Week 2 SEC Quarterback Rankings: Wow, that was an impressive opening week
Color me impressed.
What we saw from SEC quarterbacks in Week 1 was nothing short of remarkable. Not too paint with too broad of a brush, but the quarterback play in the conference that hasn’t had a first-round draft pick at the position since Johnny Manziel hasn’t exactly been stellar.
How’s this for stellar?
Year of the quarterback down south. pic.twitter.com/d4C3ehFfbU
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) September 2, 2018
In other words, it’s going to be extremely difficult to rise up these rankings.
As I remind people, my criteria for these rankings is which quarterback I’d want starting on my team to win a game tomorrow. That means stats are relevant, but not everything. Quality of opponent matters, as does the entire body of work that we’ve seen from a specific player.
So let’s get to some rankings:
14. Terry Wilson/Gunnar Hoak, Kentucky
Yikes. Wilson’s start to his Kentucky career was less than ideal. Three first-half turnovers didn’t exactly make Mark Stoops feel confident about the signal-caller. Hoak’s appearance in relief helped the Wildcats overcome that slow start, but Kentucky needs more from the quarterback position, or else it’s going to be 8-9 guys in the box against Benny Snell all year.
13. Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee
Credit to Guarantano, who clearly won over that locker room. It was a bit surprising to see Tyson Helton go with him instead of Stanford grad transfer Keller Chryst. In his first start under the new coaching staff, it wasn’t that Guarantano was bad. Completing 19 of 25 passes was a welcome sight for someone who struggled last year. But side by side against Will Grier, it was obvious that Guarantano has a long way to go before he becomes a solid starting quarterback.
12. Ty Storey, Arkansas
Not too shabby. Entering the game as a backup with 4 career pass attempts, few people probably expected Storey to come in and light the world on fire. Against an FCS defense, he did just that. Storey looked plenty confident throwing the deep ball on a day in which he averaged 15.4 yards per attempt. Cole Kelley came out of the game for an injury, but he might be out for good if Storey slings it like that.
11. Feleipe Franks, Florida
Listen. I’m not a Franks believer. I’ve been pretty vocal about that. It’s an accuracy thing for me. I just don’t think he has it. But I’ll admit this. His performance on Saturday was a touch more than just him playing against an FCS defense.
Feleipe Franks already has 3 completions of 13 yards or more, including a 46-yarder and 34-yard TD. I wrote about that, too, this morning, how I wanted to see him complete 10 throws of 15-plus yards. That's scheme. That's Mullen. Get em so open the QB can't miss.
— Chris Wright (@FilmRoomEditor) September 2, 2018
So far, so good. Franks has a much more favorable start to the schedule than last year. That could get his confidence up. That, Dan Mullen can work with.
10. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
I loved, loved, loved what we saw from Mond in Week 1. His performance looked like someone who worked his tail off this summer. That he did. He had to in order to beat out Nick Starkel for the starting job. Mond was far more accurate in the intermediate passing game than he was last year, and his deep ball was on point. Again, it was only an FCS defense. Let’s see if Jimbo Fisher’s first quarterback project can look that confident against that loaded Clemson defense.
9. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
One of the big questions I had about Shurmur was how he’d look without defenses locked in on Ralph Webb. As much as he has some promising next-level tools, it was clear that Shurmur has some work to do in showing that he can take the next step. A 10-for-17 performance with 170 passing yards and a couple scores wasn’t a letdown, but against Middle Tennessee, that’s a defense that he should light up. Vanderbilt’s desire to run the ball probably had something to do with that, but I’m a bit more skeptical about Shurmur thriving with that supporting cast.
8. Joe Burrow, LSU
What if I told LSU fans that their starting quarterback would complete less than 50 percent of his passes and fail to record a touchdown in his debut? They’d probably be pretty frustrated. Burrow’s pedestrian stat line didn’t tell the story, though. What did tell the story was him becoming the leader of that offense. Whether it was chipping in to help with that pregame scuffle or checking into the run play that led to the 50-yard touchdown run from Nick Brossette, Burrow did the little things to make LSU fans excited about his presence. I was a huuuuge fan of this, too:
Joe Burrow has some Baker Mayfield in him. pic.twitter.com/fzIkX6Yl3M
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) September 3, 2018
He’s got a ways to go in terms of stretching the field, but against an elite defense after being on campus for a couple months, it wasn’t a bad first career start for Burrow.
