QBs in the SEC: Who’s in the best shape for 2017?

LSU always seems to have a quarterback problem, it’s been argued that Florida hasn’t had a good one since Tebow, and Georgia hasn’t won the SEC despite having good quarterbacks, while Alabama has won a lot of SEC titles without having any quarterbacks that you’d say are NFL-worthy. So for 2017, which SEC team is in the best shape at quarterback? And who is struggling? Clue: It’s probably not a team from Baton Rouge.

  1. Mississippi State: Nick Fitzgerald did wonders at Mississippi State last year. He led the SEC in total yards in 2016, throwing for over 2,400 yards and 21 TDs (and no interceptions) and rushing for nearly 1,400 yards and 16 TDs. He also beat Ole Miss, which pretty much makes him God in Starkville. There are worries because he didn’t have a sharp Spring Game, but it’s a Spring Game. Mississippi State’s in fine fettle at that position. Whether he’ll have the contributors he needs now Fred Ross he needs to give him the good stats is another thing altogether.

2. Auburn: After playing one Spring Game for Auburn, there was already Heisman hype around Jarrett Stidham on the plains. Some have even compared him to Drew Brees. Managing to get Stidham – who was already familiar with a high-octane offense by playing for Baylor in 2015 – to come play for you was a masterstroke by Malzahn and company. Stidham is a fantastic dual-threatt QB who’s going to cause defenses a lot of problems.

3. Alabama: Talk about an embarrassment of riches. Nick Saban keeps on getting hold of freshmen who are so good that that sophomore who had an insane season is suddenly worrying about his job. We see with Jalen Hurts – who had an incredible freshman year – in a sudden quarterback battle with Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa – a five star from Hawaii – had a brilliant Spring Game which got the tongues about Hurts’ job stability. And next season? There will probably be someone else to scare the crap out of these two.

4. Georgia: With Jacob Eason, the Bulldogs have an entrenched starting quarterback. His problem might well be the same that haunted him last year – the offensive line. But for pure stability – and a cannon for an arm – the Dawgs are going to be juuuuust fine.

5. Arkansas: We quite like the shape the Razorbacks are in at this position. Allen’s got a cannon, and threw for 3,450 yards, 25 TDs and 15 INTs last year. His problem will be the offensive line, which got him sacked THIRTY FOUR times last year. But if that improves, the Razorbacks have one of the best weapons in scrimmage around.

6. Missouri: Drew Lock’s going to start at quarterback for the Tigers, and he’s got the arm to be a star. If his receivers (we see you, J’Mon Moore) could actually catch the ball, then he could put up some immense stats and lead the Tigers forward.

7. Kentucky: Drew Barker vs Stephen Johnson is an interesting QB battle. Barker was the 2016 starter before he hurt his back, and then Johnson took the team over and led the team to seven wins – including a win over hated rivals Louisville. There is hope in Big Blue Nation. Although Mark Stoops has been uncommittal about the QB battle, it’s Johnson’s team, and UK is in a good position.

8. Vanderbilt: Kyle Shurmur will start. He had 2,400 yards passing, although he threw more INTs (10) than TDs (9). He progressed nicely through the last few weeks of the season, throwing for 221, 252, 273 and 416 yards in his last four games of the year. The 416 came against Tennessee’s defense (just in case you were thinking it was against a ‘nobody’. Vandy should be in pretty good shape here.

9. Ole Miss: Shea Patterson was given a lot of love when he walked into The Grove, and during his first year he threw for nearly 900 yards with 6 TDs and 3 INTs. And the opposition (Texas A&M, Vandy and MSU) wasn’t terrible either. The problem won’t be about Patterson’s skills, but more if the team plays with confidence after the trouble that the school is going to be in with the NCAA. And we’d argue that’s going to be a lot.

