Everyone would like to think that their quarterback situation is settled and elite exiting spring camp.

Spoiler alert: Few are both.

That’s especially true in the SEC. There are some elite quarterbacks, but questions behind them. The goal today is not to just simply rank SEC quarterbacks. That’s boring. Sure, QB1 is more important than QB3, but ranking quarterback situations could be more important because there’s a decent chance that your team will have to turn to a backup to start a game at some point in 2024. That’s weighed in this.

It’s not necessarily the place where we’re weighing things like strength of schedule or other external factors. This is about the quarterbacks being put in a spot to succeed.

This is how I’d rank the SEC quarterback situations coming out of spring.

16. Vanderbilt

New Mexico State transfer/Auburn kryptonite Diego Pavia and Utah transfer Nate Johnson are battling it out after Vandy once again flipped over its quarterback room. Clark Lea’s inability to find his multi-year starter continues to be a hindrance, though it’s not crazy to think that Pavia could be the best option so far.

15. Mississippi State

Baylor transfer Blake Shapen looked the part in the spring game, and Mike Wright has had moments of promise against SEC competition under the previous regime at Mississippi State and at aforementioned Vanderbilt. It’s hard to project Shapen in Jeff Lebby’s offense because the Bulldogs are loaded with new faces on offense, but one can do worse than a multi-year Power 5 starter with over 5,000 career passing yards.

14. South Carolina

Shane Beamer put a ton of faith in LaNorris Sellers, which looked validated based on his spring game performance. The rec specs-rocking quarterback figures to be the guy as a promising redshirt freshman, though the Gamecocks were fortunate to add Robby Ashford from Auburn as his backup. Ashford’s mobility can win an SEC game in a pinch. While the passing hasn’t quite come along yet, an insurance policy with his skill set could come in handy if Sellers struggles as a first-time starter.

13. Auburn

I’m not a Payton Thorne guy, nor do I think many Auburn fans are. But coming back with another year in Hugh Freeze’s offense should give Auburn a higher offensive floor than last year. At least I think it will. If not, bowl game hero of sorts Hank Brown could be the guy. If Auburn didn’t have an offensive mind like Freeze at the controls — he’s taking over play-calling duties again — you could argue that Auburn would be even lower on this list.

12. Arkansas

Taylen Green had a banner spring establishing himself as QB1 in Fayetteville. The Boise State transfer impressed the coaching staff on and off the field, which was why he was named the starter and Jacolby Criswell hit the portal. It also helps that true freshman KJ Jackson earned some rave reviews in spring. But putting the Hogs any higher on this list will be dependent on Green limiting his mistakes and looking like a playmaking dual-threat in Bobby Petrino’s offense come fall.

11. Kentucky

After 3 years backing up Stetson Bennett IV and/or Carson Beck, Georgia transfer Brock Vandagriff has the keys to Bush Hamdan’s offense. There’s optimism that Vandagriff’s floor will be higher than Devin Leary, who struggled with accuracy in his adjustment to Lexington. Vandagriff’s mobility will be an asset. The quiet return of former prized local recruit Beau Allen, who started at Tarleton State in 2022, could give UK a better backup situation than it had at any point in recent memory. But there’s a knock for a group without anybody who has started a game at the FBS level.

10. Oklahoma

I’m tempted to have Oklahoma higher on this list because I don’t think the turnovers told the full story of Jackson Arnold’s bowl game performance, and I’ve never sold my Casey Thompson stock during his various stops in his never-ending college career. But I’d rather have Nico Iamaleava over Arnold for 2024, so I weighed that a bit more than the fact that Tennessee wishes it could have an experienced backup like Thompson. I fully expect the Sooners to rise on this list with Arnold running the show.

9. Tennessee

I need Tennessee fans to hear this — I’m all in on Nico Iamaleava. If this were a ranking of just SEC quarterbacks entering 2024, he’s probably at 6 or 7, which is saying something in a league that returns 5 quarterbacks who started in New Year’s 6 bowls. But it’s not. Instead, it’s a ranking of QB situations, and Tennessee’s QB situation leaves something to be desired. Gaston Moore looked great in the spring game, and I get that he’s entering Year 5 in the Josh Heupel offense (1 at UCF, 4 at Tennessee). He’s also a former walk-on with 4 career pass attempts vs. Power 5 competition. Impressive spring game showings don’t necessarily erase that.

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8. Florida

I was wrong about Graham Mertz last year. I thought Billy Napier’s faith that he was the best quarterback in the portal was wild, and while I don’t think Mertz has All-SEC upside, his accuracy and understanding of the offense gave Florida a higher floor than it would’ve had with many other options. Now you add DJ Lagway into the mix as the Gatorade National Player of the Year and you’re cooking with gas. I’d feel a bit better about this QB situation if I knew that Napier had deviated as the team’s primary play-caller, but perhaps I’ll be wrong on that, too.

