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.

Please follow me on Twitter:

212 comments Add your comment


August 2nd, 2010
5:15 pm

Whoa. Tony disagreeing about Murray with:

Scout, Rivals, Richt, Colt McCoy, Phil Steele, Athlon, etc.

Tony, I totally think you TOTALLY missed this one.

Murray’s more TESTED than Brantley against top level competition.

You will see why all the above are so high on ‘tested’ & ‘experienced’ Aaron Murray, and less enthused about Florida’s ‘untested’ & ‘inexperienced’ QB John Brantley.

Murray’s BATTLE TESTED, Brantley’s an unknown.

No one’s EVER seen Brantley start a single game, in high school, or college, against top level competition.


August 2nd, 2010
5:17 pm

Let’s see; last year we had Joe Cox, with Gray as the back-up, and this year we have Murray with Gray as the back-up. Gray is athletic and he didn’t look terrible in the GDay. I don’t see how we are worse off than last year if the QB goes down; we’ll be fine. I think Murray is going to be a great QB, so compared to a great starter, Gray would be weaker. But, Murray and great have yet to link up in Red and Black. For all the Brantley naysayers, I would reconsider–he is likely a good pro prospect. Florida could easily be in the BCS again this year…I’m hopeful the Dawgs will be there instead.


August 2nd, 2010
5:17 pm

ok…so explain to me again how Brantley is #2??? OH…that’s right..How stupid of me….because its Florida. Cant wait to see your article after they lose a few games…you so called Florida bedwarmers will be jumping out of bed with them real quick…..

UK Wildcats#1

August 2nd, 2010
5:33 pm

If Garcia is the best QB in the East….we have a piss poor group of QB’s as a whole. We’ll see about Murray. Newton will impress as the season goes on. Too versatile not to.

Beast from the East

August 2nd, 2010
5:33 pm

Why is it so hard to believe that Brantey will be a good qb at UF? He’s just not had the opportunity to play much because of Tebow. He’s got all of the physical tools and he’s been in the program for 3 years. I’m sure he’ll make some mistakes, but what qb doesn’t?
I just don’t get the delusional Dawgs saying that Brantley will flop but Murray will be the next Drew Brees. He’s never even taken a single snap in a college game. He may be the next Drew Brees….he may be the next Joe Cox. No one knows until he actually sees the field.

J Dog

August 2nd, 2010
5:35 pm

Oh yes guys. Mark Bradley, a journalist at AJC, wrote that Tech’s QB was ‘MVP of the NCAA’ with the #119 ranked accuracy, passing yards, td’s, etc???????

No we find out, that Tony thinks John Brantley is more advanced than Aaron Murray??????

Huh? You’ve got to be kidding me?


August 2nd, 2010
5:38 pm

Brantley=Gatorade National Player of the Year. Brantley=holds most QB records in the state of FL………Gators=the team that beats UGA most every year like a rented mule , and this year will be more of the same.


August 2nd, 2010
5:43 pm

Look I don’t know how well Murray will do and neither does anyone else. What I’m finding hilarious is the offense taken by all these Gators seeing anyone but their precious QB being ranked number one. For crying out loud the guy has never had the responsibility of being the starting QB. Gators you are not entitled to anything.


August 2nd, 2010
5:46 pm

How anyone could rate the QB situation at Georgia, in 2010, as WORSE, than the QB situation at Florida?

Georgia gave up just 11 sacks last season and has every O-Lineman back, and #1 MOST experienced O-Line in college football with 155 starts. 2 best backs in SEC over last 5 games in Ealey & King getting 247 yards a game rushing. Best WR in nation in AJ Green and best TE in nation in Olson.

The weapons AROUND Murray are VAST compared to the LITTLE EXPERIENCED weapons around Brantley at O-Line, No experience at WR or TE, QB, and running backs who can’t pass block (gave up over 30 sacks in 2009) and are prone to fumble when Meyer calls running plays.

How will Brantley complete passes when:
1) he won’t have time to throw due to inexperienced or poor pass blocking?
2) no experience at wr to throw to?
3) no experience at te to throw to?
4) no experience in his entire career facing top talent in a real game?
5) his rb’s fumble so much that Meyer only calls 4 plays for his RB’s in the SEC Championship?


August 2nd, 2010
5:52 pm

ESPN gave pollsters 15 choices to rank college QB’s.

Fans voted Brantley LAST place among the 15 choices.

Brantley will be a complete disaster.

Beast from the East

August 2nd, 2010
5:59 pm

The 15th place ranking wouldn’t have anything to do with him being the only first year starter would it? Nah, that couldn’t possinly be it.
I’m sure he’ll be a “complete disaster” as you predict. UF may as well go ahead and terminate the football program beacuse Tebow is gone and Drew Brees is at UGA.
You guys are a riot!


August 2nd, 2010
6:01 pm

Does anyone know of a single QB that ever won Gatorade Player of the Year, like Brantley did, who went on to win a National Championship?

