much impossible with transfer rules that are about as rigid as an overcooked spaghetti noodle.
“I think that there will be good play at that level, but I think that we also should hope that it’s not the year of the backup quarterback because of the transfers that have been happening and the new model of football where they’re asking quarterbacks to be a part of the run game, I don’t know if that position is very well covered,” CBS Sports analyst Gary Danielson told Saturday Down South last week in Hoover.
“It’s a troublesome part of Georgia, LSU, (and) Texas A&M. They’re all one guy (at quarterback) that is a pretty good player, but in this league with the style of the defensive players and the talent there, you better keep in mind that there’s a big dropoff to No. 2.”
Danielson, who played quarterback at Purdue and was a long-time quarterback in the NFL, seems to think that Alabama is the most likely SEC program that could weather a quarterback injury. Even if it happened to preseason First-team All-SEC selection Tua Tagovailoa. There’s no Jalen Hurts waiting in the wings, but Mac Jones appears capable of leading the Crimson Tide if something happens to Tagovailoa, the Heisman Trophy candidate.
After that, the pickings get slim.
“I think the rest of the league, we better watch out. If something happens to Jake Fromm, they go from being the favorites to really struggling, I think, (in the SEC East),” Danielson said.
No one debates who are the two best quarterbacks in the SEC. They’ll be donned in a shade of red. After that, it’s a bit more challenging.
“You have to start looking at how tough their schedule is and could they withstand playing that tough competition,” Danielson said when asked if there’s another elite quarterback besides the dynamic duo. “For me, if someone else emerges besides those two, and it’s probably not likely because of the talent level of those two teams, I think it will either be (LSU’s) Joe Burrow or (Florida’s) Feleipe Franks. Feleipe took a big step forward. (Florida coach) Dan (Mullen) has had a great track record with his quarterbacks. They’re loaded at wide receiver finally — for a Florida team. I think Feleipe is a much more confident player. His success, I think, will carry over to this year.
“Joe Burrow, what he did winning over that LSU team walking in there as a transfer, they’ve rebuilt the system. They’re going to be very talented at wide receiver. Maybe just as good in the offensive line. I really like the way Joe is positioned.”
Danielson was less optimistic about Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond because of the Aggies’ losses on offense. If there’s another elite prospect in the SEC, he might reside in Columbia, S.C.
“Jake Bentley is a really good player,” Danielson said. “If Jake Bentley was playing for Georgia, he might look exactly like Jake Fromm looks. That’s a tough chore to play South Carolina’s schedule this year.”
It’s also tough to overlook the many mistakes Bentley made last season. He led the SEC in interceptions.
“But it’s easier to make those mistakes when you’re trying to do more because you have to,” Danielson said. “You can go out there and check it down and hit the first or second guy like the coaches say and lose 28-21. Most of us aren’t built that way. We’re going to be like (golfer) Phil Mickelson and shoot for the pins. You’re not going to win anyway, so you might as well go double bogey, bogey and lose instead of two pars and lose. That’s the way I look at it.”
The darkhorse who might rise above the second tier of quarterbacks in the SEC is Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano. There’s reason for optimism but don’t send that All-SEC vote in just yet.
“I really love the way he’s come on,” Danielson said. “I love his toughness. I love the way he’s played. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to take that next step this year. I still think they’re a year away. He’s going to have (offensive coordinator Jim) Chaney now with them. That should settle him down a little bit more. He’s shown he has potential…I think he will really benefit by playing all of his eligibility in college. He could be one of those senior players that really breaks out.”
So is this the year of quarterback in the SEC? Perhaps. However, if Danielson is correct, that second-string quarterback that gets very little publicity could transform the way the entire conference is judged this year.