Five SEC quarterback battles to watch

 

I think we can safely say that Florida is set at quarterback in Tim Tebow. Ditto for Jevan Snead at Ole Miss. But just about everywhere else in the SEC there are questions at the quarterback positions. But for the sake of our discussion today, here are the five quarterback races I’m keeping a close eye on this spring. Any thoughts on these, or others you think are more noteworthy, are always welcomed.

 

Auburn: Chris Todd, Kodi Burns: Gus Malzahn, Auburn’s new offensive coordinator, was a very successful high school coach in Arkansas before he joined the college ranks. He coached against Auburn’s Burns, who played at Northside High in Fort Smith, Ark. Malzahn knows what Burns can do. More importantly, he knows what Burns cannot do—at least right now—and that’s throw the ball 30-plus times a game. Todd was the clear favorite last season when Tony Franklin was trying to install the spread. Franklin believed that Todd was the best combination of runner and passer. But Auburn fans never got to see the real Chris Todd because of shoulder problems that were worse than anybody would let on. Todd finally had surgery in December to fix the problem. Neil Caudle, a junior who has played some, and redshirt freshman Barrett Trotter will be in the mix early this spring but you can’t have four quarterbacks taking snaps consistently when there are only 15 practice days. Malzahn’s offense is so quarterback intensive that he’ll have to make some tough decisions early.

Georgia: Joe Cox, Aaron Murray: I like Joe Cox. Here is a guy who came to Georgia with impressive credentials out of Independence High School in Charlotte. He redshirts behind D.J. Shockley, a guy who waited four years behind David Greene. Shockley leads Georgia to an SEC championship in 2005 and then it looks like Cox will get his turn. Enter Matthew Stafford in 2006 and Cox has a big decision to make. He stays at Georgia and waits his turn. There is no question that Cox can play the position. He will be a steady hand at the wheel behind what will be a good offensive line and a stable of very good running backs. But here is the question: Can Cox become an every down quarterback over the long haul of an SEC season? Is Murray, the highly-recruited freshman from Tampa, a talent on the level of Stafford, David Greene, Eric Zeier, and Buck Belue? All four of those guys not only played but excelled in their first seasons (Greene was a redshirt freshman in 2001). Does the other freshman, Zach Mettenberger, get in this mix? In my opinion the position belongs to Cox until Murray’s talent demands he be put on the field. I just don’t think that happens early. The Bulldogs can’t go to Stillwater, Okla., on Sept. 5 with an 18-year-old quarterback.

 

 

Alabama: Greg McElroy, Star Jackson: OC Jim McElwain has the same kind of quarterback race at Alabama. McElroy, a rising redshirt junior from Southlake, Texas, has waited his turn behind John Parker Wilson. When he did play, and that wasn’t often, he didn’t embarrass himself, completing 16 of 20 passes for 196 yards. He is a drop back, pro-style quarterback in the mold of Wilson. He has a strong arm and, like most Texas quarterbacks, he knows the game. He is a quick study. He will put in the work to understand the game. Barring injury, he will start the first game against Virginia Tech, which has been known to feast on inexperienced quarterbacks. It will be a big first test under fire. But in order for Alabama to get where they want to go, redshirt freshman Star Jackson has to be in the mix. With three major losses on the offensive line, Alabama will eventually need the change of pace that a mobile quarterback brings.  Both will have to play.

 

Tennessee: Jonathon Crompton, B.J. Coleman, Nick Stephens: Tennessee tried to install a new offense last season under OC Dave Clawson and it was, bluntly, a bit too complicated for the quarterback talent on hand. Lane Kiffin’s offense is more quarterback friendly and the hope is that the Vols will get better play out of the position. Kiffin did not sign a quarterback in February because there was not an elite one left in the recruiting pool. One of these guys is going to have to take the first snap against Western Kentucky on Sept. 5. Crompton played in eight games last season and, to be kind, was not a very good decision maker. Stephens played in seven games, completing 48 percent of his 130 passes. Coleman, who some believe is the most gifted of the group, only played in three games. There is the sense out of Knoxville that quarterback play will be better but the reality may be that none of these guys is the answer long term for Tennessee. Kiffin will certainly have something to sell, namely a big opportunity to play immediately, when he goes recruiting for quarterbacks in 2010.

