QB update: Where all 14 SEC teams stand with their starting quarterback
It is game week in the SEC.
If teams have not yet declared a starting quarterback, that decision is looming with only four more days until kickoff. Below is a rundown of every SEC team’s situation in regard to the most important position in football.
Junior Mac Jones gets the start as Alabama begins the post-Tua era. Jones came in for Tagovailoa after an injury against Tennessee, and then again after Tagovailoa’s season-ending injury against Mississippi State. The Jacksonville, Florida native completed 68.8% of his passes for 1,503 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions in 2019, and is being handed the keys to this offense going into 2020.
As Sam Pittman gets things rolling in Fayetteville, he will have a quarterback with loads of starting experience in the SEC at the helm of the offense. Redshirt senior Feleipe Franks transferred to Arkansas from Florida in the offseason, and won the job. Although an injury cut his season short after just three games in 2019, Franks has started games in this conference in each of the last three seasons, and will hope to bring a steady hand to an Arkansas offense that struggled mightily last season.
The 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year is back for his second season on The Plains. Bo Nix threw for over 2,500 yards and 16 touchdowns with just six interceptions, while adding seven scores on the ground to shatter Auburn freshman records in 2019. Nix helped Auburn to a three-game win streak to close out the season, including an Iron Bowl win over Alabama. High expectations will be placed on the sophomore’s shoulders in 2020.
For a guy who had not gone into a game as the starting quarterback since his JV football days, Kyle Trask was impressive when he stepped in for the injured Feleipe Franks against Kentucky last season. 10 games later, Trask had finished the season with nearly 3,000 passing yards to go with 25 touchdowns, seven picks, and a 66.9% completion percentage. One of the top returning quarterbacks in the conference, Trask’s continuity at quarterback will help the Gators push for an SEC East title in 2020.
This offseason has been a wild ride for those keeping up with Georgia’s quarterback battle. After transferring in from Wake Forest, Jamie Newman opted out of the 2020 season. JT Daniels transferred in from USC, and had his waiver granted by the NCAA. This leaves three different players battling for the job, in Daniels, Stetson Bennett, Carson Beck, and D’Wan Mathis. Georgia has not yet come to a decision.
“I am excited about the guys who have competed,” said Kirby Smart. “They have all done a good job. They have all taken reps. Stetson [Bennett], Carson [Beck], JT [Daniels] and D’Wan [Mathis] have all done a good job, and I am excited to see those guys go out and play.”
Kentucky made a splash by reeling in former 4-star QB and Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood in the offseason, but still does not have an answer from the NCAA regarding his eligibility for 2020. Wildcats fans can breathe easy, however, because the man who led them to a 10-win season in 2018 is back and healthy for his senior year. Terry Wilson missed most of last season due to injury, but provides a dual-threat signal-caller that can bring veteran leadership to Eddie Gran’s offense in Lexington.
It is time for LSU fans to learn to live without Joe Burrow.
Although he was only in Baton Rouge for two seasons, Burrow won over LSU faithful with his incredible run in 2019, as he helped the Tigers win the National Championship, won the Heisman, and was selected No. 1 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Now junior Myles Brennan steps in. Although he has only thrown two touchdown passes in his career, Ed Orgeron has confidence that his quarterback can keep the Tigers a contender in the SEC West.
It’s a two-horse race in Oxford as Lane Kiffin looks to name his first starting quarterback as the head coach at Ole Miss, with sophomore John Rhys Plumlee and redshirt sophomore Matt Corral battling it out. Corral appeared in 10 games and led the team in passing in 2019, while Plumlee played in nine games and showed off his athleticism, rushing for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns – an Ole Miss freshman record.
Lane Kiffin had this to say about what Plumlee’s role would be if Corral were to win the job: “I mean that’s tough to answer. I mean one of them is going to start and there’s a good chance both of them will play.”
Mike Leach brings his air raid offense to Starkville in 2020, and he hopes to execute it with former Stanford QB K.J. Costello taking the snaps. Now a senior, Leach made it clear State fans can expect to see Costello taking the first snaps against LSU on Saturday. Costello compiled over 6,000 passing yards and 49 touchdowns in his three seasons at Stanford, and will be backed up by freshman Will Rogers and sophomore Garrett Shrader.
“I expect K.J. (Costello) to start, Will (Roger)’s doing a great job, but I expect K.J. to start,” said Leach.
It might be a rude awakening into the SEC for Mizzou head coach Eli Drinkiwitz, who has yet to name a starting QB ahead of the Tiger’s matchup against Alabama on Saturday. Former TCU transfer Shawn Robinson competes with former 4-star sophomore Connor Bazelak and true freshman Brady Cook for the job. Robinson has the experience, starting seven games for TCU in 2018 before injuring his shoulder.
While Ryan Hilinski was impressive at times in his freshman season, he will not be the guy for South Carolina going into 2020. Will Muschamp brought Mike Bobo over from Colorado State to call plays on offense, and with him came graduate transfer quarterback Collin Hill. Hill won the job, likely benefitting from the familiarity with Mike Bobo’s system that saw him throw for over 3,000 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions during his time with the Rams.
“Collin was the most consistent throughout camp, through the three scrimmages,” said Bobo. “We went over it with a fine-toothed comb.”
Tennessee fans have a complicated relationship with redshirt senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. While he has not found a lot of consistency during his time in Knoxville, he has shown flashes and finally has the benefit of back-to-back seasons with the same play-caller on offense in Jim Chaney. Guarantano was a huge part of the Vols’ six-game win streak to end 2019, and will head into Saturday’s game at South Carolina as the starter.
The leash may be a little shorter this season, however, as nipping on his heels are redshirt sophomore J.T. Shrout, true freshman and former blue-chip prospect Harrison Bailey, and sophomore Brian Maurer.
As Jimbo Fisher begins year three, his offense will have one of the most secure quarterback situations in the conference. Kellen Mond is poised for a breakout senior season, after throwing for over 6,000 yards and 44 touchdowns in the last two years while rushing for over 800 yards and 10 scores in that span. If the Aggies want to take a big jump in 2020, Mond has to play a huge role.
Quarterback has been an issue for Vandy since the graduation of Kyle Shurmer after the 2018 season. It’s a four-horse race for head coach Derek Mason, although he does not have the luxury of picking a signal-caller with SEC experience. True freshmen Ken Seals and Mike Wright compete with transfers Jeremy Moussa and Danny Clark. Vanderbilt travels to Texas A&M to start the season on Saturday.