It’s not been a banner year for signal-callers in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, and Georgia stand alone as teams who’ve gotten enough success from their starter (or starters in LSU’s case) to not require a quarterback change.
The other eight schools in the league have either had to shuffle QBs in an effort to find a quality starter or they have had to replace an injured starter.
Below, is a comparison of each SEC program’s passing averages from 2010 to 2011. The schools are listed according to their yards per game averages from a season ago. A red number in a 2011 column signifies a downturn in productivity:
||Comp. % ’10
||Comp. % ’11
Alabama – The Tide’s passing numbers are down across the board, but that’s to be expected with a first-time starter taking over for a graduated senior. The slight decrease in passing numbers hasn’t hurt Alabama and AJ McCarron has done better than expected managing Jim McElwain’s offense.
Arkansas – Again, the numbers are down, but how could they not be? The Hogs lost a superstar in Ryan Mallett, yet Tyler Wilson’s stats are certainly comparable. That’s one reason he’s a finalist for the Unitas Award.
Auburn – Those are some massive drop-offs, folks. The Tigers have simply not been able to find anything close to a replacement for Cam Newton. The passer rating decline from 180 to 117 tells you all you need to know. To be fair to Barrett Trotter, Kiehl Frazier and now Clint Moseley, they’ve been surrounded by new parts all across the offense.
Florida – The Gators’ numbers are similar to last year’s and that’s not a good thing. Some fans are wondering if Charlie Weis is all he’s cracked up to be. But it has to be pointed out that the Gators lost John Brantley against Alabama and had to play two of the best defenses in recent SEC history with a pair of true freshmen. UF’s numbers — especially against Auburn — would have likely been better if Brantley had played.
Georgia — The numbers for UGA’s Aaron Murray are remarkably consistent with his 2010 performance. While some might complain that there’s been no clear growth for the QB numbers-wise, it’s important to note that Murray’s numbers have shown no noticeable decline despite the loss of all-world receiver AJ Green.
Kentucky – The Cats’ 2010 starter, Mike Hartline, just looks better by the week. Yards per passing attempt is one of the most telling stats in football. Seldom will you find a good team with low yards per attempt number or vice versa. Typically, a team wants to get that number to 8.0 or better. UK’s is an unbelievable 4.3 yards per attempt. That’s historically bad.
LSU – There’s been no bigger surprise in the SEC than the improvement shown at the quarterback position by LSU. Jarrett Lee looks like a totally different player under Steve Kragthorpe and Greg Studrawa. And his numbers have not taken a hit with the return of Jordan Jefferson, either. (If we factored in Jefferson’s rushing numbers, LSU’s QB production would look even better… and Auburn’s even worse.) The Tigers’ passer rating has jumped from 117 to 162 this season. Remarkable.
Miss. State — Most of the Bulldogs’ passing numbers are comparable to last season’s figures. But Chris Relf’s inability to improve on a solid 2010 campaign is reflected in the team’s overall passer rating. There’s a reason Tyler Russell has been given the reins to the offense.
Ole Miss — The Rebels have used three starters and the team’s passing numbers have fallen across the board. Somewhere, ex-offensive coordinator Dave Rader sits and chuckles.
S. Carolina – It’s probably time to stop calling Steve Spurrier a “quarterback guru.” He once was an offensive genius, but he never developed quarterbacks — at least not for the pro game — even when he was at his peak. Steve Spurrier’s constant badgering had to have played some small role in Stephen Garcia’s backslide. Only once in the past five seasons — with Garcia last year — has Spurrier’s team ranked in the top half of the SEC in passer rating.
Tennessee — Tyler Bray was on pace for a record-breaking year in Knoxville before breaking his thumb late in UT’s loss to Georgia. (Of course, it must be pointed out that once again, Bray did not have to face the full meat of Tennessee’s schedule in compiling his big stats.) The team’s numbers will likely continue to fall off as Matt Simms and true freshman Justin Worley battle for playing time. This is one case where injury robbed an SEC squad of a clear-cut, good quarterback.
Vanderbilt – With the exception of an improved completion percentage, the Commodore aerial attack has looked awfully similar to that of last year’s 2-10 bunch. Jordan Rodgers’ 10 of 27 effort (1 TD and 2 interceptions) against Army in his first start doesn’t inspire much confidence in a late-season VU turnaround in the passing game.