10. South Carolina: A lot of people were excited about Jake Bentley, who came in mid-way through the season and threw for 1,420 yards and 9 TDs (and 3 INTs). His strong Spring Game got Gamecocks fans drooling (if they weren’t already bearing in mind they had a Final Four game to watch that day).

11. Florida: The QB battle between Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask is certainly an interesting one, although both aren’t particularly well-known quantities. Luke Del Rio’s coming back from a shoulder injury, and could compete for the job. While some are excited about Florida if the QBs prove capable, we still don’t know a massive amount about them. They should be helped by a nasty defense, though.

12. Texas A&M: Jake Hubenak, Kellen Mond, and Nick Starkel didn’t exactly stand out at A&M’s Spring Game, but Starkel was given the most love because of how he stood in the pocket – and that his receivers dropped passes. The good news for Aggie Nation is that the running game looks very solid indeed.

13. Tennessee: Former Josh Dobbs back-up Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano are fighting it out for the Vols QB position, but I’m not convinced about either of them. Sorry, Vols fans.

14. LSU: This is how bad the LSU QB competition is. Ed Orgeron – normally Mr Exuberant and Mr Confident in these situations – told the press: “No-one has earned the starting spot…. Most of the spring, [starter for most of 2016] Danny [Etling] has been there. Nobody has taken him over. But tonight, underneath the pressure, the guys didn’t perform the way we wanted to. They’ll have to show me who can perform under pressure and be the LSU quarterback.” Normally when the guy who ended last year as the starter is safe and hasn’t transferred or been arrested (ie doesn’t go to Oklahoma), he’s your man to be the starter for 2017. Not so for Louisiana State University. In the Spring Game, Justin McMillan passed only three times and Lindsay Scott didn’t pass once. And Etling was horrible. These could be bad, bad times for the Purple and Gold and trying to get a QB into Baton Rouge.

The SEC would love to have Week 1 back

Right, we here at the SEC would like to have Week 1 back.

Sure, some of the schools are 1-0 and some are not, but none of our teams were particularly great, and some of them – even in victory – couldn’t seem to get their collective asses off the ground.

Anyway, here’s ranking how every team in the conference did this week, in order of performance:

