Quarterback questions abound in the SEC

I cannot remember the last time that the SEC had this many questions at the quarterback position as Spring practice draws to a close.

It’s just one man’s opinion, but:

**–There are only two solid locks returning at quarterback in this league.

**–There are four returning starters who I will call “on the bubble.”

**– There will definitely be six new starting quarterbacks in the SEC when the 2010 season starts.

Here’s the breakdown. Feel free to tell me where you agree or disagree:

THE LOCKS

These guys will go the distance if they stay healthy:

Greg McElroy, Alabama: Led his team to a national championship last season and is 29-0 as a starter dating back to high school. He completed almost 61 percent of his passes last season for 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Redshirt freshman AJ McCarron is the backup and is going to be very, very good.

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas:  Mallett, who is sitting out the spring while recovering from foot surgery, led the SEC in passing (3,624 yards) with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He should only be better in the second year working in Bobby Petrino’s offense. Mallett is the best NFL prospect in the league.

 

ON THE BUBBLE

These guys started a year ago and will start again. But there are no guarantees they will keep the job for the entire season:

Mike Hartline, Kentucky: Hartline, a rising senior, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fifth game against South Carolina and was replaced by true freshman Morgan Newton. Hartline’s experience has given him an edge this spring but he will be pushed by Newton and sophomore Ryan Mossakowski. Newton gives the ‘Cats bigger play-making ability. He also makes more mistakes.

Jordan Jefferson, LSU: Jefferson (2,508 passing, 17 TD) has all kinds of talent but he is wildly inconsistent and I don’t believe the coaching staff trusts him enough to turn really him loose. He will start against North Carolina in the opener (Sept. 4 at the Georgia Dome) but watch this one closely. I’ve spoken to enough football people to believe that Jarrett Lee, who has had an up and down career, is talented enough to regain the job if he can find his confidence again. Lee has talent but has not been developed well.

Stephen Garcia, South Carolina:  Coach Steve Spurrier has made no secret of the fact that he is not completely pleased with the junior from Tampa. Garcia’s numbers were decent (2,862 yards, 17 TD) but he still makes too many bad decisions (ninth in the SEC in passing efficiency)  and doesn’t work hard enough in the off-season. Freshman Connor Shaw (from Flowery Branch, Ga.) played well in the spring and will push Garcia this summer. Garcia will be on a very short leash once the season begins.

Larry Smith, Vanderbilt: When Smith led the Commodores to a win over Boston College in the 2008 Music City Bowl, the coaching staff thought they had their quarterback of the future. But Smith (46.7 percent passing) and the Vanderbilt offense (ranked 110th nationally) struggled last season. JUCO transfer Jordan Rogers, freshman Charile Goro, and redshirt junior Jared Funk all got snaps in the final spring scrimmage. Head coach Bobby Johnson shook up his offensive coaching staff hoping to get more production so a change in quarterback could also be possible.

THE NEW GUYS

(Last year’s starter in parentheses)

Cameron Newton, Auburn (Chris Todd): The former Florida backup is a great athlete at 6-6, 247-pounds. He won a JUCO national championship and is going to get the chance to run Gus Malzahn’s spread offense. The coaching staff is mum on the subject but it’s hard to see Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley or Neil Caudle running this offense better.

John Brantley, Florida (Tim Tebow): The junior had a good spring but that was expected. The unexpected news for the Gators this spring is how well freshman Trey Burton and tight end Jordan Reed can run the “Tebow package.” Florida can’t replace Tebow’s leadership and intangibles, but it looks like the offense is going to be very good again.

Aaron Murray, Zack Mettenberger, Logan Gray, Georgia (Joe Cox): Mettenberger has a very good arm, which he showed in the spring game. Gray is a versatile athlete who can do a lot of things. He is one of those “glue guys” who holds a team together. Yes, I know that the coaches are saying that the quarterback competition will carry over until this summer. But barring injury Murray, my Bulldog friends, will be your starting quarterback when the season begins on Sept. 4. He is the complete package. He has what (Duke coach) David Cutcliffe calls the “it” factor that good quarterbacks have.

Nathan Stanley, Ole Miss (Jevan Snead):  Stanley has all but locked up the job because an expected challenge from redshirt freshman Raymond Cotton never materialized. Stanley, a redshirt sophomore, is an accurate passer with good mobility. Cotton, a redshirt freshman, is more mobile. JUCO transfer Randall Mackey will get in the mix this summer and could spice things up with this athleticism.