 

LSU: Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee, Russell Shepard: LSU played musical chairs with its quarterbacks last season before finally giving the job to Jefferson, a true freshman, in the final two games. Jefferson is mature beyond his years and can handle some of the wrinkles that OC Gary Crowton will inevitably throw at his quarterbacks. Head coach Les Miles won’t say it publicly but Jefferson is his guy. Miles wants to keep his options open because he knows that in this league, invariably you’ll need more than one quarterback to complete a season. Lee started eight games last season as a redshirt freshman but made some throws that were so ill-advised that they were beyond belief. He had 16 interceptions and seven that were returned for touchdowns. He got hurt at the end of the season (ankle) which gave Jefferson his opportunity. The battle really is to see who will back up Jefferson and Shepard, a true freshman from Houston, may be a factor. In the 2008 preseason Miles would always include Jefferson, a true freshman at the time, in the discussion about the quarterback position. This time he will do the same with Shepard, who is a very special talent.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Vanderbilt: Mackenzi Adams, Larry Smith. Smith, a rising sophomore, came on late last season and played well in the Music City Bowl. Adams has had flashes of really good play but needs to be more consistent.

 

 

143 comments Add your comment

LSU

March 24th, 2009
8:51 am

Just wait now that LSU doesn’t have the INT prone Lee, LSU is gonna make waves in the SEC again this year..Shepard is the future..

Now a serious question..Does what happens to JoeT in his senior year happen to Joe Cox also..Meaning if he gets in trouble in the first few games of the season, Do you think Richt will “cut his loses” with Cox and opt for Murray and just take what happens like with Stafford a few years ago?

GeoffDawg

March 24th, 2009
8:57 am

I know that Murray has been basically anointed the “QB in waiting” and he may very well deserve that kind of praise. From what I understand, Mettenberger in no slouch either and would be more in the QB mold which the Georgia offense has played around the last few years. I’m wondering if this hype on Murray is hangover from his high recruiting rank or have we been seeing anything in spring practice so far which would give us the impression that he’s truly a special player already at his age and significantly ahead of Mettenberger.

Monroe Dawg

March 24th, 2009
8:57 am

Tony, I’m surprised that you don’t have Logan Gray in the mix at Georgia. I think he is going to see alot of playing time along with Cox.

bigdawg01

March 24th, 2009
9:00 am

Joe Cox is NOT a Joe Tereshinski. Cox is very talented and make the throws that are needed. The main knock on Cox is that he cant throw as far as Stafford, but who cares. Stafford’s long ball rarely connected with the receivers. Cox will be able to move the offense. O line will be better and give him so additional time. Remember, Cox scored our ONLY TD against FL last year. He is calm under pressure and knows the offense very well. Murray is certainly the future, but should learn first behind Cox. I agree with TB that an 18 year old should not start the season in a place like Stillwater, OK.

Lots of QB battles this year will make the SEC better than last year, but oh boy watch out in 2010. SEC is the best conference in the country.

Saint Nick

March 24th, 2009
9:01 am

Cox was beaten out by Stafford BARELY!!! UGA will be fine at QB, I don’t see any dropoff at that position. McElroy will be the QB ALL season, don’t expect to see Jackson much. Bama will be practicing addition by subtraction at the QB position, the O-line will have NO trouble adjusting. Fluker and Carpenter will challenge for LT and the loser of that battle will probably be at RT. ROLL TIDE!!!!!!!!!

Joey

March 24th, 2009
9:02 am

Good question LSU. But the consensus in Athens is Cox would have been a 4 year starter for a lot of SEC teams, and should be a good QB this year. Joe T, on the other hand, was another case of Richt’s loyalty to his staff. Joe T’s dad is still an assistant at UGA, I think.