Beast from the East

August 2nd, 2010
6:06 pm

Not sure about that, but there have been some great ones that played in the SEC including Peyton Manning and Emmitt Smith. There have also been some busts.


August 2nd, 2010
6:34 pm

Maybe Tony’s right.

What if Brantley’s better than anyone in the history of college football?

I guess anything’s possible.


August 2nd, 2010
7:50 pm

Hans…are you a little dense???….the fact that Brantley was put into the top 15 QB poll means ESPN poll makers think he will be one of the 15 best QBs in the nation…not one of the worst. Duh!!! Your QB didn’t even make the list…what does that say about him? And the results of that vote is a popularity contest and nothing scientific…duh!!!


August 2nd, 2010
8:04 pm



August 2nd, 2010
8:06 pm



August 2nd, 2010
8:07 pm


Beast from the East

August 2nd, 2010
8:11 pm

Big Blue Boy,
Nice to hear from a Wildcat. Don’t see too many of them on here. Could be anyone from the East this year, with the exception of Vandy.


August 2nd, 2010
8:33 pm


Florida’s OL is ranked 2nd best behind Georgia in the SEC (4, experienced starters returning)….right behind Georgia and with the preseason Rimington favorite at center in Mike Pouncey.

Yes…Florida is inexperienced at center….but I feel just fine with Deonte Thompson, Carl Moore, Omaris Hines, Andre Debose, Chris Dunkley, Solomon Patten, Stephen Ali and others. Lots of talent and even more speed…with a QB who can really throw it accurately…both short and far.

And the only Florida RB that I can remember fumbling last year that will be playing RB this year is Emmanuel Moody…and he fumbled once….and got scolding to the bench for it. Demps never fumbled last year and neither did Gillislee, who are 1 and 2 at RB. If Mack Brown is a fumbler, he won’t see the field in Meyer’s offense. You simply can’t be a fumbler and play for Meyer…so get some information before you make wild statements about fumbling Gator RBs.


August 2nd, 2010
8:34 pm

that should be….”Yes…Florida is inexperienced at wide receiver……in the previous post.

Ga boy

August 2nd, 2010
8:37 pm

Mikey in SAV Yes he will wear the glove- and he will also moon walk from the sideline to the huddle.


August 2nd, 2010
8:39 pm

He called Murray ROBOT I hope he is the first wheel to get the ball matriculated into the endZone.

Paul in RDU

August 2nd, 2010
8:39 pm

Gatorade Players of the Year who have won an NC
Matt Leinert (2001-01)
Chris Leak (2001-02)
JaMarcus Russell (2002-03)
for starters


August 2nd, 2010
8:40 pm

How was that macroid.


August 2nd, 2010
8:49 pm

Graybearded….obviously you have no idea about the kind of teams and players Brantley played against in high school in Florida (Ocala and the surrounding areas)….if you did….you would understand how silly your post is.

Doo dah- Doo dah

August 2nd, 2010
8:56 pm

Well I am convinced. After hearing all the smoke that you Dawg and Gator fans are blowing. it is apparent that the winner in Jax this year will be number 1 in the nation with the loser being relegated to runner up. I guess those 10 other SEC teams will have to just mail their seasons in.


August 2nd, 2010
9:00 pm

TampaGator you are absolutely correct….the puppy bloggers here are re-hashing the same old uga crap…particularly when they talk about the UF O-line. One thing is for certain..the dog D won’t get to Brantley, but if Murray is playing in Jax he’ll be on his back several times. These uga rah rah boys will be silent after Spurrier wins by 13


August 2nd, 2010
9:15 pm

Let’s compare Offensive Supporting casts Phil Steele National Rankings:
1) O-Line:
UGA- #1
UF- #4
2) Receiver’s:
UGA- #2
UF- #29
3) Running Backs:
UGA: #5
UF: #13
4) Fullbacks:
UGA: #10
UF: Not ranked
5) Tight Ends:
UGA: #20
UF: Not ranked


August 2nd, 2010
9:17 pm

Phil SteelE’s National Rankings for Scoring Offenses:
uga- #7
uf- not ranked


August 2nd, 2010
9:19 pm

Phil Steele’s 2010 Strength of Schedule Ranking;

Who has the hardest schedule?
SC- #2
LSU- #10
Bama- #15
Aub- #19
UF- #18
UGA- #44


August 2nd, 2010
9:25 pm

Paul in RDU-

According to my research, not a single National Gatorade Player of the Year has ever won a National Championship

Matt Leinert (2001-01) Chris Leak (2001-02) JaMarcus Russell (2002-03)?

None of these guys you listed won National Gatorade Player of the Year like Brantley.


August 2nd, 2010
9:27 pm

Lakatos? He didn’t do squat against USC. They dropped 12 balls-well documented. He’s just Grantham’s buddy. USC’s tall receivers are going to eat UGA’s lunch. Spurrier’s little psychological ploy on Garcia worked. He’s ready. Next subject.


