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


August 3rd, 2010
8:59 am

Not 1 single solitary National Gatorade High School Football Player of the Year, which is the award Brantley wn, has EVER gone on to win a National Championship in college football in the 25 history of the award.

The 0-25 record will not be broken in 2010 with John Brantley.

In fact, very few even went on to be decent players in college.

Paul ( You doesn't have to call me Johnson)

August 3rd, 2010
9:11 am

This may be Spurrier’s best team at South Carolina but their schedule is brutal. If they beat Georgia at home it will help but still will not get them to any higher than 3rd in the SEC East


August 3rd, 2010
2:00 pm

Wow, some of the stupidity here is unbelieveable…

One poster comments that Tebow was not good in his first year as a starter…right, he only did something never done before in CFB (30 passing and 20 rushing TD’s) and oh by the way, won a little thing called the Heisman trophy as a true sophomore for the first time in history.

Ranking guys pre season means little, as no one knows what things will happen, who gets injured in fall camps, whatever, but to say that you know Brantley is going to flop, and Murray will be all world makes some of you look worse than stupid. Brantley has been in a CFB program for 3 years now. He has played in game situations, and understands the speed of the game. Murray has seen none of this, and no one knows how he will react. UGA has a very good supporting cast to help Murray, but Brantley is not without talent around him. UGA has a better #1 WR, but after that they have little in the way of proven guys. Saying UF has no experienced WR’s? Thompson started all 14 games last year, Carl Moore started like 8 the previous year (took injury RS last year) and is back to full health. Does UF have to have a couple of other guys step up-sure. To say they won’t is as dumb as me saying I know they will. What I will say is that UF has done pretty decent with WR’s the past few years, and these guys whom Meyer & co recruited, are not slouches by any means. Thompson’s talent should benefit by more of a downfield passing game, which Brantley is better at than Tebow was. TE will be a work in progress. RB’s are basically all back from last year. Some of you act as if no UF back other than Tebow ever ran the ball, when in fact the RB’ s had more carries and more yards if you just look at the top 2, never mind guys like Gillislee who only got mop up duty.

The biggest laugh I get is at the fans trumpeting about UGA having 3 star QB’s. Murray has potential I will grant you, but he was in an all out battle just to win the job. Gray would have been the 3rd option hat Mettenberger not been booted, so don’t give me some song about him being an elite 11 QB. That means nothing as after 3+ years he has developed zero as a QB. Your other guy is a true FR who has never even seen a game up close, much less prepared for the speed of it. If not for lack of depth, it is a guarantee he would be RS this year, but they can’t afford to do so in case Murray goes down. Being an elite level HS QB means little. There are tons of those guys who become afterthoughts. Just because you play in a big division in HS like Murray did, does not mean you competition level is great. Big divisions have plenty of schools that suck too. Many people in FL who watched them play, believed Murray was partly a product of the system at Plant. That same sytem produced Robert Marve, who many thought was far better, but he has yet to prove anything either. Xavier Lee was a cn’t miss prospect from Daytona who could not get on the field at FSU. Joe Cox at one time was a starter above Matthew Stafford. LSU has about 3 guys on the roster right now who were all thought to be can’t miss guys and not one of them has shown they can be anything above mediocre. Pre-season predictions are worth nothing.


August 3rd, 2010
2:13 pm

Put the heat on Garcia and he will throw it up for grabs….. another Joe Cox but bigger and he can run.


August 3rd, 2010
2:21 pm

What did Stephen Garcia do against the good teams and in the bowl? Yeah, I thought so.


August 3rd, 2010
6:21 pm

Why do you despise th Bulldogs so much Mr. Barnhart?

Even last year, all we heard out of Florida was a kid named “Brantley”
OK, so what if he has mopped up, what lies behind Brantley? The same, a lot of inexperience. Down year for the SEC powers via QB’s.

Shame on you to single out, given the porous facts. Shame on you

Nashville Vol

August 4th, 2010
9:52 am

From what I’m reading we will be pretty green on the O-line but Juwan James and James Stone are two freshmen that are skilled and can learn quick. I agree that Simms must be our guy even though he made some mistakes in the spring game. I’m looking forward to the season. Go Vols!


August 4th, 2010
8:35 pm

“And the hits just keep coming. Even Mr College Football has low expectations of Tennessee in 2010. So I’ll go ahead and post this…The Vols will ruin at least 3 teams’ seasons this fall. The most likely suspects: Oregon, Georgia, and South Carolina.”


obama sin laden

August 7th, 2010
12:31 pm

south cakalaka fans are loud until half time. I know cuz I been there. ga by 21.


August 8th, 2010
12:01 pm

I’ll be really interested to see if Simms can make a go of it. I watched him play HS ball here in NJ seriously thought if not for his famous dad he wouldn’t have been a major recruit. After a couple of years of L’vlle and a year at JUCO maybe his delivery is better and I hope he has matured. But, I expect a long year for Tenn.


August 11th, 2010
5:29 pm

USC will beat UGA 24-10 bank on it.

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