7. Mizzou

Mizzou fans, don’t take this as a slight to Brady Cook. He shut me up, as well as plenty of others (maybe even you). He’s one of the 10 best returning quarterbacks in the sport. That’s not the issue. The issue is what’s behind him. Sam Horn’s Tommy John surgery was a brutal blow, and former Miami transfer Jake Garcia left for East Carolina. Eli Drinkwitz made the necessary move to add former Notre Dame/Arizona State quarterback Drew Pyne, but that’s someone at his third school in as many seasons. Take that for what it is. Mizzou needs Cook to stay healthy if it wants to reach the Playoff in 2024, whereas the schools higher on this list might not.

6. LSU

How can you not be intrigued by LSU’s quarterback room? Nussmeier could be this year’s version of Carson Beck. That is, the guy who stuck it out behind a legend who pops with the starting opportunity in Year 4 at a program. His performance in the bowl game and his dominance in LSU’s spring game only added to that notion. What’s underrated about LSU’s situation is that the Tigers added AJ Swann. He had a full season’s worth of starts in SEC play, and at Vanderbilt, he didn’t have anywhere close to the offensive line/play-calling that he’ll have at LSU. In any other year, the Tigers are a lock to be a top-5 team in terms of SEC quarterback situations.

5. Texas A&M

I’m a Conner Weigman believer, which might be an unpopular opinion outside of College Station, but those who actually watched his 8 starts know where I’m coming from. Even if you aren’t a Weigman believer, look at what Jaylen Henderson did last year. He went toe-to-toe with Jayden Daniels in Death Valley. The southpaw might’ve been a third-string guy, but he looked plenty capable of running an SEC offense, as did Marcel Reed when Henderson got hurt immediately in the bowl game. For a program that’s had multiple guys start multiple games in each of the past 3 seasons, A&M’s quarterback depth is a major asset in Year 1 for Mike Elko.

4. Ole Miss

I’ve come around on Jaxson Dart. I used to be frustrated with some of his decisions, and even though I’m not crazy about how reckless he can be as a runner at times, I applaud his toughness. Dart just led Ole Miss to its first 11-win season in program history, and he’s backed up by former decorated LSU transfer Walker Howard and Austin Simmons, both of whom had true redshirt seasons in the system last year. There will inevitably be some hold-your-breath moments with Dart and the hits he takes. But if Lane Kiffin has a healthy Howard to turn to, all is not lost for Ole Miss in its push to reach the first 12-team Playoff.

3. Georgia

For my money, Carson Beck is the top returning quarterback in America. Period. I’d take him over anybody at the position, which is a big reason UGA will enter 2024 as the national championship favorites. The reason the Dawgs aren’t even higher on this list is the uncertainty behind him. As of this writing, that doesn’t include Jaden Rashada just yet, though the former Florida commit/Arizona State freshman starter could be on his way to Athens. It speaks to the unknown that is Gunner Stockton. Yes, he looked solid in the spring game, and one would think a redshirt sophomore-to-be has had some elite development, but his only pass attempts vs. Power 5 competition came against Florida State, which was far from a Power 5 team in that bowl game. Hence, why the Dawgs are No. 3.

2. Alabama

Much was made about Alabama losing prized recruit Julian Sayin, but if you look at what Kalen DeBoer retained upon his arrival, it’s hard not to be impressed. No returning player finished higher in the 2023 Heisman Trophy voting than Jalen Milroe. How he gels with the new offense remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that he’s in a much better place then he was at this time last year. The same could be said for backup Ty Simpson, who looked like the best version of himself in the spring. His decision to stay was huge for DeBoer’s QB room, which also features Washington transfer Austin Mack and Dylan Lonergan. There are a ton of questions about Alabama in a post-Nick Saban world, but for now, the quarterback room isn’t one of them.

1. Texas

Let’s start with the obvious here. Quinn Ewers is 1 of the 5 best returning quarterbacks in America. If you’re anti-Ewers, you’re probably dismissing the fact that he just led Texas to its best season in 14 years, and he did so with plenty of big-game showings, most notably at Alabama. But it’s not just Ewers. It’s the fact that Arch Manning has had a tremendous spring and now looks ready to be the ultimate insurance policy. Remember, Maalik Murphy transferred to Duke after he was successful as Ewers’ understudy. Injuries forced Ewers to miss multiple starts in each of his first 2 seasons, so we’ve had reason to look beyond QB1 in Austin. Manning’s blistering spring game performance showed why there might not be a better quarterback situation in America than the one in Austin.