7. Jake Bentley, South Carolina
Yes, the Gamecocks’ offense is faster. Yes, Bentley looked much more comfortable. Yes, it was still only Coastal Carolina. I will say that the Bentley-Deebo Samuel connection brought back some good memories. I can’t wait to see what that duo does against that loaded Georgia secondary. Saturday sort of feels like a fork-in-the-road game for Bentley. If he’s overwhelmed by that Georgia defensive line and unable to stretch the field, it’ll confirm the belief that he’s not an elite SEC quarterback yet. But if he lights up the Dawgs, he’ll be climbing in a hurry.
6. Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss
My goodness, that passing game is scary. Ole Miss was scoring points before the National Anthem singer left the field. Ta’amu and the Rebel/Landshark passing attack looks every bit as advertised. We all know about A.J. Brown and his ability to make people miss after the catch, but Ta’amu’s connection with D.K. Metcalf could be what determines how high this offense can fly. Away from Oxford, that was a strong opening showing from a quarterback who looks ready for the big time.
5. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
I didn’t want to move Fitzgerald simply because he hasn’t played in 2018. His suspension did provide more reason to be excited for the Keytaon Thompson era next year. Despite those gaudy numbers from Thompson, any notion of a quarterback controversy in Starkville should be quieted. Fitzgerald is still the leader of that team, and let’s be honest: He would have gone off against Stephen F. Austin, too. But I will say that I’m skeptical about him making his debut in Joe Moorhead’s system coming off that ankle injury on the road. It’s a big test for No. 7 in maroon.
4. Drew Lock, Missouri
There was really only downside that could come from facing an FCS team in the opener. Thankfully for Mizzou fans, Derek Dooley’s offense didn’t look like it was capable of destroying Lock. I’m not sure very much could have on Saturday. Why did Lock and Tua Tagovailoa switch spots, you ask? It wasn’t because of what Lock did or didn’t do. I just got more confirmation that Tagovailoa is ready to be the next superstar in college football. But as of right now, those 2 are neck and neck.
3. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
From my vantage point in the press box, Tagovailoa’s first touchdown pass of 2018 was the stuff of legend.
Was it a bit lucky? Perhaps, but did anything we saw from Tagovailoa the rest of the night suggest that he was just a lucky quarterback? His deep ball was beautiful, his pocket presence was improved and just his overall playmaking ability was on a different level. He’ll have tougher tests than Louisville, and inevitably, the mistakes are going to come. But in terms of upside, Tagovailoa has the most potential of any SEC quarterback, and I’m not sure it’s even that close.
2. Jake Fromm, Georgia
Why is Fromm no longer at No. 1? Well, he didn’t beat a preseason Playoff contender away from his home stadium. Jarrett Stidham did. That’s not a knock on Fromm who was his usual efficient self … against an FCS opponent. Saturday against South Carolina is the real test. This is the Gamecocks’ biggest game of the season, and one that they’ve obviously had circled on the calendar for a long time. I would expect a full 60 minutes of Fromm and no snaps for Fields, unless we see the Dawgs take a commanding lead. If that happens, Fromm could be back up to No. 1 on this list.
1. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Take a bow, young man. My goodness, that was impressive. Beating a legitimate top-10 team away from Jordan-Hare was another feather in Stidham’s cap. I was more impressed with the fact that with just one returning starter on the offensive line, Stidham still produced that well against that good of a defense. Make no mistake. He faced plenty of pressure. Last year, he takes wayyyy more than 2 sacks. Stidham managed to not turn the ball over while throwing for 273 yards and completing 72 percent of his passes. That’s what great quarterbacks do against great defenses. After what we saw on Saturday, I don’t have any doubt that Stidham is a great quarterback and worthy of topping this list.