Alabamadawg

March 24th, 2009
9:04 am

I love reading your articles, your opinions are usually very thought-out, but seems to me you forgot about Logan Gray. His talents, both running and passing, plus his time in the system puts him ahead of the two hot recuits we have. Do you think Gray is not starter material at Georgia after Cox has gone?? Again, let me say I love reading your articles, thank you.

LSU

March 24th, 2009
9:05 am

bigdawg1 I wasn’t saying Cox was a Joe Tereshinski I was merely asking about the situation that happened with Tereshinski, and wondering if Cox gets in trouble in some early games if Richt will turn to Murray and let him take his lumps like Stafford did..Wasn’t trying to make anyone angry just curious..

[...] Barnhart of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution examines in his blog five quarterback battles to watch in the SEC this spring.They are:Auburn — Chris Todd versus Kodi BurnsGeorgia — Joe Cox [...]

Lame Kitten

March 24th, 2009
9:08 am

I hope the Quarterbacks play without their shirts…

bank walker

March 24th, 2009
9:11 am

Logan Gray will definitely be in the #2 spot on the depth chart. He is a great talent with scrambling ability, and was a 4* out of high school. This guy is good! GO DAWGS!!!!!!

bigdawg01

March 24th, 2009
9:14 am

LSU-no offense taken.
This seasons situation is similar, but also SO different. Joe T was a horrible QB playing only out of pure necessity. Cox is much better and i think he will play most of the season with Murray getting some reps in games that are well in hand. However, IF he does get in trouble early, which I dont think he will, i bet you will see Logan Gray in there.

Atlanta Gator

March 24th, 2009
9:21 am

The resolution of the Alabama, UGA and LSU quarterback situations will determine whether those teams seriously contend for their division and conference titles in 2009. While each of them has other position questions to answer, too, with a QB who exceeds expectations and a little luck, any of the three teams could find themselves in the SEC championship game in December 2009.

The outcome of the Auburn and Tennessee QB races is about the future . . . that is, whether those programs can become regionally and nationally competitive in 2010 and subsequent seasons. Neither is likely to win more than 7 games in 2009, and both have a lot more questions to answer than just who their next starting QB will be. In both cases, it may take another recruiting class before the Tigers and Vols find their “quarterbacks of the future.”

I’m obviously not an unbiased prognosticator, but my early money is on Tebow and Snead, as the two most established SEC quarterbacks, to lead the Gators and Rebs to an Atlanta showdown in December.

Tony Barnhart

March 24th, 2009
9:26 am

Okay guys. I have an open mind about Logan Gray at Georgia. Make your case and I’ll look at him harder in the future.

[...] The forgotten quarterback Jump to Comments This really is puzzling to me.  Today, Tony Barnhart looks at five SEC quarterback battles to watch and here’s what he says about Georgia’s: [...]

Otto

March 24th, 2009
9:45 am

Malzahn knew Burns from Arkansas and he also remembers a game played at Hoover between his team and Caudle’s Spain Park team. Todd was Franklin’s boy and his arm was not the same last year after the injury. Burns has never demonstrated the accurate arm nor decision making ability to be a game winner in the SEC but Tubbs liked playing the highly tauted recruit he claimed from his home state. Injuries have kept Caudle out along with being Borges’s recruit but he is healthy now with an OC that has watched him play.

Trotter is a big question mark, some Auburn fans think he is the future and as a new coach do you take your bumps with a young QB that should pay off when you are expected to win games? Auburn’s expectations for next year are not exactly high.

Chris

March 24th, 2009
9:49 am

Logan Gray looked competent in last year’s spring game but don’t you have to assume he would be discussed as more serious competition to Cox if he had outperformed him in practice? A lot of people rave about his athleticism although you couldn’t see much from his punt returns. Is there any truth to getting him involved in the offense as a receiver/athlete?

