How many SEC QBs will throw for 3,000 yards in 2018? And who will they be?
There’s an old football saying, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” And there’s plenty of evidence supporting the saying. Teams on their second or third quarterback in November are rarely in the hunt for championships.
Teams that settle on one quarterback early in the season, however, might potentially have a 3,000-yard passer at signal-caller. In a 12-game regular season, it takes 250 passing yards per game to hit the 3,000-yard mark. The most consistent quarterbacks are able to do it. Two did it last season. Two also did it in 2016. But from 2012-2015, at least four QBs threw for 3,000 yards.
Which SEC quarterbacks can hit the mark in 2018? As many as six emerge as possibilities when taking an early look at 2018.
DOING IT AGAIN
Two returning SEC quarterbacks, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and Missouri’s Drew Lock, topped the 3,000-yard mark last season. In his first season of SEC action, Stidham, a transfer from Baylor, threw for 3,158 yards on 246-of-370 passing. Lock, meanwhile, came close to achieving a 4,000-yard season. The MU signal-caller finished with 3,964 yards on 242-of-419 passing. (Tim Couch holds the single-season record with 4,275 yards.)
Stidham has the benefit of playing for the same offensive coordinator, Chip Lindsey, again this season. And with running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway off to the NFL, Lindsey might turn to the passing game even more in 2018.
Luckily for Stidham, Auburn still has plenty of talented receivers. The Tigers’ top two leading wideouts from last season, Ryan Davis (84 catches, 815 yards, 5 TD) and Darius Slayton (29 catches, 643 yards, 5 TD), are back and junior Nate Craig-Myers is impressing this spring.
Lock, on the other hand, will be playing for his third offensive coordinator at Missouri. With Josh Heupel now the head coach at UCF, former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley will be in charge of the offensive scheme in CoMo. In two seasons under Heupel’s fast-paced offense, Lock recorded more than 7,000 passing yards. In his first season as a coordinator, one would expect Dooley to lean on his senior quarterback and the passing attack.
Unfortunately for Lock, J’Mon Moore (65 catches, 1,082 yards, 10 TD) is out of eligibility. The Tigers should still be able to throw the ball around with Emanuel Hall (33 catches, 817 yards, 8 TD) and Johnathon Johnson (41 catches, 724 yards, 6 TD) returning for 2018. It also helps that last year’s team leader in touchdown receptions, TE Albert Okwuegbunam (29 catches, 415 yards, 11 TD), is back after a stellar freshman season.
TAKING THE NEXT STEP
Lock and Stidham were the only SEC passers to cross the 3,000-yard mark last season, but that could change in 2018.
Much of Georgia’s success in 2017 was attributed to the team’s potent ground game, but true freshman Jake Fromm registered 9 yards per pass attempt (181-of-291 for 2,615 yards). With Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the backfield, Fromm was only asked to throw an average of 19.4 passes per game. Without Chubb and Michel, Fromm could see his number of passes per game go up.
Another SEC East quarterback to watch in the chase for 3,000 yards is South Carolina’s Jake Bentley. As the full-time starter in 2017 after taking over late in 2016, Bentley passed for 2,794 yards in 13 games. He was throwing the ball an average 30.3 times per game, but only registering 7.1 yards per attempt. His new position coach might be able to fix that.
After spending a year at Alabama as an analyst, Dan Werner was hired to be USC’s quarterbacks coach. Werner, also a former OC at Ole Miss, will work with new OC Bryan McClendon, who replaced Kurt Roper. That could be exciting news for Bentley and the Gamecocks passing attack.
Under Werner, former Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly played in only nine games in 2016 due to a season-ending injury but finished fifth among SEC quarterbacks in passing yards with 2,758. At the time of his injury, Kelly was averaging 306.4 passing yards per game. No other SEC quarterback topped 300 yards per game that season. Werner was also Ole Miss’ offensive coordinator in 2015 when Kelly threw for 4,042 yards at an average of 310.9 yards per game.
One other SEC East quarterback deserves to be mentioned here. Vanderbilt’s Kyle Shurmur finished third in the conference in passing yards last season with 2,823 yards. Shurmur averaged 235.3 yards per game in Vanderbilt’s 12-game season. Had he played in a bowl game last year, Shurmur probably would have notched a 3,000-yard season. The Commodores, however, finished 5-7 in 2017.
At Texas A&M last season, two quarterbacks – Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel – split playing time. In his first spring as the Aggies head coach, Jimbo Fisher is calling it an open competition at quarterback.
If Starkel wins the job, he’s someone to watch as a potential 3,000-yard passer. In seven games last year, he threw for 1,793 yards. In terms of yards per game, Starkel’s average of 256.1 was actually more impressive than Stidham (225.6), Shurmur (235.3), Bentley (214.9) and Fromm (174.9).
Starkel and Mond will have to learn a new offense, but Fisher does have a history of producing 3,000-yard passers. EJ Manuel, Jameis Winston (twice) and Deondre Francois all accomplished the feat during Fisher’s time in Tallahassee.