Week 12 SEC Quarterback Rankings: Jarrett Guarantano makes big push
Sometimes, I just have realizations.
Like, I realize that I’m just way too high on someone and way too low on someone else. Maybe it’s because there are certain numbers that are too glaring to ignore.
That’s not to say I’m ignoring certain signal-callers, but sometimes the evidence just becomes overwhelming one way or the other. That can happen at any given point in the season.
It happened with a few SEC quarterbacks after Week 11.
14. Terry Wilson, Kentucky
Here’s the problem. When Kentucky fell behind 24-0, there really wasn’t much doubt that it was all she wrote. Wilson just isn’t that guy who can get instant offense like that (I understand the late Mizzou drive was impressive). The Kentucky quarterback was inefficient (5.1 yards per attempt) on a day that the Wildcats couldn’t get much of anything going on the ground. Wilson has just 17 total rushing yards in his past 3 games, which explains a lot about why it’s been such a struggle to sustain drives. If Gunnar Hoak had performed better in relief, this would probably be an easy decision to make the switch.
13. Ty Storey, Arkansas
I like that Storey just keeps playing. He doesn’t worry about how much his team is down or if it’s clearly overmatched. He kept taking shots at that vaunted LSU secondary, which he deserves a lot of credit for. The connection he has with Cheyenne O’Grady looks legit. He’s still not someone who’s quite talented enough to pick apart a good defense, but Chad Morris can do much worse than the junior. Storey has a ton to play for in these final weeks to make a final impression on his first-year coach.
12. Feleipe Franks, Florida
Franks is clearly trying to use the concerns from Florida fans as motivation. Hushing the home crowd isn’t a move I want my starting quarterback doing … twice. Dan Mullen obviously doesn’t, either.
Dan Mullen addressed the Feleipe Franks "shushing" 🤫the crowd situation
— Ben Murphy (@BenMurphyTV) November 11, 2018
But Franks did help the Gators overcome another 3-score deficit in what easily could have been a disastrous day. Franks did record his second game without an interception, and on a day when he completed 71 percent of his passes, the regression talk took a back seat. I don’t think Franks will ever be the world’s most accurate quarterback. But can Mullen continue to scheme guys open and draw up game plans that don’t expose Franks’ weaknesses? Sure.
11. Jake Bentley, South Carolina
I’ll be honest. Bentley has shown a lot in the past 3 weeks. We’re really close to talking about him coming off South Carolina’s third consecutive win, the latest of which would have been the most impressive to date. The fact that Bentley responded so well to the boo birds against Texas A&M says a lot about his mental toughness. Having said that, maybe part of it was game-planning and not entirely on him in the fourth quarter, but the offense tightened up Saturday. After taking a 31-14 lead on the road, Bentley couldn’t muster a drive of 20 yards in the final 3 series, which included a game-sealing interception.
Has Bentley done enough to show he deserves to keep his job? Absolutely. Has he done enough to show he’s an elite SEC quarterback? I’d argue he hasn’t.
10. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
My biggest criticism of Shurmur has always been that he’s not a guy who’s going to lead a late charge and win you a game. Maybe I should change it to the fact that Shurmur can’t hold 3-score leads. After the Commodores were stood up on the goal line, it was all Mizzou. Don’t get me wrong. The final line was again impressive (249 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 68 percent accuracy). Shurmur has improved and honestly, I’m probably still a little too low on him in these rankings. But the blown leads and struggles down the stretch against SEC foes stand out.
9. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
I’m not going to blast someone for struggling at Alabama. Fitzgerald came into Saturday’s contest playing extremely well as a true dual-threat quarterback. The most troubling thing about Saturday’s performance was the amount of sacks he took (5). This was someone who was sacked 7 times all of last year, which is partly due to the fact that he ran the ball more and was considered a runner. But Fitzgerald finished the day with -23 rushing yards, and he’s now up to 23 sacks taken this year. He’s still not a good enough passer to overcome that. And yeah, his day should have been better with drops and some blown calls, but he didn’t help himself enough to even have a chance like he did against Alabama last year.
8. Joe Burrow, LSU
I’m not selling all my shares in Burrow. But I’m finally accepting the reality that he’s a lot closer to mediocre than elite. Saturday’s score to Justin Jefferson marked Burrow’s first touchdown pass since September. That was also the first time he completed at least 58 percent of his passes in a game since the season’s first month. That was a favorable matchup, and albeit in some frigid conditions. LSU was still sitting there with 21 points, struggling to put Arkansas away late. I still like what Burrow brings to the table as a decision-maker and as a runner, though I can’t argue with the numbers. Only 7 touchdown passes this late in the season doesn’t suggest he’s been a game-changer in 2018.
7. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Jimbo Fisher thought about benching Mond after his disastrous start to the second half. That says a lot. If you get benched in a home game against Ole Miss, I don’t know how you come back from that. Instead, Fisher stuck with Mond and the sophomore delivered. Mond and Trayveon Williams dominated down the stretch and prevented the Aggies from what would’ve been a devastating third loss in a row. Four total touchdowns and over 250 yards of offense was the bounce-back game that Mond needed. And it was nice to see Mond get his first rushing score since the Alabama game. Mond could easily finish the regular season with 3,000 passing yards, 25 total touchdowns and 60 percent accuracy. That would be a win in Year 1 under Fisher.
6. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Who would have guessed that Gus Malzahn wasn’t able to make in-game adjustments to the offense while Kirby Smart figured out the right defensive tweaks? Everyone? Oh, that’s right. I actually thought Stidham did a lot of things well in this one. He looked mobile and he wasn’t flustered by the Georgia pass rush. But man, it’s still tough to watch this offense. Auburn’s lack of downfield attempts is maddening. Stidham’s dink-and-dunk passing resulted in a whopping 10 points. I’m of the belief that Stidham will turn pro at season’s end just so he can escape Malzahn’s offense. Quite frankly, I can’t blame him.
5. Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee
It’s time for me to give credit where credit is due. Guarantano is worthy of being a top-5 quarterback after what he did against Kentucky. Sure, the Hail Mary was a little lucky, but at least the dude gave his receiver a chance.
🚨 HAIL MARY 🚨
Guarantano throws it up … Marquez Callaway brings it down.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 10, 2018
Guarantano’s development in Tyson Helton’s offense is one of the best stories of the SEC this year. Do you realize that Guarantano has thrown an interception in one game this season? For someone who’s been hit like he has, that’s incredible. He has an 11-2 touchdown-interception ratio and he’s completing 65 percent of his passes for a Tennessee team that’s on the verge of a bowl berth. Vols fans will take that all day.
4. Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss
I know. It’s three losses in a row. It’s a 1-5 SEC record. In some ways, he’s this year’s version of Drew Lock. But consider this: Since the start of October, Ta’amu has yet to have a game in which he didn’t account for at least 320 passing yards and 360 total yards. Stick him on a team with an a mediocre defense and the Rebels are possibly an 7-8 win squad right now. Having said that, Ta’amu isn’t a perfect player. If you dig a little deeper, the issues in the red zone are there. Ole Miss has made 46 trips to the red zone, yet it has just 6 red-zone passing touchdowns. That’s partially why despite his over 3,600 yards of total offense, Ta’amu “only” has 23 touchdowns on the year.
3. Drew Lock, Mizzou
Lock said the Vanderbilt game aged him to 25, but for a while, he didn’t play that game like a grizzled veteran. He deserves credit for mounting a comeback and helping Mizzou to its second consecutive SEC win after the 0-4 start to conference play. On a day in which Emanuel Hall had just 22 receiving yards and Albert Okwuegbunam was out, Lock found different ways to win. That’s what great quarterbacks are supposed to do. After a rough stretch in the middle of the season, Lock now has at least 3 touchdowns in 3 of his past 4 games. I’m interested to see how he performs on the road against a Tennessee defense that’s feeling awfully confident right now.
2. Jake Fromm, Georgia
Remember all of those third-down issues with Fromm that we talked about after the LSU loss? In 3 games since then, he’s 23-of-40. The play of the game was actually on fourth down when Fromm knew that Terry Godwin would have the middle of the field open if he led him on a quick slant. The result was a touchdown and ultimately, it was the back-breaker the Dawgs needed after a slow offensive start.
RUN IT UP 🤑 Jake Fromm hits Terry Godwin in-stride for a 38yd TD 🐶🔥 pic.twitter.com/bkxzVzPcVD
— BLACK SPORTSCENTER (@VersaceBoyEnt) November 11, 2018
Fromm has taken a back seat to the rushing attack the last few weeks with D’Andre Swift playing the best ball of his career, but don’t overlook the fact that in 3 consecutive matchups against ranked opponents, Fromm completed 69 percent of his passes on 8.5 yards per attempt with a 6-1 touchdown-interception ratio. He’s playing some of the best ball of his career, too.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
I said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m officially worried about Tagovailoa’s health. It wasn’t just that he looked human against the SEC’s top scoring defense. It was that he took more shots than he was used to, and he was slow to get up on multiple occasions. Whether it was the knee or the quad bothering him more when he came out is beside the point. That’s now 4 straight games wherein there’s at least been some sort of scare regarding Tagovailoa’s right leg.
He’s still far and away the Heisman Trophy frontrunner with a 28-2 touchdown-interception ratio and 68 percent accuracy on 11.7 yards per attempt. But if I’m an Alabama fan, I’m just hoping he’s right down the stretch.