MtnBama

March 24th, 2009
10:07 am

OK, for the last time, Star Jackson is a drop back pro style QB. While he no doubt is more “mobile” than McElroy he is not a “running” QB. He will run the same plays that McElroy runs when he is in the game. If Bama struggles at QB it will be because of the down field passing game execution NOT because of McElroys lack of mobility.

joe

March 24th, 2009
10:07 am

Buck Belue on the level of Stafford/Ziere/Green? No way…all he ever did was turn around, not trip over his own feet and hand it off to Herchel…

RxDawg

March 24th, 2009
10:08 am

I think Logan is the #2 QB. No more punt returns for him…..that still amazes me that our backup QB was returning punts. Go figure. It would take some serious talent from the two new QB’s to rise over them. None of that matters though, barring injury Cox is the man all year. Logan cleans up the 4th quater in blow outs.

JB

March 24th, 2009
10:09 am

I agree with Chris, Logan Gray gets very little mention outside of blogs and hardly any from coach’s. If he was lighting it up in practice, somebody would be talking about. Heck, Tony left him out of this article, that says it all. Great guy, great athlete…….but not sticking out in a crowd. I”ll say it now, Georgia fans will be happier with Cox than Stafford. Matt tried to make big things happen Every play, and most of the time we punted, or ran a draw on 3rd and 10 for 4 yards. A controlled passing game with yards after catch will be big this year. Matt went deep 12-15 times a game, joe will only go deep 2-3 times. We will punt a lot less this year !

Otto

March 24th, 2009
10:09 am

Joe Cox should be a front runner for UGA’s starting QB. He sets leadership going into the season early and was close to winning the starting job over Stafford.

Gray I would think should be in the mix for ‘10 along with the 2 freshman. As others have mention Gray looked fine in the spring. I’m not sold on Murray yet no real reason but I don’t get a great feeling.

Otto

March 24th, 2009
10:11 am

McElory starts against VT if for no other reason than Bama needs the most experience QB they can field against that solid defense in the opener. Star would have to have an amazing off season to even begin to change his standing and McElroy has made some great throws even in cleanup duty.

Tenn and Auburn are the big question marks in the SEC.

DawginLex

March 24th, 2009
10:15 am

I don’t see it with Logan Gray other than a change of pace guy to maybe run some option or trick play passing stuff. His arm strength is not as good as Cox. I think cox is LIGHT YEARS better than Joe T. The OL is going to make Cox even better than he is because of the ability to line up and run the ball.

Hopefully, Murray and Zach Met will both get redshirted and Cox and Gray can play the entire year. I’m more worried about rushing the passer than I am the offense. Joe Cox used to win all of the accuracy drills at the all star camps. He can run around a little also which will make him more of a threat.

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 24th, 2009
10:20 am

I’ll let you fleabags slap JOE around about Buck…yeah, all he did was win a NC (It wasn’t preseason either).

He brought UGAg back against GT his freshmen year…of course with the help of the officials on a bogus 2pt conversion.

He couldn’t save the mutts from a 45-42 drubbing though…and won’t be able to help with this years beat down either.

Ren Halverson

March 24th, 2009
10:20 am

For Logan, although I haven`t seen more than last year`s spring game, he is blessed with Alot of speed, looked faster than Shockley, the last QB double threat, he has a good arm ,throws very well on the run, and came from a good HS scheme. If nothing else, he presents a solid switch in defensive scheme when he spells Cox. In my opinion, a good candidate for starter next year and bring the young guns along at a relaxed pace. Mettenberger may surprise everyone, very cool under pressure with a great arm. still early but the Gday game coul be fun to watch.

crs

March 24th, 2009
10:28 am

I think cox will hold the job all year, he is not Joe T and quite frankly Aaron is no Stafford. The best thing for Aaron is to watch and learn and maybe get some mop up duty. Hopefully there is a package for Logan, we need to give the defenses some more to think about and atleast prepare for.

