Breaking down the quarterbacks: SEC East


With training camp for just about everybody cranking up this week we’re going to spend some time looking at the quarterback position in the SEC, ACC, and nationally. We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of defense and the offensive line but let’s face it, if you don’t have a quarterback who can distribute the ball and who can limit his mistakes, you simply aren’t going to win at this level.

Today we’ll rate the quarterbacks in the SEC East. On Tuesday we’ll look at the SEC West and how the addition of Jeremiah Masoli at Ole Miss will impact the position. We’ll do the same for the ACC on Wednesday and Thursday.

Remember one thing about these rankings which, I will admit, are totally arbitrary. They have absolutely nothing to do with a player’s NFL potential. They have everything to do with the quarterback’s ability—or potential—to play college football at the SEC and ACC level.

So here we go. Feel free to disagree about the order of the rankings and provide your own:



1. Stephen Garcia, South Carolina: Yep, you read that right. I know Steve Spurrier spent the spring verbally beating on this guy like a rented mule. But if you take a closer look at his numbers, you have to conclude that he is not that far away from being a decent and productive SEC quarterback.

**–He was third in the SEC in total offense (3,048 yards) behind Tim Tebow and Ryan Mallett.

**–He averaged 18.38 completions per game, more than any SEC quarterback. To be fair, South Carolina threw the ball more than any other team in the league (440 times to Arkansas’s 439) because the Gamecocks were dead last in rushing.

But here are a couple of bad numbers he needs to improve:

**–He was ninth in passing efficiency, completing only 55.32 percent. He had 10 interceptions, which is too many. But based on his number of attempts, his interception percentage was 2.31, which was fifth in the league.

**–He has not learned how to throw the ball away. South Carolina had 37 sacks last season, the most in the SEC. Some of those sacks were because the offensive line was not very good—actually it was pretty bad. But a bunch of those sacks, Spurrier says, were because Garcia has not or will not learn to throw the ball away and live to fight another down. “Way too many negative plays,” Spurrier told me last week.

2. John Brantley, Florida: Brantley has only played in mop-up situations so he is at No. 2  because of pure talent and potential. When he does play, this kid is going to be very, very good. It’s a bit of a daunting task to be the guy after Tim Tebow. But here is what you need to know about Brantley. He comes from a family of Gators and once he committed to Florida (he originally committed to Texas), Brantley was all in. He has an NFL arm and the perfect mindset to be a quarterback at Florida. And it doesn’t hurt that he has a lot of guys around him who can run very, very fast. He will stretch the field vertically and thus put opposing cornerbacks on edge on every play. Now all Florida has to do is figure out who’s going to carry the ball on third and one. No. 15  (Tebow) used to do that. “Somebody has to do it (run on third and short) but it won’t be me,” said Brantley. See what I mean?

3. Aaron Murray, Georgia: Murray, the redshirt freshman from Tampa, is the guy. And, like David Greene in 2001, he’s going to be surrounded by a lot of really good players. There is a veteran offensive line, one of the top three receivers in all of college football (A.J. Green), and what should be a very good running game with Caleb King and Washaun Ealey. I’ve heard from more than one SEC coach outside of Georgia that this kid has all the intangibles to be a great player. And you have to say that Mark Richt and Mike Bobo know how to coach the position. Georgia’s offensive line has to take it as a challenge to keep Murray’s uniform clean. He has to stay vertical and he can’t get hurt. Let me repeat that: HE CAN’T GET HURT!

Georgia’s options after Murray (Logan Gray and true freshman Hutson Mason) are limited—and scary.

4. Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton, Ryan Mossakowski, Kentucky: New head coach Joker Phillips is going to have to get this race down to two guys pretty soon. Hartline has the edge because, despite a knee injury in 2009, he has played in 21 games and started 14. I think Newton, the former Indiana High School Player of the Year, is the most talented of the three (by far) and has the most upside.  He impressed me with his poise on the road when Kentucky beat Auburn and Georgia. He can make plays with his arm and his legs. Mossakowski has a good arm but was limited as a true freshman last season because of shoulder surgery. My guess is that he’ll be the odd man out. Hartline will be the starter because he makes the fewest mistakes. But Newton will be a big factor because with him in the lineup, the Kentucky offense will three big playmakers in Newton, wide receiver Randall Cobb, and running back Derrick Locke.