  1. Alabama (win vs USC)- The Alabama fans were ready to lynch Lane Kiffin, right until the USC QB threw a pick-6 and the Crimson Tide to shreds. It wasn’t a complete performance, but if this was considered as a bad performance after Week One, then the rest of college football is in trouble. Oh, and this Hurts kid looks good, people….
  2. Texas A&M (win vs UCLA) – The wide receivers are good, and the defense – especially that Myles Garrett kid – are great. But they HAVE to play for four quarters. Listen, they were lucky – UCLA had so many chances to win this game even before free football – but wins are wins.
  3. Georgia (win vs North Carolina)- Nick Chubb’s pretty damned good, y’all. Which is good, because the defense isn’t that great. And Kirby Smart hasn’t worked out who’s the good quarterback – the veteran with a pea-arm, or the kid with the cannon. We’ll go with the cannon, but maybe that’s just us.
  4. Auburn (loss vs Clemson) – Look, I thought the Tigers would get shellacked at home to Clemson, but boy, was I wrong. The Tigers SHOULD have done more offensively, but Gus Malzahn doesn’t seem to have a clue as to who his starting quarterback should be. In our view, it definitely shouldn’t be Sean White. He sucks. But the defensive line? Wow.
  5. South Carolina (win vs Vanderbilt) – HEY. WE DIDN’T EXPECT MUSCHAMP TO GET A WIN HERE.
  6. Ole Miss (loss vs Florida State) – Well, the first half looked great, didn’t it? The rest of it – not so pretty. Chad Kelly went from Heisman to Fliesman in the space of a half. Or Florida State simply made the sort of adjustments that should make everyone else very, very afraid.
  7. Florida (win vs UMass) – When the best moment of the game was Steve Spurrier doing the Usain Bolt before the game and Steve Spurrier’s interview with the SEC Network during the game, you know what’s happening on the game stank like a swamp
  8. Missouri (loss vs West Virginia)  – This team isn’t going to be very good this year, but the offense actually looked like it could move a little. That’s why the Tigers tripled their entire 2015 scoring total in one game this year.
  9. Arkansas (ONE-POINT win vs Louisiana Tech) – Should have lost this game, but didn’t. What will happen against a TCU game that should have lost to South Dakota State this week? Probably the shoot-out of the century.
  10. Vanderbilt (loss vs South Carolina) – The reason why it’s not higher? Vandy’s best chance to win a SEC game this season was in Week One against an ordinary South Carolina team. And they blew it.
  11. Kentucky (loss vs Southern Miss) – Dazzling in first half, played like they were blind in the second half. Only had under 15 plays in the second half as Southern Miss destroyed them on both sides of the ball. And you know what? What we say is true. We watched it. It wasn’t even funny.
  12. Tennessee (win vs Appalachian State) – The Volunteers got very, very lucky. They should have ‘done a Michigan’ and lost on Thursday night. But they didn’t, and they are 1-0. It’ll be interesting to see if Butch Jones can turn it around against Florida. He’ll need to.
  13. LSU (loss vs Wisconsin) – We loved Les Miles so much that we hoped and prayed he’d stay in Baton Rouge for another season. We hated Cam Cameron last year and the year before. Miles should have fired Cameron, and didn’t. In fact, this Spring he actually RE-UPPED Cameron’s contract for another three years where he’ll get paid around $1.2 million per year. He took a pay-cut of $300,000, but he shouldn’t have had it renewed in the first place. And the result? Brandon Harris is STILL the starting quarterback at LSU, despite sucking ass yet again.
  14. Mississippi State (loss vs South Alabama) – This isn’t about a 5-star player getting banned for beating the crap out of a woman during the off-season. This is about a coach who has made it clear he doesn’t care about life in Starkville….so much so that he interviewed for other jobs. Recruits aren’t going to care as this happens, are they? Oh, and Dak Prescott’s left.

Who will win the SEC East QB Battles?

We realize that this is an important time of year for those of you trying to work out who’s going to win the all-important 12 vs 5 seed in March Madness, but there’s something more important happening in SEC land: The SEC East QB battles (the ones in the West have already been set out).

FLORIDA

Josh Grady vs Luke Del Rio vs Austin Appleby vs Feleipe Franks vs Kyle Trask vs Treon Harris

Del Rio and Harris have got tenure but Franks could be a great wild card. He’s a pro-style, four-star local quarterback who should be a lot of fun to watch. Austin Appleby, who transferred to The Swamp from Purdue, will shake things up too. Appleby threw for 8 TDs and 8 INTS at a rate of 57.5, which is hardly golden, but Harris is the most hated quarterback in Gainseville since a bad Chris Leak. This will be fun.

PREDICTION: Appleby

GEORGIA

Jacob Eason vs No-one Else

Georgia did everything they could to get him to come to Athens, and after an early commitment and then a brief look at Florida, he came to town. And the “battle” was over with. Kirby Smart has a starting quarterback. Now, all he has to do is pray he doesn’t get injured…

PREDICTION: Eason. 

KENTUCKY

Drew Barker, Stephen Johnson, Gunnar Hoak

If you’re a Kentucky oddsmaker, you SHOULD be making Barker the favorite, bearing in mind two of his competitors – Patrick Towles (graduation) and Reese Phillips (transferred to FCS powerhouse Montana) have left the building. But Johnson – a three-star Juco transfer and three-star Ohio player Hoak will press him all the way.

PREDICTION: Barker, although expect Johnson to get his throws in gametime.