Kendawg

March 24th, 2009
10:31 am

I saw Logan Gray in the spring game last year and he looks to be better than just an adequate sub QB. He may not be being talked about much this spring but I think he will surprise some people if he gets a chance to play. That said, I’m glad to see Joe Cox get his chance. He’s paid his dues and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does better than people expect him to. He was a big winner at Independence High and, for me, winning is the name of the game.

DawginLex

March 24th, 2009
10:31 am

I see our resident “all things UGA” stalker is back.

what a pathetic existence……………..

Right On Time

March 24th, 2009
10:33 am

joe: Buck was pretty good before #34 arrived. He was actually a great athlete, excellent baseball player.

I just don’t know how anyone can say Logan is so talented and should be #2. I try to stay pretty close to the action and have not seen enough on him to make that call. His incoming credentials are all that supports that call. Remember, Blake Barnes was highly touted also. With that said, if y’all are “in the know” I defer to you as I have very little inside info.

Atlanta gator: I think you are being kind in regards to the Dawgs potential. As much as I love them, I don’t see anyway they contend for the East. Losing 85% of your “o”, an unproven backfield and only 1 known playmaker at receiver is not a mixture to beat florida’s “D”.

I think it is a 9 win season where we see lots of players “bloom” and prepare for 2010.

crs

March 24th, 2009
10:42 am

Lets get real, going into the season 7 wins is realistic.

[...] College Football gives us some quarterback races to watch in the SEC this [...]

Erk

March 24th, 2009
10:44 am

Agree with DawginLex. Logan Gray might get it there this year as a backup or a change of pace QB but I don’t think he can make the necessary throws consistently. Beyond this year I think he gets lost in the mix with Murray and Met coming in.

Right On Time

March 24th, 2009
10:49 am

Good job rambles on. Good memeory, except:

I think that was a fine call on the 2pt conversion…great call in fact.

Irony + Contradictions

March 24th, 2009
10:50 am

Some of you need to stop contradicting yourselves so much with those Red & Black glasses….

Tebow will never be an NFL QB and Stafford will be an NFL suerstar at QB….

…and yet you say UGA will have no dropoff with Joe Cox and UF will become mediocre when Tebow leaves.

UGA is in great shape with Joe Cox because he’s been in the system for 4 years and was a high rated recruit…

…and yet UF will be in bad shape when Tebow leaves even though their QB that will take over will have been in the system the system 4 years and was an even more higher rated recruit than Cox.

Also Bigdawg I didn’t know 1 touchdown pass vs. UF’s 3rd string in the last minutes of a blowout was so indictive of a QB’s future success? LOL.

UGA has a ton of talent and 2 great WR’s in Green and Brown who will take a lot of pressure off of the QB in the passing game. the BIG key IMO will be King, Samuel or another RB stepping up to take the real pressure off the QB. I wouldn’t worry though because under CMR there have always been 1, 2 and sometimes 3 backs who step up.

Erk

March 24th, 2009
10:55 am

Get it all in while you can Ramble On.

Why was the 2 pt conversion bogus Buck’s freshman year against Tech? Because of Tech’s obvious pass interference?

Otto

March 24th, 2009
10:58 am

Stafford will not be a NFL superstar nor Cox but see DawginLex and JB above for Cox’s talent.

UF does have the best weapon on offense since Bo Jackson and Herschel. UF will be fine after Tebow but I see the margin narrowing alot between UF and everyone else.

matt

March 24th, 2009
11:17 am

Gray is a pure athlete. The fact that he returned punts last year was a strategy on 2 different levels. They didn’t want him to transfer so they gave him some game time. 2) He’s a pure athlete. Someone using the name “exnflplayer” (i have my guess as to who that is) has been on these posts before saying that his athleticism will make it VERY hard for the coaches not to give him his shot. Kiper predicted Stafford to be a #1 pick out of high school. Murray is nowhere close to that. Cox is the man until he loses his job. Gray will get his shot, Murray and Mettenberger need to both redshirt, we don’t need them this year, and you can always pull it if need be.

