The 2018 regular season is over, which means we can officially start talking about the 2019 season, right?
It’s never too early to do that, especially when it comes to talking quarterbacks. There figures to be plenty of familiar faces in that department in 2019.
As of today, I have 8 SEC starting quarterbacks returning. Granted, that’s before we find out all the information on NFL Draft decisions and transfers.
Here’s who I have projected to start for each SEC team in 2019:
Alabama — Tua Tagovailoa
The overwhelming preseason Heisman Trophy favorite won’t have a quarterback battle like he did last year. Jalen Hurts will likely be elsewhere and Tagovailoa will get treated like the starter in the offseason for the first time. It’ll be interesting to see how the narrative changes with Tagovailoa in the next 9 months. If he wins another national title, there will be talk heading into 2019 if he can become the best college quarterback of all time. That’s a fair conversation to have.
Arkansas — Connor Noland
Man, I didn’t think that that Chad Morris would whiff on Kelly Bryant. But here we are. The good news is that while 2018 was a disaster, Noland is promising. The local favorite showed flashes of potential this year, and in his second year on Morris’ system, he’ll have a chance to form a solid duo with Rakeem Boyd.
Auburn — Jalen Hurts
Hey, let’s get weird. I’m already on the edge of my seat watching the Hurts movie unfold. How about a wild twist to complete the trilogy? We already got our sneak preview.
Too perfect 😂 pic.twitter.com/tISAEdZA3d
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) March 8, 2018
Hurts would be an interesting fit in Gus Malzahn’s system, and he actually would be a more natural fit than Jarrett Stidham. We saw Hurts develop as a passer, though he’s still probably not going to be someone who’s going to throw 30 times a game. Hurts’ willingness to run is something Malzahn would appreciate. And if this does happen, take me to the 2019 Iron Bowl now, please.
Florida — Feleipe Franks
Dan Mullen could have turned away from Franks at several points this season. Well, he did. But then Kyle Trask got injured and that conversation went away. I know Gators fans are excited about Emory Jones, but Mullen prefers to bring his starters along slowly. Franks is Mullen’s first major project. He wants him to be a success not only for his own credibility, but because of what it’ll do to help him recruit down the road. Franks will be the guy, even though the Jones hype train will probably get rolling again in the spring game.
Georgia — Jake Fromm
I honestly don’t think anything except an injury can change my belief that Fromm will be the starter in 2019. Why wouldn’t he be? All the guy has done is win consecutive division titles with one of the top quarterback ratings in the country. Meanwhile, Georgia still hasn’t found the right way to maximize Justin Fields’ immense talent. Fromm will be a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. Let’s not pretend the guy’s starting gig is in jeopardy.
Kentucky — Terry Wilson
Wilson had his issues in the middle of the season, but it’s easy to forget he was only a redshirt sophomore this year. He did improve as a passer down the stretch, which will at the very least make him the favorite to own the job to start next year. As for whether Mark Stoops treats Wilson like the unquestioned starter remains to be seen. Wilson will probably have to “earn” the starting job, but come opening day, he’ll be the guy if healthy.
LSU — Joe Burrow
Something tells me a lot of people will forget that Burrow actually had 2 years of eligibility when he came down to Baton Rouge. That’s why his arrival was so appealing as a graduate transfer. We’re going to see what another year in Steve Ensminger’s offense can do. Burrow will be a leader of LSU, just like he’s been all year. His ability to keep defenses off-balanced with his legs has been a nice weapon down the stretch that’ll happen moving forward.
Mississippi State — Keytaon Thompson
Getting to see Thompson in the TaxSlayer Bowl last year probably made MSU fans excited about what he’ll be able to do in Joe Moorhead’s system. He’s not afraid to stretch the field vertically, and he stands a better chance of being a fit with what Moorhead traditionally likes to do. Like Nick Fitzgerald, Thompson needs to improve his accuracy. But there’s plenty of potential for Thompson to be the first real Moorhead project.
Mizzou — Kelly Bryant
Kudos to you if you guessed that Drew Lock’s replacement would be Bryant. Actually, shout out to me for predicting that Bryant’s wild-card school was Mizzou. Bryant is sold in the idea of getting some pro-style throws in Derek Dooley’s offense. It’ll be fascinating to see what he can do with some talented weapons on the outside. I’ll be curious how much he develops as a downfield passer. Either way, Mizzou got a lot more interesting in 2019 with Bryant’s arrival.
Ole Miss — Matt Corral
Ole Miss fans got a sneak peak at the beginning of the Corral when he took over for Jordan Ta’amu in the Egg Bowl. It was, um, eventful. As long as Corral isn’t getting into fights and looking like Chad Kelly 2.0, there won’t be any doubt that the promising freshman is the starter. He’s not afraid of anyone, which certainly will help him hang tough against SEC defenses.
South Carolina — Jake Bentley
Yes, I think Bentley comes back for his senior year. The chance to get another year in Bryan McClendon’s offense has to be enticing for Bentley, who still needs to improve his decision-making to impress next-level scouts. The chance to be the SEC’s elder statesman at the position could be attractive for Bentley, who will likely be at his third SEC Media Days.
Tennessee — Jarrett Guarantano
Guarantano is about to have his third offensive coordinator in as many years, which is extremely difficult for a young quarterback. Learning a new system won’t be easy, but Guarantano has so much support on that locker room that I’d be surprised if he wasn’t at SEC Media Days. He has a bright future, as long as Tennessee can keep him upright.
Texas A&M — Kellen Mond
When Jimbo Fisher locks in on a guy, that’s his guy. It’s because of that reason that not only will Mond be the starter in 2019, but Nick Starkel will find a new place to call home at season’s end. Mond surpassed preseason expectations and should be one of the key reasons why Aggie fans are excited about the future.
Vanderbilt — Deuce Wallace
I just want to say “the Deuce is loose!” one time. Er, um, perhaps not. Wallace was suspended for the entire 2018 season, so he’s been no means a lock to replace Kyle Shurmur. But as someone who already has experience and was expected to be the backup, he’ll be the frontrunner to get the job, as long as he’s in good standing with the team.