Ranking the top SEC QB-WR duos for 2014
The connection between a quarterback and wide receiver can never be understated. As important as the running game is in the SEC, a dynamic QB-WR duo can separate the good from the great offenses around the league. This year, only two of last year’s top eight quarterbacks in the SEC return, but with immense talent at wide receiver, it won’t be long before we see these duos emerge as the best in the conference.
Here are the top QB-WR duos in the SEC:
5. Justin Worley – Marquez North, Tennessee
The No. 5 QB-WR duo comes at us from good ol’ Rocky Top. In what ended up being a tough season for Tennessee in 2013, quarterback Justin Worley did enough to win his starting job back in 2014. The senior finished with just 1,239 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, but Worley missed the last four games due to right thumb surgery. Unfortunately, his injury came as receiver Marquez North emerged as one of the Vols’ go-to targets. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, North is a tremendous athlete and came on strong in the middle of the season. From Oct. 19 – Nov. 2, North hauled in 19 catches for 315 yards, including a breakout 102-yard performance in an upset win over South Carolina. Now that Worley is healthy again and has starting experience under his belt, I expect the senior to be cooler, calmer and more collected this season. He’ll look to establish a connection early and often with his No. 1 receiver and chances are we’ll see spectacular highlights – like this catch– even more from these two in 2014.
4. Dylan Thompson – Shaq Roland, South Carolina
Now that Connor Shaw is out of the picture, senior quarterback Dylan Thompson has full reign of the offense. The Boiling Springs, SC native was rocky in some spots last year, but he’s shown he’s capable of leading the offense when called upon. Much like Thompson, receiver Shaq Roland is out to prove the hype surrounding the two players is warranted. Despite being the second-best returning receiver with 455 receiving yards last season, Roland figures to play a bigger part in Spurrier’s offense this season. And we all know how much Spurrier likes to throw the football. Look for Thompson and Roland to produce this season as they both look to show the SEC they’re for real.
3. Nick Marshall – Sammie Coates, Auburn
How can the returning QB – WR duo from the defending SEC champion be only No. 3? Simple. Auburn just doesn’t pass enough. Last season, the Auburn Tigers threw just 285 passes, which ranked them 118th in the nation and last in the SEC. In their most important two games of the season – the SEC Championship and BCS Championship – they threw for a combined 17 passes. Despite the limited number of passing in the Auburn offense, head coach Gus Malzahn is hoping for more balance in this year’s offense.
“We feel like we have some receivers that can stretch the field and make some plays,” Malzahn said at SEC Media Days. “We worked extremely hard to get more balanced. Hopefully, that will carry over to the fall.”
One encouraging sign for the Marshall and Coates connection is their success last season. Yes, Auburn rarely threw the ball, but when they did, it was often to Coates. As the team’s most reliable receiver, Coates hauled in a team-high 902 receiving yards, nearly three times more than the second-highest on the team. If Malzahn indeed wants to establish more balance and throw the ball more, Coates will be Marshall’s primary target. Now with JUCO transfer Duke Williams figuring to play a part in their passing game this season, it should open things up even more Coates, especially down-the field. He’s in line for a huge 2014.
2. Dak Prescott – Jameon Lewis, Mississippi State
Tabbed as a darkhorse candidate for the Heisman Trophy, junior quarterback Dak Prescott is expected to be one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC this year. If he does succeed in 2014, one contributing factor will most likely be the receiver he has on the outside – senior Jameon Lewis. Lewis enjoyed a breakout season last year, hauling in 64 catches for 923 yards and five touchdowns. As Mississippi State’s do-it-all offensive weapon, Lewis, along with Prescott, will be the lifeblood of their offense. Last year, the two hooked up for nearly 35 percent of Prescott’s throws. With Prescott expected to play an even bigger part in this year’s offense, Lewis’ role will consequently increase as well. Mississippi State’s season goes as Prescott and Lewis go.
1. Bo Wallace – Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
Wallace’s 3,346 passing yards in 2013 place him as the league’s best returning quarterback and he’s primed to build on those numbers this year. His most reliable target will be super sophomore Laquon Treadwell. The 6-2, 230-pound receiver lived up to his five-star billing in his first year with 608 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He immediately became Wallace’s favorite receiver as Treadwell caught a team-high 72 passes. Treadwell may not have been as big of a deep threat as some of these other receivers on the list, but it’s clear that he and Wallace established a strong on-the-field connection. And now that Donte Moncrief is in the NFL and out of the picture, Treadwell’s should get even more looks from Wallace. With the Rebels’ trending upward and a full year of experience together, there’s no reason why the Wallace-Treadwell duo can’t be the No. 1 duo in the SEC this year.