5. Larry Smith, Jared Funk, Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt: After Smith led Vanderbilt to a win in the 2008 Music City Bowl I was convinced he’d have a pretty good run in Nashville. But last season he completed only 46.7 percent of his passes and the Vanderbilt offense was just awful, averaging only 8.9 points in its eight SEC games. Smith is still the starter heading into fall camp but keep an eye on redshirt senior Jared Funk and JUCO transfer Jordan Rodgers (brother of Aaron). It will be interesting to see if new head coach Robbie Caldwell views this position differently than the departed Bobby Johnson. Johnson shook up the offensive coaching staff in an effort to jump start the unit. If Vanderbilt doesn’t start scoring more, the Commodores are looking at another 2-10 season because they have 10 bowl teams on the schedule.

6-. Matt Simms, Tyler Bray, Tennessee: It looked like Nick Stephens was going to be the guy to replace Jonathan Crompton until spring practice started. But once his reps went down in practice, Stephens continued a disquieting trend of Tennessee quarterbacks (such as B.J. Coleman) leaving town instead of sticking around to compete.

So now the position goes to Simms, a JUCO transfer who started his career at Louisville, and Bray, a 6-6 freshman who enrolled early and took part in spring ball. Bray played better in the spring game than Simms (who had three interceptions) but he has no experience in game situations. This is a troubled position that will only be made worse by an offensive line that could start multiple freshmen. If true freshman Nash Nance from Georgia becomes a factor during camp, you’ll know the Vols are in big trouble. It’s got to be Simms (who started his career at Louisville) because of a schedule that includes Oregon, Florida, at LSU, at Georgia, Alabama, at South Carolina in the span of eight weeks. You can’t throw a freshman—and a thin freshman (6-6, 210) at that—into that meat grinder.

 Tuesday: The SEC West and the impact of Jeremiah Masoli at Ole Miss.

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212 comments Add your comment

oh my golly!

August 2nd, 2010
1:45 pm

Oh lists mean so much to me and they are always right!!! Tears leaving eyes and running down face! Murray will show the haters and gaters!


August 2nd, 2010
1:45 pm

Think this is a pretty fair pre-season assessment Garcia has a big edge in experience, Florida’s inexperience at the receiver position could hurt Brantley, Murray is surrounded by experience
has the opportunity to have a big year.

I'm the real MR. College Football

August 2nd, 2010
1:47 pm

I’m the real expert this guy who wrote this article has never played a sport in his life. twinkie eater!


August 2nd, 2010
1:47 pm

Hey, reality – you could use a dose of it. Not one of those ACC “powers” you just mentioned would even sniff a division title in the SEC. If any of them do, in fact, have a strong year, it’ll be the result of the continued lack of quality in the conference as a whole. No fewer than 6 SEC teams would have run through that conference with results equal to or better results than Tech last year.

Uga In Papa

August 2nd, 2010
1:48 pm

I guess you weren’t born last year when UGA and South Carolina beat tek and clemons then two brest teams in the A SHE SHE. You are just another nerdy tek fan who has a big inferiority compllex that you just can’t get over.


August 2nd, 2010
1:53 pm

Brantley was 15 for 19 for 201 yds in this years spring game. Not sure where the earlier poster got his 40% completion rate from unless he’s very bad with fractions.

Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps returning at running back will negate a lot of sacks. You can’t send the house every play like teams did agianst Tebow.

That being said, Branley only has 76 passes to his name on record. Our defense will have to win the big games for us which I expect they will.

Reality- what irony

August 2nd, 2010
1:54 pm

Reality…. you must live in a parallel universe where everything is just the opposite of what is real.. In your universe you have passed puberty, tek is better than UGA, the acc is better than the SEC, Fla St. is better than UF.

Go back to your cubicle and read your porn mags cause you never sniffed any red panties in real life. You’re not man enough.


August 2nd, 2010
1:55 pm

Based on previous performances:


Based on reality and taking into account who surrounds them:


Professor fo College Ball

August 2nd, 2010
1:55 pm

Agreed, Brantley had dismal Spring, completed less than 60% of his passes over 3 spiring scrimmages, threw 6 interceptions, and had 21 sacks.


