Individual Position Rankings

Ranked in terms of talent and potential impact, here’s how the SEC’s projected starting quarterbacks stack up this season:

14. Patrick Towles, Kentucky: Based on performances during spring practice, Towles is the Wildcats’ best option in a four-player battle for the director’s chair of Neal Brown’s Air Raid attack on offense. The redshirt sophomore’s taken snaps in SEC action unlike two of his other three competitors, Drew Barker and Reese Phillips. Veteran Maxwell Smith would be Kentucky’s go-to quarterback but shoulder surgery during the offseason set him back a bit.

13. Patton Robinette, Vanderbilt: Robinette or Johnny McCrary are going to fight for the starting job during fall practice for a position’s that’s unclear according to coach Derek Mason. Vandy’s first-year coach kept his favorite close to the vest during the spring and at SEC Media Days, but Robinette has the game experience. LSU transfer Stephen Rivers could see action early depending on how fast he grasps the Commodores’ playbook.

12. Brandon Allen, Arkansas: The singlemost important player to the Razorbacks’ climb out of the SEC gutter is Allen, a player who struggled last season as a first-year starter despite the SEC’s top offensive line in passing situations (league-low 8 sacks allowed in 2013). During SEC Media Days, coach Bret Bielema stressed a focus on execution this fall and expects Allen to be one of the team’s most improved players.

11. Josh Dobbs, Tennessee: Senior passer Justin Worley is the likely opening day starter under center for the Vols, but we think Dobbs is Tennessee’s quarterback of the future. The aerospace engineering major is arguably the SEC’s smartest player with the mental capacity to handle any challenge thrown at him as sophomore. Dobbs subbed in for Worley last season following a thumb injury, but struggled as a first-year player against the meat of the Vols’ treacherous schedule. He received the second-most reps this spring, ahead of third challenger Nathan Peterman.

10. Brandon Harris, LSU: It’s asking a lot for a true freshman to step in at quarterback in the SEC West, but Harris has the talent and budding confidence to do so at LSU. Most were under the assumption Harris would be a second-teamer behind Anthony Jennings who replaced Zach Mettenberger after an injury late last season, but his incredible spring altered that thought process. A potential impact player in Year 1, Harris is the real deal for the Tigers.

9. Kenny Hill OR Kyle Allen, Texas A&M: Trusting that Kevin Sumlin and play caller Jake Spavital know what they’re doing in the Aggies’ pass-happy system, whoever the coaching staff picks as Johnny Manziel’s full-time replacement should be able to handle Texas A&M’s spread scheme without much worry. Allen’s the five-star poster child with sizable expectations, but Hill has a better understanding of the offense as a second-year player.

8. Hutson Mason, Georgia: A fifth-year senior with the keys to the Bulldogs’ offense, Mason will try and make the most of his final season at Georgia as a leader in a loaded backfield. Still hampered by knee issues, wideout Malcolm Mitchell’s new ailment takes a much-needed reliable pass-catcher out of the mix, but the Bulldogs still have a couple security blankets who have already established relationships with Mason including Michael Bennett and Chris Conley.

7. Jacob Coker, Alabama: Perhaps the SEC’s toughest quarterback to gauge, the Crimson Tide’s projected starter and former Jameis Winston backup at Florida State will be under tremendous pressure during his first season in Tuscaloosa. New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, at least early on, could tone down Coker’s role in favor of a steady dose of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. If he’s able to spread the football to the Crimson Tide’s arsenal of offensive weapons as a first-year transfer, Coker’s passing numbers should hit the Alabama ‘game-manager’ average by season’s end. Blake Sims is next in line in case Coker’s yanked.

6. Jeff Driskel, Florida: Thanks to Kurt Roper, the Gator offense should be back to 2012 form — perhaps better — this season after its anemic output last fall. Driskel’s back from a season-ending injury and provides Florida with much-needed stability on his side of the football. A hefty dual-threat at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Driskel will have to take a ton of hits this season as a running option alongside Kelvin Taylor if the Gator offense showcases its capability.

5. Dylan Thompson, South Carolina: No. 10 in last season’s SDS rankings, Thompson has moved into the Top 5 and has Steve Spurrier’s support as the Gamecocks’ new captain on offense. He won’t run as much as Connor Shaw and may not be as deadly on third down, but his passing numbers — at least total yardage — should exceed his predecessor as a gunslinger.

4. Dak Prescott, Mississippi St.: The Bulldogs’ success, on a national scale, hinges on Prescott’s play the next two seasons in Starkville. By the time he’s finished in 2015, Prescott will leave as one of the most lauded quarterbacks in program history with a lasting legacy or depart as a passer who crumbled under the hype. There’s no doubt Prescott’s abilities inside and outside of the pocket warrant praise, but the jury’s still out on whether or not a player with minimal career starts can carry his team as the face of the program.

3. Maty Mauk, Missouri: ESPN analyst and new SEC Network lead Joe Tessitore may have been the first national media member to label Mauk as a ‘gamer’ last season and that was quickly followed up with a ‘Maty Favre’ reference from Matt Millen during Mizzou’s overtime battle with South Carolin. James Franklin’s replacement is fearless on the run and plays the game with the old-school playground mentality. As a redshirt freshman, Mauk tossed 11 touchdown passes and averaged 5.6 yards per carry as the Tigers’ change-of-pace option. Those numbers will balloon in 2014.

2. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss: A sure conference player of the year candidate, the SEC’s most veteran quarterback is poised for a banner senior season if stiff arms the turnover bug that has plagued the Rebels during his tenure under center. Coach Hugh Freeze speaks highly of Wallace — one of his captains — but has kept SEC West contender talks to a minimum as Ole Miss attempts to handle the buzz and expectations surrounding the program.

1. Nick Marshall, Auburn: One of college football’s top returning players at any position, Marshall is the V-12 engine of Gus Malzahn’s hot rod at Auburn. The Tigers’ relentless attack will be run-heavy, but a bit more balanced during Marshall’s second season in the shotgun. Marshall’s passing numbers will explode compared to 2013’s average statistics thanks to the addition of JUCO transfer Duke Williams and a better knowledge of the offense. He won’t start the opener, but expect some fireworks in the second quarter.