Back in the spring of 2014, less than three months after Florida State came back from a 21-3 deficit to defeat the Auburn Tigers and abruptly put an end to the SEC’s run of eight straight national titles, the SEC was looking at an identity crisis at the quarterback position.
I mean, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Georgia’s Aaron Murray, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Mizzou’s James Franklin, South Carolina’s Connor Shaw, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Vandy’s Austyn Carta-Samuels were all packing their bags and leaving campus in pursuit to begin a professional career. Kentucky’s Maxwell Smith and Florida’s Tyler Murphy both had enough of the south, and transferred that same off-season. Nine of the top passers in the conference said adios, and a guy who started his college career as a defensive back at Georgia, was the top quarterback in the conference.
As you can presume, the SEC was looking for some studs to take over under center.
Two seasons, and another SEC national championship later, a similar quarterback crisis has developed below the Mason-Dixon, as spring football is just beginning.
Three graduated, four transferred, a couple were dismissed and besides Chad Kelly and Joshua Dobbs, every remaining signal caller split time behind center in 2015.
Eleven of the 14 teams in the SEC are heading into spring ball with a looming quarterback battle, and if a few transfers or a handful of blue chip prospects don’t pan out, things could get ugly for a handful of teams. It’s quite the predicament for college football’s best conference.
Let’s take a look at the quarterback position for every team in the SEC.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Returning quarterback: Cooper Bateman- 291 pass yards, one touchdown
Other quarterbacks on roster: David Cornwell, Blake Barnett
When it was all said and done, Jake Coker was the right fit for the Tide. Now, finding the right fit to follow up a national champion will be the next question Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin have to answer. Judging by who the two have picked to lead the team under center following Mccarran’s departure, it should provide Tide fans with a bit of relief.
Returning quarterback: Austin Allen- 35 yards, one touchdown
Other quarterbacks on roster: Rafe Peavy, Ty Storey
After a young Brandon Allen took the reigns of this Arkansas team three years ago, he departs after leading this program to consecutive 8 win seasons. And with a number of quarterbacks with very minimal experience(one pass collectively),this Razorback team will be looking for answers under center.
Returning quarterback: Jeremy Johnson- 1054 pass yards, 10 touchdowns
Other quarterbacks on roster: Sean White, John Franklin III(JC transfer)
Jeremy Johnson will have one more shot to live up to the lofty, Cam Newton-like expectations that the Auburn nation threw on his shoulders last season. But, shifty JC transfer John Franklin III has already raised some eyebrows on The Plains.
Returning quarterback: None
Other quarterbacks on roster: Luke Delrio (Oregon State transfer), Austin Appleby (Purdue transfer), Kyle Trask, Felipe Franks (#5 QB in 2016 ESPN 300)
Will Greir is no longer a Gator, Treon Harris has been in and out of suspensions and head coach Jim McElwain is pulling his hair out, all while looking to find the right guy under center who can lead this team to back-to-back SEC championships appearances for the first time since 2008-’09. Figuring that out with a bunch of guys, besides Harris, who have collectively thrown zero passes in a Gator uniform will make it a bit more difficult.
Returning quarterback: Greyson Lambert- 1959 pass yards, 12 touchdowns
Other quarterbacks on roster: Brice Ramsey, Jacob Eason(#1 QB in 2016 ESPN 300)
Jacob Eason could not have come fast enough for Dawg Nation. After Nick Chubb’s devastating injury last season, the Georgia offense was never quite the same in the remaining seven games. And after rotating between three different signal callers last year, the Dawgs will look to establish some more consistency in 2016 under center.
Returning quarterback: Drew Barker- 326 pass yards, one touchdown
Other quarterbacks on roster: Stephen Johnson(JC transfer), Gunnar Hoak
Another hot start to the season, ended in another losing season for the Wildcats–which makes it six years in a row. And with Patrick Towles transferring to Boston College, head coach Bob Stoops looks to sophomore Drew Barker to take over in Lexington in 2016.
Returning quarterback: Brandon Harris- 2165 pass yards, 13 touchdowns
Other quarterbacks on roster: Anthony Jennings, Danny Etling(Purdue transfer), Justin McMillan
Brandon Harris proved he can be a valuable quarterback in this Cam Cameron offense. Then he traveled to Tuscaloosa. At this point, Brandon Harris looks to be the clear cut starter, but head coach Les Miles may pick the guy who can hand the ball off the best to Leonard Fournette.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Returning quarterback: Nick Fitzgerald- 235 pass yards, 3 touchdowns
Other quarterbacks: Elijah Staley, Damian Williams
How to you replace a quarterback that almost single-handedly brought your program back to national relevancy and collected All-SEC honors? Dan Mullen and the folks in Starkvegas would like to know. Fitzgerald seems to be the favorite entering camp, but expect Mullen to give first-team reps to everyone.
Returning quarterbacks: Drew Lock- 1332 yards, 4 touchdowns
Other quarterbacks on roster: Jack Lowery(JC transfer), Micah Wilson, Marvin Zanders
Four games into the 2015 season, quarterback Maty Mauk was suspended, which gave freshman Drew Lock some valuable experience. And now that Mauk is officially gone from the Mizzou program following a dismissal in January, new head coach Barry Odom will have to choose from a bunch that features only one quarterback with game experience.
Ole Miss Rebels
Returning quarterback: Chad Kelly – 4042 pass yards, 500 rush yards, 41 total touchdowns
Other quarterbacks on roster: DeVante Kincade, Ryan Buchanan, Shea Patterson(#2 QB in 2016 ESPN 300)
No problem here for coach Hugh Freeze. Chad Kelly is your guy. But, hey, if one of these studs holding the clipboard competes and attempts to take the starting spot from the SEC’s best passer, fans in Oxford will be happy either way.
Returning quarterback: Perry Orth- 1929 pass yards, 12 touchdowns
Other quarterbacks on roster: Lorenzo Nunez, Connor Mitch, Michael Scarnecchia
After an abysmal 3-9 2015 season, the Gamecocks bring in former Auburn defense coordinator Will Muschamp to succeed the great Steve Spurrier. Hopefully the defensive genius can figure out the mess under center, because the Ol’ Ball Coach, a Heisman winning quarterback, could not after Connor Mitch was injured in the second game of the season against Kentucky.
Returning quarterback: Joshua Dobbs- 2291 pass yards, 671 rush yards, 26 total touchdowns
Other quarterbacks on roster: Quentin Dormandy, Zac Jancek, Jarret Guarantano(#9 QB in 2016 ESPN 300)
The aerospace engineer quarterback didn’t have a disappointing year by any means in 2015, but with another year under his belt and some favorable home games against Florida and Alabama, Joshua Dobbs is expected to take the next step–we will see if Tennessee comes along with him.
Texas A&M Aggies
Returning quarterback: Jake Hubenak- 400 pass yards, 3 touchdowns
Other quarterbacks on roster: Trevor Knight(Oklahoma transfer), Connor McQueen, Daniel Davidson, Janson Moore
Your last three high profile quarterbacks have left your program claiming program instability, and with road games at Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State,things aren’t getting easier for Kevin Sumlin in College Station. Luckily, the Aggies pick up former Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight, who can provide some leadership at a position on a team that hasn’t seen a consistent starter since Jonny Football.
Returning quarterback: Kyle Shumur- 503 yards, 5 touchdowns
Other quarterbacks on roster: Wade Freebeck, Deuce Wallace
After head coach Derek Mason had seen enough of Johnny McCrary, the second year coach turned to Kyle Shurmer, who Mason and others around the Vandy program expect to be the starter in 2016 after the true freshman beat Missouri and Kentucky last season.