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:

 

BREAKING DOWN THE QUARTERBACKS: THE SEC EAST

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

Tommy Bowden

August 2nd, 2010
8:17 am

First again!

Atlanta Jackets

August 2nd, 2010
8:19 am

Haha! Mutters! You’re so called great QB is third in the east. Yeah, I fear him. NOT! The Robot will crush you. He’s the best QB in the NCAA and yours is third in the east! LOL! ROTFLMAO!!

Dink

August 2nd, 2010
8:21 am

Tony, we’re getting close!

As much as I dislike UT, I have a feeling Matt Simms will be the biggest surprise this year ( with Aaron a close 2nd).

Go Dawgs!

kaput

August 2nd, 2010
8:25 am

Garcia is terrible, Mr. College Football, just plain terrible! Him being number one over Brantley in your rankings is based on the fact that he has more playing experience. But I would imagine that you would admit that, by year’s end, your list is going to look a lot different.

So why not project forward for the season?

destin dawg

August 2nd, 2010
8:26 am

Garcia and the S.C. game is huge for us .. Spurrier and Garcia both seem to run hot and cold sporadically… we need to RUSH “em in passing situations early in the game… keep’em pinned with our Kicking game…. it’ll be hot at noon in Columbia… so be in shape and RUN the dam ball !!!! GOOOOO Dawgs !!

quedog

August 2nd, 2010
8:26 am

Actually Tommy Bowden, you were fired so this is your biggest “first.”

Fuzzybee

August 2nd, 2010
8:36 am

Wow not a proven quarterback in the group – it looks like a down year in the east.

Dawg Trainer

August 2nd, 2010
8:38 am

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.

Dawgtards ruin this state

August 2nd, 2010
8:39 am

Is this all the mighty SEC has to offer for QB’s in this division. Pitiful, you call yourselves a major conference? Your QB’s suck.

Dapper Dan

August 2nd, 2010
8:42 am

“the impact of Jeremiah Masoli at Ole Miss.”

Maybe you’ve answered this Tony and I just missed it, but doesn’t this guy have to sit out a year and if not, why?

Steve

August 2nd, 2010
8:42 am

How many years now has the uga excuse been we got a veteran off line. And every year it’s the same result. If murray was so good, he would have been put in last year. He will be just an average qb and stop with the greene comps. Where is greene playing today?

SC 78

August 2nd, 2010
8:45 am

Garcia is the best of the group based on seniority. We get GA 2nd week and at home. This is our season and probably their’s too. I think we pull out the w. Tough to play your first road game in Columbia and the loud fans.

TommyJack

August 2nd, 2010
8:47 am

TB: Agree not a banner year for QB’s at TN….But placing Mike Hartline above our guys??? Perhaps you need to rethink this one.

Willie Wonka Dawg

August 2nd, 2010
8:48 am

The Oompa Loompa at QB for the dawgs is a big concern because he is prone to the injury bug. He may hve to borrow those pin ball wizzard shoes from Sir Elton John to see over that offensive line though.

Fuzzybee

August 2nd, 2010
8:48 am

SC 78 – I think you are right GA and SC have a real chance to make some noise this year.

Dapper Dan

August 2nd, 2010
8:48 am

Don’t know if it’s accurate, but one report says there’s a loophole that if you enroll in a graduate program not offered at your previous school, you are eligible immediately. Since Tony’s mentioning impact like it’s this season, I’ll guess it’s accurate. But, dang, Tony, how about a sentence of explanation when something goes against the norm?

GeoffDawg

August 2nd, 2010
8:48 am

Not looking like a particularly strong QB class in the SEC East so far. Of course, that could all change by the end of the year when we can see what Murray and Brantley are really capable of with significant playing time under their belts.

Also, if Nance is in the QB battle at UT, wow. That’s up there with Murray getting hurt scary. Let’s all knock on wood.

GeoffDawg

August 2nd, 2010
8:51 am

Steve – David Greene is probably playing insurance executive in his office today. That didn’t stop him from setting the record as the winningest QB in Div I college history. Also, in case you missed it, TB specifically stated that these rankings have nothing to do with NFL potential, only productivity at the college level.

RD

August 2nd, 2010
8:54 am

I have to agree with kaput. I think you’re crazy Tony to rank Garcia at no. 1. Brantley is an easy no. 1 here and I’m a Dawg fan but just being realistic.

Not so fast...

August 2nd, 2010
8:54 am

It appears that Mr. Garcia “wins” the title of preseason SEC-East QB by default. Of the top three picks, he’s the only one that has logged any substantive time.