August 2nd, 2010
2:01 pm

Mr. College Football is right on to start the season. Stephen Garcia is the only proven QB in the east. Brantley, Murray have a learning curve to start the season. By year end one of these two will have emerged as the top QB in the SEC east.

Marky Marky

August 2nd, 2010
2:03 pm

Agree with Colt McCoy that Aaaron Murray is

“one of the best player’s he’s ever seen”

He’s the next Drew Brees, a little taller, but dual threat, great production.


August 2nd, 2010
2:05 pm

It’s an insult to compare Murray to SEC level talent.

The only question, is since Murray outdueled Garrett Gilbert and won the Elite 11 MVP award, is Georgia’s Aaron Murray the #1 QB in the nation?

I’d have to say, not only is he the best, he’s the best I’ve ever seen play QB.


August 2nd, 2010
2:07 pm

What will Murray’s rank be among the greats 3 years from now?

That’s the question for me.

Sure, he’ll be among the top 10 to ever play QB in college, but will he finish #1?


August 2nd, 2010
2:10 pm

I think both Brantley and Murray will struggle this year. Remember how good Tebow ended up being? Remember Stafford was the #1 draft pick? Both those guys had mediocre starting years in the SEC. I don’t expect the SEC defenses to be any easier on Brantley and Murray regardless of the talent they are surrounded by. On the same line I think Garcia will be a little better this year because of the Lattimore kid. Having the running game behind (if the O-line is decent) Garcia will give him better options than throwing all the time.


August 2nd, 2010
2:11 pm

Gee, lemmee think. Murray, Brantley, no game starts. Garcia? A full season and part of another. Don’t underrate experience. SC-GA will be season-defining, tough battle for both teams, conditioning may make the difference. Who knows how effective GA’s defense will be? SC has veteran defense returning. I’ll pick GA because of OL and running backs.


August 2nd, 2010
2:17 pm

Atlanta Jackets

I don’t recall us ever really needing to use our QB against ya’ll last year. Hey look, Caleb King just scored again!

Tech Sucks

August 2nd, 2010
2:19 pm

Never gets old when the nerds take a break from World of Warcraft to come and talk smack. Even after they have lost 8 of the last 9 games against UGA, their lone victory a whopping 3 point differential.

We all saw how Tech ran through that weak ACC schedule then got their asses handed to them by the Dawgs yet again.

Stick to Warcraft and ComicCon dorks.


August 2nd, 2010
2:20 pm


Experience is like luck, its only useful if its good. Garcia has played in more games than Murray or Brantly, but he sucks so that cancels the experience out. Garcia has the tools, but he’s as soft as a wet paper bag mentally. Not exactly someone I would want leading my team.


August 2nd, 2010
2:28 pm

Like Phil Steele, I see the offense at Georgia scoring 38 a game, and putting up near 500 yards of offense a game.

Just too many weapons.

And like Steele, I DON’T see SC or UF’s offense doing as well as Georgia’s in 2010.


August 2nd, 2010
2:42 pm

Georgia Tech remember when you choked against Georgia last year…..i do


August 2nd, 2010
2:42 pm

yadda, yadda , yadda….the Gators will kick your ass again this year by 24 or more…you ladies talk the same ols BS every year this the end of Sept the puppies will be out of the SEC East race with 2 losses….Spurrier will eat you alive this it

Barack Dawg

August 2nd, 2010
2:45 pm

Atlanta Jacket – like Tech knows anything about a good QB. Nesbitt learned how to throw yet. Is Reggie Ball GaTerds QB Coach? Has he figured out how to count to 4?

The QB is not your problem anyway – you remember the 360 yards of ball ran down your throat. You need to worry about Ealey and King not Murray. If Murray executes and does play well, that is going to make it even worse for you guys….

Hunker Down

August 2nd, 2010
2:51 pm

Great article and format to follow MR CF. Hear so much on John Brantley and his rifle for an arm that I am looking forward to watching them play this year and see how he compares to TT. Tony is dead on that Dawg fans need to hope and pray that Murray stays healthy. Can’t wait til kick off. Go Dawgs!


August 2nd, 2010
2:53 pm

UGAY in the Papa Johns Bowl – boy you sure are smart. Bet you have a pretty mouth on you too.

Is that the same division where the winner went to the Orange Bowl and got their ass kicked by Iowa?