MISSOURI

Drew Lock, Jack Lowary, Marvin Zanders, Micah Wilson

Drew Lock is adored by Missouri fans we know. They felt that he should have been given the starting job at the beginning of the 2015 season instead of having to wait around for Maty Mauk to get suspended. Anyway, we lock Lock’s arm, his leadership, and if his offensive line can improve 40% from where it was last season, he should be a good pick in Barry Odom’s first season.

Prediction: Lock.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Connor Mitch,  Lorenzo Nunez,  Michael Scarnecchia, Brandon McIlwain, and Perry Orth

This is going to be a riveting battle bearing in mind that Mitch, Nunez and Orth all have starting experience. Orth threw for 1,929 yards, 12 TDs and 9 INTs, while Nunez went 376-3-3 and Mitch 165-1-0. Nunez was the most accurate of the three passers, but managed to suffer a “hyperextended knee and sprained LCL” in practice that will probably keep him out for the Spring Game, according to Josh Kendall at The State. Kendall is also reporting that McIlwain took charge of one of the drives in practice. This battle will go on until the end.

Prediction: Orth, until he falls to pieces and gets injured, and then it’s McIlwain’s team. 

TENNESSEE

Josh Dobbs vs The Great Big Zero

There’s no point putting anyone up against Dobbs since the kid-with-the-amazing-disappearing-hairline is going to get the starting job. We’ll also throw it out there that Dobbs may well compete for All-American and Heisman honors by the time this season’s over. He’s a hell of a quarterback.

Prediction: Dobbs

How Jacob Eason’s decision effects QB recruiting

After much tweeting, worry, overtweeting, photos, rumors, tears and gnashing of teeth, the news is out there: Jacob Eason, the high school quarterback with the very good arm, is staying with original commitment to Georgia and going to Athens in a couple of weeks’ time.

If you believe what Georgia fans have to say, Eason is the sort of program-changing quarterback that the Bulldogs need not to lose stupid games to Florida, Auburn and South Carolina and dominate college football from hereon in.

So, no pressure, Jacob…

Anyway, there was some worries that Eason might decide to go Florida (he visited Gainesville recently, as well as the University of Washington), which would have given the Gators not only a returning Will Grier (mid-season), but also Class of 2016 commit Feleipe Franks, who’s immense. According to 24-7Sports.com, Franks is the 3rd-best player at this position, the 7th-best player in Florida, and 37th player in the country. He committed to LSU before deciding to go to Florida on November 29th.

Franks was said to be very uneasy about the possibility of Eason coming to The Swamp, but now he’s going to UGA, the 6ft 6 Franks can now make his commitment. You know, if he doesn’t decide to change to another school. Florida State and LSU are said to still be in the hunt.

OK, so what happens to LSU? LSU has an awful quarterback in Brandon Harris, who’s been wildly inconsistent in 2014. LSU doesn’t know if Cam Cameron’s going to return in 2015 (although that looks increasingly likely bearing in mind that the school hasn’t fired him yet), and the school’s SEC West rivals are collecting good QBs like it’s going out of fashion.

According to The Advocate, Harris is expected to battle with Purdue transfer Danny Etling, who played his last game for Purdue on September 27th, 2014. Up to then in the 2014 season, he was wildly inconsistent.

So where does LSU go from here? First of all, LSU’s commit list is STACKED. But unfortunately, no quarterbacks. And if LSU fans are to remain happy with Les Miles, Cam Cameron or the team again in 2016, they had better find themselves a better QB.

 

 

 

Why Mark Richt’s firing at Georgia was coming

I don’t know what the world is coming to in our profession. I think when you win nine games, that’s a pretty good season, and especially with the body of work that he’s been able to put together there for however years he’s been there. …I hate to see people that have the character and quality and ability to affect young people in a positive way like Mark Richt not be a part of our profession.” – Nick Saban.