On paper, it looks like it could be a down year for QBs in the SEC-East. But, I suspect Brantley will look very good in Florida’s system, and Murray will be better than serviceable with the talent around him (particularly the OL). Garcia will live and die by SC’s OL, which has been dreadful since Spurrier has been there.

With all of that said, if SC was ever going to make a move in the SEC-East, it’s now or never. If they can’t win 8-9 games in the regular season this year, they likely won’t get another chance at it for another 5-10 years.

GeoffDawg

August 2nd, 2010
8:55 am

SC 78 – totally agree that playing in Columbia in week 2 will be tough. I expect our O-line and two very good tailbacks to be the primary focus of our offense though. Murray’s exposure will be minimized. It may not work out this well, but think 2009 UGA offense vs. tech.

Who cares

August 2nd, 2010
9:00 am

SEC? Who cares

Frank Lane

August 2nd, 2010
9:04 am

I think that it is Murray and Brantley, two first time starters. Garcia won’t pan out.

Fuzzybee

August 2nd, 2010
9:07 am

GeoffDawg – good observation but the SC defense is much better than my yellow jackets defense. I think you will need Murry to do more than hand off to those backs.

help, I live in Ga

August 2nd, 2010
9:12 am

Wow. Not a ringer in the whole bunch. The SEC East just might look like the Big 10. That would suck. Somebody has to step up.

joe

August 2nd, 2010
9:12 am

So what is it the makes a freshman who’s never thrown a pass in a game, Murray…who is shorter with much less of an arm, better than say Bray at TN, who is just about the same as Manning or Ainge as a freshman (thin but with a cannon for an arm)? And to top that, you also ranked KY and Vandy’s ahead as well?? Me thinks your rankings are bassackwards.

[...] how dire is that Tennessee QB situation, anyway? Jump to Comments This dire:  Tony Barnhart can’t even bring himself to rank the Vols’ bunch higher than the worst quarterback I [...]

Gtax

August 2nd, 2010
9:18 am

(((( Nesbitt for Heismen ))))

- 45 – 42 -

Tony Barnhart

August 2nd, 2010
9:24 am

For those of you have asked: We reported on this last week when the news about Jeremiah Masoli first broke. Masoli will take advantage of an NCAA rule that has been in place for several years. Any one who has received their undergraduate degree (as Masoli has) and still has eligibility remaing (which Masoli does), is allowed to enroll in a Master’s Degree program at another school and be immediately eligible. The stipulation is that it must be a Master’s program which your previous school did not have.

The rule was put into place to help really bright kids who graduate early and who have to leave their former school to pursue their academic goals. It only impacts a handful of players each year. It’s a good rule. The key is that you have to graduate and Masoli did that.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

August 2nd, 2010
9:25 am

i think Murray will be fine, but certainly concerned if he goes down. Gray/Mason better be ready to go ASAP if the latter happens.

BrokeBackJacket

August 2nd, 2010
9:28 am

To “Help, I live in Ga.”

Try I-75 north or I-20 west!
No thanks needed.

Gtax

August 2nd, 2010
9:30 am

Tony which QB do you think will start after Murray tears his hamstring running out of the tunnel vs Lou Lafayette? My money is on Grey.

Dawgies will be in a world of hurt this fall!!

UGAY in the Papa Johns Bowl

August 2nd, 2010
9:35 am

The ACC Coastal is way harder than the SEC East, HANDS DOWN!

Keeps his ear's apart...

August 2nd, 2010
9:40 am

Gee, the top three QB’s are from Florida, and two from Tampa, go figure. The problem with Stephen, and always has been since his years at Jefferson H.S, is the space between his ears. Against Plant’s Robert Marve, Garcia had to run out the clock, but they passed and turned the ball over with something like 29 seconds left, and Plant went 70 some yards, won the game, and went on to winning their first championship. He thinks that he can make plays that just aren’t there. Spurrier hasn’t been able to coach that aspect out of him. There are times when you need to go for the brass ring when you’re behind, but Stephen thinks it’s every play. The speed of college players just doesn’t allow these heroics on a regular basis. Murray made a statement last year that one of adjustments that he has to make is to the speed of the game. He realized that you aren’t playing at this level unless you are something special. There lies the biggest difference in these two. Brantley is a pure passer and not a head case and like Murray he will hit a few bumps in the road, but both should have better years than Garcia. Unless SC starts running a more balanced attack, then Garcia will keep trying to make plays, and Spurrier will keep throwing his visor. Can’t really blame Garcia when you think that your play is the best chance at winning and the team can’t mount a running attack.

alan gordon

August 2nd, 2010
9:44 am

truth is Gators,Dawgs,Hogs, and more can’t get their quarterbacks hurt.changes the whole season quickly

murfdawg

August 2nd, 2010
9:44 am

Tony,
I can’t believe that you are still trying to convince us that SOS is a good coach. He has run off more qbs than he has developed. and Garcia is the one he has developed. USC may beat us in the 2nd game. But at the end of the year UGA and Murray will be way better than USC and Garcia. And SOS will have another MEDIOCRE year as a mediocre coach.