August 2nd, 2010
9:38 pm

Actually, Lakatos DB’s at UCONN finished top 10 in pass effeiciency several years, and he had some guys go NFL too. And yep, his guys hit SC’s receivers so hard, they got alligator arms, and started missing balls. Lakatos destroyed South Carolina, played them FAR better than Florida did. Spurrier and Garcia couldn’t do jack against Lakatos.


August 2nd, 2010
9:48 pm

Brantley & Garcia will have their hands full trying to complete passes against Lakatos’ secondary.

Lakatos pass defense at UCONN was better than Saban’s in 2008:


August 2nd, 2010
9:50 pm

Lakotas shut down South Carlolina when Florida couldn’t.

Let’s compare how South Carolina did against Florida vs. Conn.

Against Florida: (with all those “top recruits”—ha)
53% completion rate, 186 yards, 1 td, 100 QB rating

Against UCONN: (with no “top recruits”—ha)
42% completion rate, 129 yards, o td, 65 QB rating


August 2nd, 2010
10:02 pm

Garcia ahead of Brantley? gosh, seriously TB, I don’t know how I can take your seriously anymore. Brantley is in a totally different league than should be more like, 1. brantley, 2. murray, 3. garcia…


August 2nd, 2010
10:11 pm

Brantley played against 2b level competition in High School for tiny Trinity Catholic.

Murray played QB for 5AAAAA Plant High.

Joe Cox

August 2nd, 2010
10:16 pm

All I can say is that Aaron Murray couldn’t beat me out last year. Nor was he the starting quarterback until one bad night in Valdosta.

Florida Bench

August 2nd, 2010
10:25 pm

Hey, all I can say is Florida’s QB Bentley warms the bench better than anyone.


August 2nd, 2010
10:27 pm

You guys, Tony is right.

Brantley played great……..

against Charleston Southern & Florida International!

Gen Neyland

August 2nd, 2010
10:47 pm

Florida Bench: If the Gators have a Bentley, who has the Rolls..? Oh, and Braves win with a Hudson.


August 2nd, 2010
11:43 pm

For Tony’s rankings to make sense, a person would have to think that:

1- Brantley scoring less td’s than Murray in high school is better

2- Brantley going for less total yards than murray in high school is better

3- Brantley’s experience at a 2b division high school makes Barantley more tested than Murray’s experience at a 5AAAAA High school

4- Brantley’s O-Line, RB’s, WR’s, TE’s, Fullback’s all ranking WORSE than Georgia, is better

I don’t buy it.

Paul in RDU

August 3rd, 2010
12:49 am

Colin – Gatorade has a POY for every state.
Leinert, Leak and Russell are all listed.


August 3rd, 2010
1:12 am

You really think that your running backs are better than Demps, Gillislee, Moody, Brown. Sorry. Demps is second team all-SEC. Your RBs are nowhere in to be seen in that company. I will take Demps over both your running backs no question. Florida’s OL is one of the best in the country along with Georgia. How is that a negative dude? Let’s see at the end who has the better receivers. my bet is on Florida. At TE you haven’t heard of Jordan Reed and Gerald Christian yet but you will. Florida uses a FB to block. Pridemore and Wilks do that just fine.

You better start buying it.


August 3rd, 2010
1:17 am

Why does Jake, Pete, Lenny keep posting under different names as the same person and (he/she/it/thing/) makes the same idiotic posts over and over again about Murray being better than Brantley. Gosh man give it up. We know you are in love with Murray. He is your man child.

SC Boy

August 3rd, 2010
6:33 am

Lakatos only defense was 25 degrees and no OL coach. He was very lucky because the SC receivers were open all day. Dropsies. Well known.


August 3rd, 2010
6:33 am

Tony Blowhart

How can you rank Aaron Murray the 3rd best Quarterback in The SEC East ? He never took a snap under Center in his lifetime. He got injured in high school by a 5 feet 7 inches tall 169 lbs linebacker because Aaron is only 4.7 speed and because even a guy this small can break his leg and ankle on the play still trying to get the ball off like he did all Spring. Speaking of Spring, even though Logan Gray held Coach Richt hostage to let him split the time at # 1 QB, now he is not even in the QB meetings and Aaron didn’t get to practice enough in the Spring. Last Fall, he missed 21 practices because the offensive coaching staff let him throw his arm out. So, here we have a guy who has been out-performed by every QB in all the Spring Practices, and he is the QB not prepared at all, just as we did not prepare our QB last year 2009 and just as we did not prepare our QB in 2006. Aaron Murray is not the 3rd best QB in The SEC East until he is the 3rd best QB in The SEC East. You just cannot come in here and proclaim he is. You don’t know Tony Blowhart.


August 3rd, 2010
7:30 am

I like that,,, “beat on him like a rented mule”. That’s a good one.

[...] College Football Tony Barnhart breaks down the quarterbacks in the SEC East [...]