Burningred/Bleedingblack

March 24th, 2009
11:22 am

Enter your comments here

RxDawg

March 24th, 2009
11:25 am

I+C, here is one dawg fan that says Tebow will be an awesome NFL QB.

Burningred/Bleedingblack

March 24th, 2009
11:29 am

Cox is the man. No question about it, does he have talent? Of course every time he has playied he has scored a touchdown. He won against Colorado when stafford could not. His arm is not as strong as stafford however he is more accurate and he is full of fire which stafford never had. Bama will have the same situation as UGA they have QB”S ready to play.The game against VT will be interesting though. FLA, UM, QB’s are a solid lock’s of course. Tenn might take time to adjust to new system. Vanderbilt will continue to grow, they will have a season like last year. Georgia Tech will…..well….who cares they play in the ACC and no one cares about the second best team in GA.

GeoffDawg

March 24th, 2009
11:34 am

Irony + Contradictions – you do realize the NFL and the college game have some very significant differences in how the QB position is utilized? I wouldn’t characterize Florida without Tebow as being mediocre by any stretch but I do think they’ll have something to prove with regards to being able to run that offense without a superstar at the helm. At the same time, it’s also quite feasible that Tebow will not be a star QB in the NFL. I see him having an impact on a team that can creatively utilize his talents but he’s not going to be the NFL player Stafford is likely to be. That’s no knock on him – As a fan, I’d personally rather have a MNC under my belt than a #1 draft pick, but it is what it is.

Matt Stafford

March 24th, 2009
11:56 am

When is UGA gonna put up a plaque at Sanford with one of my whiny speeches?

Atlanta Jackets

March 24th, 2009
11:58 am

The biggest QB battle will be Georgia’s front seven trying to handle the Robot. When the Robot Nesbot gets to add a play action to his playbook, he’ll tear the mutts apart ever more. Hey, mutts the Robot just scored another touchdown on you! LOL!

Seriously, when Stephen Hill steps up at WR (he’s a more polished AJ Green with better hands, says scout and rivals.com) Tech will score 45 a game.

QB battle is over. LOL!

Saint Nick

March 24th, 2009
12:00 pm

Tebow and Kaiser Sozay are the same person!!!!!!!!!!!!

GeoffDawg

March 24th, 2009
12:05 pm

I’m actually surprised that other tech fans haven’t tried to get atlanta jackets to cool it with all the robot talk. He’s not exactly dispelling any popular “perceptions” of the nat fan base.

crs

March 24th, 2009
12:12 pm

You can say a lot of good things about Tim Tebow, he is a great college quarterback, has great fire and competiveness, is a good young man, to name a few. But I doubt you will be able to add, he is a good NFL quarterback to the list ever. I think he has a place in the NFL, special teams, h-back, tight end, occasional short yardage quarterback. I don’t get caught up in so and so runs a 4.2, or he’s 6′7 or whatever but Tebow could not be a running quarterback in the NFL and his arm is just not that great, in the NFL you don’t have wr’s open by twenty yards as he consistently has at FL.

crs

March 24th, 2009
12:14 pm

I think sometimes a blind squirrel could play quarterback and be successful at FL.

THWGT

March 24th, 2009
12:15 pm

Ramble on, get a grip…a three point win is a drubbing??? In any case, here is a number for you 38-3.. That is a drubbing!!!!!

Reebok

March 24th, 2009
12:25 pm

With all due respect to all you loyal Bulldog fans out there…you are delusional if you think there will not be a huge stepdown in QB with Cox replacing Stafford. Remember, Stafford beat out Cox for the job and then went on to a career that was so solid that he’s about to become the #1 pick in the NFL draft. So unless Cox has made huge leaps in his development while riding the pine, the dropoff is going to be huge. Like, DJ Shockley-to-Joe Tereshinski huge. Cox probably won’t be QB past the mid-point of the season. IMHO as always.