Last Sunday, Georgia released a statement that they had decided to end the career of Mark Richt “by mutual consent”. Richt was gone, and the atmosphere around Athens has been like a funeral. There were some fans who went straight outside the Georgia offices to show their support at the firing of Mark Richt. After all, it’s a shame to get rid of one of the SEC’s most decent coaches, isn’t it? Mark Richt wasn’t a crap-talker (like Steve Spurrier), an idiot talking about his marital exploits (Bret Bielema), or a loveable idiot (Les Miles) or a Napoleon-like control freak (Nick Saban). Richt was about making his players winners on an off the field. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.

Sometimes Richt had to boot players who decided that The Good Life wasn’t for them, and preferred to steal, to beat their girlfriends, and to smoke pot even after they had been arrested. Les Miles didn’t fire one of his players, Jeremy Hill, after he threw a punch at someone. He left it to a player vote as to whether the team would like to keep him. Richt gave players two or four-game suspensions, while other coaches in the same position in the SEC gave them one or two, coining Spurrier’s fantastic quote: “I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.” This year was a banner year for Georgia’s athletic behaviour, because no-one was suspended during the regular or off-season.

Would Georgia fans have swapped a few arrests for a trip to the SEC Championship Game this week? Absolutely.

           LUCK AND LOYALTY

And despite winning two SEC Championships and six SEC Eastern Division titles in his 14 years and amassing a 145-51 record, Mark Richt didn’t have a lot of luck.

In recent years, season-ending injuries to Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley, Malcolm Mitchell and Nick Chubb as well as members of his defense all but eradicated Georgia hopes of reaching the promised land. It seemed like no team in the SEC could injure themselves like Georgia did, and the team wasn’t as deep as some would have liked. And why not so deep? Recruitment loyalty. If every player who committed to Georgia early-on had actually stayed a Bulldog, Georgia would have had a Top.5 recruiting class for year in, year out. A couple of years ago it was Derrick Henry. He’s doing OK at Alabama. Now it’s top running back B.J. Emmons. Now, top UGA recruit Jacob Eason, who is meant to be the saviour of the UGA passing game, is now visiting Florida. If he decides to go to Gainseville, you can be assured that the Dawg fans might be burning down McGarity Island, to misquote Larry Munson. My take on recruitment loyalty is that Mark Richt didn’t text the kids 400 times a day like certain SEC head coaches did, and in a world where high school kids want to “feel the love” all the time, a coach who actually had other priorities in life didn’t make them feel ‘loved’, so they went elsewhere to get their ego stroked.

THE END HAD TO COME

But although it’s sad to see one of the SEC’s great coaches get booted, it’s hardly surprising.

His record against Florida was 5-9, and 2-4  against South Carolina since 2010. He’s also 2-3 against Alabama since Nick Saban was in charge (3-3 overall). And losing a 21-point lead to Tennessee, breaking a long winning streak didn’t make the locals happy, either. And during the final years of his tenure, Georgia’s ability to fall to pieces while the game was won was quite incredible. That probably didn’t help him, either.

A blog noted that since 2007 , Georgia’s record was 1-10 against teams who ended the year in the Top 10, and 2-10 against teams who were Top 10 at the time. Georgia has not been a top 25 team half the time since 2007 (2009, 2010, 2013, 2015). To say that the firing had been coming would be an understatement.

And the blog noted that the future’s bleak in 2016, after the graduation of 20 seniors and the departure of others to the NFL. To

Add to that this season, where offensively Georgia went from great to clueless (we’d blame a lot of that not necessarily on Richt so much as Brian Schottenheimer, who many will be hoping gets his marching orders in the next week), and struggled with a crappy Auburn, a mighty Georgia Southern and an even-mightier Georgia Tech. For $3.31m, that’s not what Georgia boosters and administrators expect – especially for a team that some felt would challenge for a National Title in 2015.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Was it sad to see Mark Richt go at Georgia? Sure. Was it surprising? No. People had been asking for his head every time Georgia had one of those comical/heartbreaking losses people talked about. Will he land on his feet somewhere else? Yes. And that’s what happens to good guys.