Chris Relf, Tyler Russell, Miss. State (Tyson Lee): Relf, a redshirt junior, played well in the 2009 season finale against Ole Miss (three touchdowns) and has had a very good spring. But Russell is a special talent and, after redshirting last season, is just too good to keep on the bench. Coach Dan Mullen is going to have some nice options in 2010.

Matt Simms, Tyler Bray, Tennessee (Jonathan Crompton): Nick Stephens, the only Tennessee quarterback with experience, has transferred leaving the field open for Simms, a junior college transfer, and Bray, a true freshman.  With back-to-back games against Oregon and Florida in September, it’s hard to believe that Simms won’t start the first game if he stays healthy. With a very young offensive line, it could be tough sledding for whoever wins this job.

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230 comments Add your comment

Kid Ray

April 14th, 2010
8:08 am

Kid Ray

April 14th, 2010
8:15 am

Good luck Vols…I watched Simms play in HS and he was surrounded by such great players (Don Bosco) that he limitations was hidden. also, he had a punk attitude and sense of entitlement.

Gator Fan

April 14th, 2010
8:18 am

Top five by the time the season is over:

1. Mallet, 2. Brantley, 3. Garcia 4. Murray/Mettenberger 5. McElroy.

Bama vs. UF again. UF loses to Bama at Saban Stadium, but beats them in the SECCG.

Dogs defense improves, but Bobo fails to utilize the running tandem and AJ green effectively. He is guaranteed to throw like 10 pathetic screens a game, most on third down and like 20.

bigdawg01

April 14th, 2010
8:30 am

Gator Fan:
You will get to see our running game this year….3 & 4 right at you.

Lou Holtz

April 14th, 2010
8:31 am

Garcia will be fine but Conner Shaw will see the field after the Georgia game IMO.

#2 BAMA FAN

April 14th, 2010
8:34 am

Folks remember the name A.J McCarron the next great QB at Alabama!! RTR

UGASlobberknocker

April 14th, 2010
8:45 am

South Carolina will always have a QB problem as loing as Spurrier is the coach because no top blue chip quarterback wants to play for him. His methods worked at Fla where there was enough talent to get by without a primo quarterback..not so in Columbia.

Mikey

April 14th, 2010
8:48 am

Murray will be the next David Greene- redshirt freshman quietly going about his business of running the offense and those MONSTER tight ends to perfection.

Joey

April 14th, 2010
8:51 am

Speaking of Cutcliffe, Tony, did you ever hear why he turned UT down when Kiffin left? Blew my mind when he chose to stay at Duke.

JB

April 14th, 2010
8:55 am

Gray could not beat out a very very average SEC QB in Joe Cox. Any good reports from coach’s about him is fluff. It’s up to Murray or Mett to pull the Dawgs through. I would say both of those guys hopefully will be a little upgrade from Cox, who had his moments, but struggled. One big thing that should help the new QB is hopefully Grantham won’t let us get 2-4 TD’s down early and the offense put in a position of a fire drill the whole game. In defense of Cox, he had to try and win some games last year with his arm because we were so behind, and the other teams D just Teed off on him and he didn’t have a chance. I think our running game will be better earlier this year also, which will help !

EW

April 14th, 2010
8:55 am

Great article TB. Lots of teams look like they will be depending on the run until these guys get going.

EW

April 14th, 2010
8:57 am

JB I agree…why not go ahead and move Gray somewhere else now? We need depth at wideout…

I have a lot of confidence in either of the young guys having success with our running attack to help them.

WonderDawg

April 14th, 2010
8:58 am

That shows how much you know about UGA, Gator Fan, suggesting Bobo will call a screen on 3rd and 20. Anything greater than 3rd and 12, we run a draw. Yeah. A draw. It seems we have no 20 yard plays in our really huge (7 pages) playbook. Seriously . . .

WonderDawg

April 14th, 2010
9:05 am

JB, you do remember Richt/Bobo started Joe T instead of Stafford in ‘06, right. Those kind of guys (Joe T, Joe Cox, Logan Gray) tug on Richt’s heart strings. You know, the, “he’s paid his dues, he’s worked hard, he’s been in the program for 3 years now, he’s a leader, he’s a game manager, etc, etc.”

I’m just saying, don’t count Gray out. He’ll get to play even if he is the third best of our QBs.