Is that the same division where the winner lost the week before to an 8 – 5 UGA team?

Is that the same conference where the other division winner lost to USC in the last game?

Yeah boy – we look scared don’t we…..


August 2nd, 2010
2:53 pm

whats a laptop math attack?

Brantley's Backup

August 2nd, 2010
2:54 pm

I sure as hell hope Brantley does not get hurt….I don’t even have a play book. Coach Meyer said I was just responsible for getting his Rolaids and heart pills.


August 2nd, 2010
2:55 pm

tim – blah blah blah…I will kick your ass again this year….same old same old….book it.


August 2nd, 2010
2:58 pm

Dawgtards ruin this state – has anyone in the SEC needed a QB to beat GaTerds and you yellow insects? The last SEC game I saw involved your defense choking on all the dust from Ealey and King. Maybe you will be lucky and go to the BCS and play one of the weak SEC teams you are so quick to spank on.

[...] Tony Barnhart breaks down the SEC East Quarterbacks and had this to say about Murray: Murray, the redshirt freshman from Tampa, is the guy. And, like David Greene in 2001, he’s going to be surrounded by a lot of really good players. There is a veteran offensive line, one of the top three receivers in all of college football (A.J. Green), and what should be a very good running game with Caleb King and Washaun Ealey. I’ve heard from more than one SEC coach outside of Georgia that this kid has all the intangibles to be a great player. And you have to say that Mark Richt and Mike Bobo know how to coach the position. Georgia’s offensive line has to take it as a challenge to keep Murray’s uniform clean. He has to stay vertical and he can’t get hurt. Let me repeat that: HE CAN’T GET HURT! [...]


August 2nd, 2010
3:34 pm

Murray can’t get hurt?

Georgia will be more than fine at QB, regardless of which of the 3 superstars win the job.

Mason will be ready to go if called upon, and will light it up.

Gray can step right in if needed.

Of all the positions on Georgia’s team, QB is the one I feel the best about, just 3 amazing QB’s, all 3 ready to go and can outduel anybody in the country.


August 2nd, 2010
3:57 pm

Why is it so hard to say South Carolina is going to be good this year. I think we should have a week of predictions from previous years, especially on Georgia. You will see a pattern.


August 2nd, 2010
4:08 pm

“And you have to say that Mark Richt and Mike Bobo know how to coach the position.”

Really? Do they plan on sharing that knowledge among the players finally this year?


August 2nd, 2010
4:11 pm

Dawgs have great team chemistry…you can’t spell sugar without uga…uga will rise to the top….cream always rises to the top…….go dawgs!


August 2nd, 2010
4:14 pm

Geez Tony, not sure where this comment came from:

Georgia’s Options after Murray are limited and scary?


Logan Gray, Elite 11 QB is a “limited & scary” option? Logan beat out Murray over the 3 Spring scrimmages in the stats.

Hutson Mason, who threw for 4500 yards, and 55 td’s his Senior Year, 1 of 7 QB’s named to Parade All American, ESPN #21 ranked QB is a “limited & SCARY” option? Mason completes over 70% of his passes and had a 11 to 1 TD to int ratio. He’s 6′ 3”, and broke every offensive passing record in the state of Georgia. Took Lassiter further than any QB in the history of the school.

Mason–73% accuracy, 11 to 1 td to int ratio, 55 td’s, 4500 yards.


August 2nd, 2010
4:17 pm

Not sure how Tony feels optimistic about Brantley, when Brantley has little more experience than either Gray, Murray or Mason. None of these guys have more than potential. All are unproven & untested. To put Brantley above any of Georgia’s QB’s, is PURELY HYPOTHETICAL, and not based on RATIONAL THOUGHT.


August 2nd, 2010
4:20 pm

You Tech turds should really not comment about football since you don’t know jack. You losers say that this is a weak lineup of QB’s. Brantley, Murray and Garcia were all 3 of the most recruited kids in the nation at their respective positions and Morgan was the Indiana high school player of the year. I think that is quite a bit of talent there.


August 2nd, 2010
4:22 pm

Brantley’s O-Line is MUCH less experienced than Georgia’s.

Brantley WILL HAVE much worse PROTECTION and is MUCH more apt to get injured than Murray.