JB

August 2nd, 2010
9:46 am

Murray will be an improvement over Cox not just because of talent, but I think we come out of the Box with a pretty stout running game, and we’ll lean run early, but look for Murray to roll out and hit a TE.
The game plan from our opponents the first few games will be to stop the run and MAKE Murray beat you passing……..I think we run on anybody on our schedule.

Ctown

August 2nd, 2010
9:49 am

Hey TeeeJ. How’s things? I agree. I don’t see how Murray should be above Simms either. Murray’s last game was high school.

Mike in Charlotte

August 2nd, 2010
9:49 am

I love how it is never possible that the South Carolina QB or, GOD forbid, the Florida QB could get injured. What shape would they be in if that happened??????

Mikey in SAV

August 2nd, 2010
9:50 am

Is Murray going to wear that glove on his right hand like he did in Spring practice?

help, I live in Ga

August 2nd, 2010
9:51 am

Joe- Bray is not ready. He’s not 210 as listed. He’s closer to 6′6″, 200. He is very good but when you look at him without the pads on, his under armor actually sags. He needs at another year to beef up and he will be very good if they can protect him.

Sims has a great arm but looked horrible in the spring game. I thought it was nerves but he says he hadn’t learned the playbook at that point. He could be good but he’ll have to be as tough as his dad was because the O-line will not help him. Could be interesting to watch but will probably be very painful this year.

How2fish

August 2nd, 2010
9:55 am

The ACC Coastal is way harder than the SEC East, HANDS DOWN! LMAO…thanks for a great laugh to start my Monday! That’s priceless !!

5IML

August 2nd, 2010
9:56 am

This QB list looks pretty weak right now. I’m sure a couple of them will step up during the season. Hopefully the ones from USC, UF, and UT will struggle since those are BAMA’s eastern opponents this year.

Whoa Nellie

August 2nd, 2010
10:01 am

Mr. Bulldawg, errr, I mean Mr. College Football, what is the likelihood of Texas A&M not getting their $20M? If Commish Bebe of the Big 12 (Minus 2) can’t come up with the cash will the Aggies dash to the $EC???

Stabby McKnifefight

August 2nd, 2010
10:02 am

Ok, so you want projections on the season? Well, I will do better than that. Here’s the actual stats for each of these guys for next season. Don’t ask me how I got these… worm holes and such are very complicated.

Simms 52.1% 2,434 yards, 12/15 TD/INT
Brantley 62.3 2,643 22/8
Garcia 59.1 2,996 26/11
Murray 58.9 2,466 17/12
Hartline 63.2 1,977 15/4

Big Albany Dawg

August 2nd, 2010
10:03 am

Hey! Watch it man, there’s a beverage here.

Gtax

August 2nd, 2010
10:04 am

Dawggie fans underrate what Cox did for them last year. The turnovers hurt, but he was otherwise one of the more productive QBs in the SEC. They are also overrating their running game, which was only “improved” the 2nd half of last season because of the bad defenses they played(TTU, Auburn, Kentucky, GT, A&M).

We heard all this same schtick coming into last season: “The O-line is one of the best in the country” “The running game will carry the team” “Our QB will only have to be a game manager.”

UGAg = 7-5 this season, with another manhandling between the shrubs this November!!!!!!!

GeoffDawg

August 2nd, 2010
10:05 am

TB – could you see if my reply to Fuzzybee was censored? Maybe using the word Gamec*cks flagged it?

help, I live in Ga

August 2nd, 2010
10:07 am

Stabby
I think you’re right except one of Garcia’s 26 TD’s will be controversial and end up with an asterick beside it.

Good info. I’m calling my bookie.

Aiken Chicken

August 2nd, 2010
10:09 am

Didnt the wonderful Murray come out of spring as the backup and the first string guy got run off? So, suddenly the guy who couldnt even be a starter is gonna be all world. I dont see it. I agree with Tony…third in the east at best.