AU Alum 85

April 14th, 2010
9:10 am

Cam Newton is already turning heads during Auburn’s spring practices. If he delivers as expected, and Auburn’s young defense can grow up, look for Auburn to challenge Alabama for the SEC West.

JB

April 14th, 2010
9:13 am

I would love to see Richt and Bobo expand the play book just a little. We are way to “scripted” according to down, yardage, field position etc. Most Georgia fans know if we are 3rd and 12 at our own 30, we might as well yell, ” our next play after this will be a punt, so get them ready because we are going to pretend we are killing the clock running this play that will get 4 yards” GEEZ.

Gator Growl

April 14th, 2010
9:13 am

Tony, While this is Brantley’s first year starting, he has been in the system for 3 years and has SEC playing experience so I wouldn’t exactly call him a “new”guy. And barring injury, he is just as much of a lock to start as McElroy or Mallett are at their respective schools. I certainly wouldn’t put him in the same category of the uncertainty of the UGA QB derby in which odds are the probable starter’s next SEC snap will probably be their first…

Gatorzone

April 14th, 2010
9:15 am

Slobberknocker, I agree and you make a good point about Spurrier’s ability to recruit a top notch QB. On Brantley, he is a more pure QB than Tebow. Not sure if he is the leader Tim was, but look for him to make decisions faster with a more accurate ball. Burton and Reed are merely going to be a sidenote this year.

Gatorzone

April 14th, 2010
9:18 am

Growl, I agree. I was wondering why TB didn’t have him in the lock category.

AU, as long as he keeps his nose clean Newton should pan out well. It is too bad he could not have worked out long term in Gainesville, but I think the Gators have the better QB anyway.

Otto

April 14th, 2010
9:22 am

Murray.. ugh another Coach’s prodigy that does not translate mechanics into on field success.

JB

April 14th, 2010
9:23 am

WonderDawg…….how right you are. Hopefully, on Defense we will not see that this year, case in point, Senior Bryan Evans starting every game last year over the Rambo kid who was way way better.
I don’t think Grantham will let that happen. I agree that Richt and Bobo ( mainly Richt) will do EVERYTHING HE CAN to make sure Gray gets his shot, in fact I’m saying right NOW he ( Gray) starts our first two games ! Richt will HOPE he does well enough to keep the job. It’s the Senior player vs the Freshman thing going on. The ONE BIG difference between Richt and Saban and Meyer. You’re the best, you play.

JB

April 14th, 2010
9:30 am

WonderDawg……..It just hit me the way Richt is about the QB’s. He see’s himself at Miami in Cox and Gray……..Richt always had the big time guy recruit in front of him and he hardly ever saw the field to “prove himself”, so in his mind, he’s going to make sure these ” average” QB’s get their chance. Maybe something to this……..

Typical Gator Fan

April 14th, 2010
9:34 am

Gator Growl

April 14th, 2010
9:13 am
Tony, While this is Brantley’s first year starting, he has been in the system for 3 years and has SEC playing experience so I wouldn’t exactly call him a “new”guy. And barring injury, he is just as much of a lock to start as McElroy or Mallett are at their respective schools. I certainly wouldn’t put him in the same category of the uncertainty of the UGA QB derby in which odds are the probable starter’s next SEC snap will probably be their first…

So they are going to run the same offense this year as in the last three years? Saying Brantley has three years experience might be a bit optimistic. He’s watched Tebow run the ball for three years, is that what you mean Brown Growler?

XpatHeel

April 14th, 2010
9:41 am

Brynn Renner beat out all the dogs propects in Calif. QB skills camps. And he’s going to beat out T.J.Yates come Fall. He’s going to light up the LSU defense, and Tony, you STILL won’t pen a word about him. Mr. SEC Football….what a homer. Talk all you want about giving equal time to acc teams…it’s not even close.
And come Draft day, look it up. Compare the number of draftees from the conferences. Look at last years numbers. Look at the year before that. Squawk all you want about the acc being inferior. Then ask coaches in the NFL what they think about the acc talent.

jay

April 14th, 2010
9:43 am

Acc sucks get over it

help, I live in Ga

April 14th, 2010
9:51 am

Arkansas should be very good with Mallet. Florida will be fun to watch. It is sometimes painful to watch McElroy at Alabama but he seems to get it done when it counts. In the SEC CG, he looked like a totally different QB. Maybe that performance will bring him out of his shell and give him the confidence to be good consistantly.