Tebow gave up 30 sacks in 2009, and Tebow had a better O-Line and was mobile.

Brantley, without a running game, without any experienced receivers to throw to, will be a SITTING DUCK back there for opposing SEC defenses.

Looking forward to watching Bama, LSU & Georgia’s defenses get after Brantley.

They’re going to light him up.

Lo Down

August 2nd, 2010
4:26 pm

Murray had 55 scholarship offers.

To put the word “Brantley” in the same sentence as “Murray”, is a deep misunderstanding of the difference between these 2 QB’s.

Murray played for Powerhouse Plant High, toughest division in Florida, excelled, won a state championship.

Brantley played for div 2B high school, excelled against weak competition, but wasn’t offered anywhere near 55 scholarships, or didn’t put up anywhere near Murray’s td’s or total offense yardage.

Brantley, to put it kindly, can’t hold Aaron Murray’s chinstrap.


August 2nd, 2010
4:28 pm

Garcia is the only proven product. The rest of the article is just fantasy football.


August 2nd, 2010
4:40 pm

It’s a pre-season list; don’t put too much stock in it The more important lists will surface at mid season and again at the end of the season..

For now, I can’t really argue with Tony’s pick of Garcia at the top. He has the most relevant SEC experience of the group and he has multiple seasons of college level coaching under his belt. The knock on Garcia has always been his mind, not his physical talent. It won’t take long to figure out if he’s learned anything for this season.

It looks to me like UF, UGA and UT are all going with quarterbacks who have never started at the college level. That puts them at the bottom of the heap until they get some game time where they can show what they’ve got.

The “in-betweeners” are just that, in-between. You can stack them any way you like and it won’t make that much difference.

[...] Aaron on Aug.02, 2010, under News Tony Barnhart (a.k.a. “Mr. College Football) ranks the SEC QB’s and the Cats come in at ….  Barnhart likes the potential of Morgan Newton, but feels Mike Hartline will be the starter.  [...]


August 2nd, 2010
4:52 pm

UGA and UF are both going to have 1st year starters at QB.

Dear Lo Down...

August 2nd, 2010
4:53 pm

Don’t go selling Brantley short. Brantley verbally committed to Texas, so the offers stopped coming. Family pressure changed his mind as his father and uncle both played for the Gators. Division 2 schools in Florida play great football and place many players in Div 1 programs. Brantley will be a good QB for the Gators. Keep in mind that Florida, Texas, SoCal, Ohio State, get their picks of the best of the best ranked players and then the next level of schools go after the rest of the highly ranked recruits. Murray and Charles were exceptions to the rule, be glad that we somehow got them. Brantley should be just fine, so no reason to jamming him with insults. Until the DAWGS beat the Gators where it counts,on the field, they are holding all the cards and bragging rights.

Gen Neyland

August 2nd, 2010
4:59 pm

Garcia as the ace of the East..? How far have we of the East fallen..? In a nutshell, whoever has the best supporting cast surrounding these QB’s on all sides of the ball may eek out the Divisional Championship in the East. Kentucky might slip up and do something in 2010. If it’s in ‘em and the Joker’s wild, this could be the year of strange.

dr. steve brule

August 2nd, 2010
5:01 pm

for your health!

[...] [Breaking Down The Quarterbacks: SEC East] [...]

I am not going to be the head coach at Alabama. I am the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

August 2nd, 2010
5:05 pm

Geez… Is Garcia really the best QB in the SEC East? Tell me I misread that. With a newbie at UGA, an untested one at UF, and questions at the other 3, I suppose that’s the case.

Looking forward to kickoff. Go Dawgs



August 2nd, 2010
5:06 pm

To “Who cares” must are on the blog arent you? and if you dont care about the SEC you must not care about college football, so go watch the inferior ACC. Who knows? A basketball game may break out.


August 2nd, 2010
5:07 pm

Is Florida’s QB the son or other relation to the former Gator Scott Brantley? That guy was a player.


August 2nd, 2010
5:11 pm

Ray..those QB numbers are nice, but if you dont think a Murray injury would be catastrophic, you are delusional. Gray’s stats cane in a small division of inferior Missouri HS football. Mason got his nubers in the weakest 5A region, Cobb’s (my home county)..TJ Yeates is better than Mason and TJ is a plodder at best at UNC.