Cam Newton should look good running the new-look Auburn offense. The rest of league is a big question mark and could be ugly for some. They say that Matt Simms at Tenn has a leadership quality in the huddle that you can’t teach. I hear his father comes to town every so often and spends a great deal of time with him watching film and teaching him things that only an all-pro QB can teach. You gotta love that as an intangible. Given that, they say that Tyler Brey is actually very impressive and very accurate. Problem there is you can’t hit the QB in the spring and that’s a good thing if your 6′6, 190. If Phat Phil could stop by and loan him 25 pounds, he’d be a starter. Manning was 6′6, 215 his frosh year so that’s probably where you set the bar for him starting. Can you imagine a Terrance Cody type of player sacking a 6′6, 190 pound QB. It would be ugly.

TnVolGentleman

April 14th, 2010
9:52 am

Wow some Tennessee haters on here….. I am so looking forward to football season and getting on the field and seeing what really will transpire!!!!

Will

April 14th, 2010
9:54 am

Murray will be fine. He has tons of talent around him and finally a defensive coach who won’t put him in a 21 point hole to start the game. I feel sorry for Knowshon, Stafford, Mo Mass, Cox, people like that who suffered under a horrid defensive coaching staff that wasted these talents. 2008 and 2009 was such a waste.

JB

April 14th, 2010
9:55 am

I wouldn’t exactly call Brantley having SEC experience being put in a game with a 30-40 point lead and the other team has “quit”, mostly against non ranked teams . Would the above poster please list which “SEC ” Games he entered and what his stats where for the game. When he drives the Gators down the field with 3 minutes tolay against say ” Bama’ to win the game, then I’ll tip my hat.

Elliot Garcia

April 14th, 2010
9:56 am

Georgia can’t keep it’s QB’s away from the booze….

jumbeauxtiger

April 14th, 2010
9:57 am

XpatHeel

April 14th, 2010
9:41 am
‘Brynn Renner beat out all the dogs propects in Calif. QB skills camps. And he’s going to beat out T.J.Yates come Fall. He’s going to light up the LSU defense,”

Bold talk for a team that had a so-so season last fall. Your offense hasn’t faced a defense with the speed LSU has so we’ll see.

UNC very well could win the game if we don’t improve our running game and our QB play.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC

Gary

April 14th, 2010
10:02 am

Look X pathetic heel, The ACC sucks. They are not even in the conversation right now. Take you best team and put them in another BCS game so they can loose and shut your yap. No one is impressed. No one has anything good to say about your dissappointing conference.

jumbeauxtiger

April 14th, 2010
10:03 am

Gator Fan

April 14th, 2010
8:18 am
“Top five by the time the season is over:

1. Mallet, 2. Brantley, 3. Garcia 4. Murray/Mettenberger 5. McElroy.”

I think McElroy has much more upside than Garcia and Murray/Mett and I just see those guys being above McElroy at the end of the season. The guy is a winner and doesn’t beat himself.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC

JB

April 14th, 2010
10:03 am

Georgia, Auburn and LSU will be better than advertised this year, although will probably lose a couple of games each. Carolina will be Carolina 7-5, 8-4 tops. Florida and Bama will still be the teams to beat, but will have their moments of vulnerability. Mississippi teams will be as usual ans keep an eye on Arkansas.

jumbeauxtiger

April 14th, 2010
10:04 am

I meant I don’t see those guys being above McElroy….

BrokeBackJacket

April 14th, 2010
10:05 am

XpatHeel…this column is about college football!

What is the a she she’s BCS record again…..2-11 comes to mind? If I am wrong please correct me!
And while you are researching that….when was your heels relevant in the world of major college football? When was your last major bowl appearance?

Patiently awaiting reply……..

TS

April 14th, 2010
10:06 am

Gray was 1-1 with a td against Florida last year. That touchdown pass was to Spikes standing on his own five yard line but it was a touchdown regardless.

jumbeauxtiger

April 14th, 2010
10:12 am

Good article Tony butg I would have to agree with earlier posters that Brantley is a lock.

I don’t see Jefferson improving much if at all. Although they are different type of QBs, he reminds me of Garcia. A guy that is about as good as he is going to get.

If JJ struggles early and Miles doesn’t make a change we will be in trouble. A schedule that includes UNC, WV, Fl, Auburn, Tenn, Ms State, Bama and Ark is going to tough even with solid QB play.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC

All Cupcakes Conference

April 14th, 2010
10:22 am

“Mr. SEC Football….what a homer. Talk all you want about giving equal time to acc teams…it’s not even close.”

Uh oh, somebody call the WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHmbulance.

“Georgia can’t keep it’s QB’s away from the booze”

If we could only keep you away from the superfluous apostrophes…

Johnny DangerDawg

April 14th, 2010
10:34 am

Tony says: “He has what (Duke coach) David Cutcliffe calls the “it” factor that good quarterbacks have.”
Oh really, I didn’t know Cutcliffe coined the term “it” factor. Tony, as Napoleon used to say, “you make no sense.” Your writing is like what Mark Twain used to call “bad journalism.” You should do what Abraham Lincoln used to call “looking for another job.”

reasonable

April 14th, 2010
10:38 am

While Murray may well start over Gray in the first game and maybe even the first two or three. I have, however, to disagree with you on Murray as the QB of the future with the “it” factor. Mettenberger has a cannon for an arm and is very accurate with better in pocket mobility than advertised. In addition he is tall (6 ft 5in) and can see over the onrushing linemen. I was at the G Day game and he clearly was ahead of the other two in field presence and ball protection. The ball gets to receivers quickly and leaves little time for defensive backs to react. In short, he has NFL caliber height and arm strength. If he had kept out of trouble, I believe he would be number 1 going into August. Murray, on the other hand lacks the zip on his passes and reminds me of Joe Cox with his high arc throws. He is shorter than many people realize and while he has mobilty, seems to lack pocket presence. He also appears to get happy feet under even a simulated rush. There were two other passes that could have been intercepted in addition to the one he forced. As to the canard that Mettenberger only played with the second team offense against the second team defense, so did Murray in the first half and Mettenberger still outplayed him during their comparable time on the field.
I respect David Pollock’s football insights and he made plain at the end of last season that he believed that Murray was a good kid and good QB but that all of the upside and potential lay with Mettenberger once he grew into his body. I agree with him.

Kiffinisatosser

April 14th, 2010
10:42 am

I actually think that Mcelroy will get exposed this year. Bama will need to score more points than they did last year. Am undicided but toying with Arkie or Auburn as my personal pre-season favorites in the SEC W.

Kiffinisatosser

April 14th, 2010
10:46 am

Stephen Garcia seems to have the “§hit factor”.

Quick, add me into Wikipedia as the guý who coined the term.

ed

April 14th, 2010
10:47 am

Georgia has the best defense, if you look at wins in the SEC last season, they lined up according to your DEFENSE, not your QB play.

For example, Bama had a decent QB, not real impressive numbers, Arkansas’s was very impressive. Bama went 14-0, Ark went 7-5.

Georgia’s 1st D only surrendered 7 points in the Spring game. Florida and Bama’s D both gave up over 50 points. Grantham’s the best D Coordinator in the SEC. You will see that come this Fall.

Nick Saban

April 14th, 2010
10:48 am

I can’t wait to make Urban cry again.

Kiffinisatosser

April 14th, 2010
10:50 am

Ed, in the interests of accuracy you should modify your post to read “we are desperately praying that Grantham is less worthless than his predecessor.”

Lane Kiffin

April 14th, 2010
10:52 am

I can’t wait to make Ed Orgeron take off his shirt again.

Urban Meyer

April 14th, 2010
10:54 am

I can’t wait for Nick to realize I paid the refs more than he did this year. I do not make the same mistake twice.

dawgs01

April 14th, 2010
10:55 am

Cam Newton out of Westlake highschool in south atl. I saw him throw to some Arena league receivers when he was getting recruiting by Florida his senior yr in high school. The guy is a beast. He ripped all their gloves they had on and their hands were blood red. Those guys said those gloves would last them a whole season in Arena. He has a rocket arm. He threw the ball to some random guy that was standing there and it went through his hands and hit him in the face i thought the guy was going to start crying it was funny as hell

UGA1

April 14th, 2010
11:00 am

The East will be won by UGA vs UT winner. Not buying all the UF hype. They almost lost to a 7-6 UT team last year. With Timmy gone they struggle. Too many new players. The west will be the LSU vs Bama winner. Look for a letdown following the NC season by Bama. All the Bama and UF fans thinking its given to be a rematch in Atlanta are kidding themselves. Darkhorse = Arkansas