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The Best (And Worst) SEC Quarterback Situations Entering 2014

quarterback-silhouette-question-markUsing statistics from a previous season is not always the best way to predict which school will thrive at the quarterback position in an upcoming year.  There are injuries to consider.  Not just to the QB but to his offensive line or receivers.

There are always surprises, players who come from nowhere to become stars.  Two years ago there was a four-way battle for the signal-caller spot in Kevin Sumlin’s brand new Texas A&M offense.  The winner was a small fella who Texas had actually recruited to play safety.  But Johnny Manziel went on to win the Heisman in just his first season.

Last offseason, Auburn’s quarterback battle appeared to be a four-way battle as well.  But the two holdovers from 2012 were quickly chucked from the race.  A pair of newcomers — the runner Nick Marshall and the thrower Jeremy Johnson — wound up duking things out.  The former Georgia defensive back, Marshall, earned the starting gig and led the Tigers to the brink of a BCS championship.

Before we look at 2014, let’s take a quick look back at 2012 and 2013.  Below you’ll find the 2012 total offense numbers for each school’s top returning QB.  Farther to the right you’ll find the 2013 total offense numbers for each school’s top quarterback for comparison.  Again, be careful not to draw too many conclusions:

 

  School   Top 2012 QB Returning   Total Off. 2012   Yds/Gm 2012   Top 2013 QB   Total Off. 2013   Yds/Gm 2013   SEC Rec.   Overall Rec.
  Texas A&M   J. Manziel   5116   393.5   J. Manziel   4873   374.8   4-4   9-4
  Georgia   A. Murray   3825   273.2   A. Murray   3261   296.5   5-3   8-5
  Ole Miss   B. Wallace   3384   260.3   B. Wallace   3701   284.7   3-5   8-5
  Alabama   AJ McCarron   2937   209.8   AJ McCarron   3041   233.9   7-1   11-2
  Miss. State   T. Russell   2892   222.5   D. Prescott   2769   251.7   3-5   7-6
  LSU   Z. Mettenberger   2401   184.7   Z. Mettenberger   2949   245.8   5-3   10-3
  S. Carolina   C. Shaw   2391   217.4   C. Shaw   3005   231.2   6-2   11-2
  Florida   J. Driskel   2054   171.2   T. Murphy   1277   141.8   3-5   4-8
  Missouri   J. Franklin   1684   187.1   J. Franklin   2939   267.1   7-1   12-2
  Kentucky   J. Whitlow   1007   100.7   J. Whitlow   1492   124.3   0-8   2-10
  Auburn   J. Wallace   872   96.9   N. Marshall   3044   234.2   7-1   12-2
  Vanderbilt   A. Carta-Samuels   225   37.5   A. Carta-Samuels   2382   238.3   4-4   9-4
  Arkansas   B. Allen   183   36.6   B. Allen   1581   143.7   0-8   3-9
  Tennessee   J. Worley   134   26.8   J. Worley   1295   161.8   2-6   5-7

 

As you can see, the numbers from one year don’t always mean very much heading into the next year.  So even though the list below of returning total offense leaders is stacked up by total yards gained, you’ll find that our grades don’t always mesh with those 2013 stats.  Here’s our quickie take on the best, worst, good and bad SEC quarterback situations rolling into 2014:

 

  School   Top 2013 QB Returning   Total Off. 2013   Yds/Gm 2013   Our View of Situation
  Ole Miss   B. Wallace   3701   284.7   Good, Just needs to keep cutting down on turnovers
  Auburn   N. Marshall   3044   234.2   Best, But Marshall still needs to improve as a passer
  Miss. State   D. Prescott   2769   251.7   Good, Prescott was a solid leader in ’12 when healthy
  Arkansas   B. Allen   1581   143.7   Worst, Injuries were an issue, but Allen needs work
  Kentucky   J. Whitlow   1492   124.3   Bad, Likely an open race as Whitlow’s health always a ?
  Missouri   M. Mauk   1300   100.0   Good, Mauk showed he’s a solid heir to the job
  Tennessee   J. Worley   1295   161.8   Bad, An open race once between up to 4 guys
  Georgia   H. Mason   960   240.0   Good, Mason wasn’t great, but he should be ready for ’14
  Vanderbilt   P. Robinette   856   85.6   Bad, If Franklin walks out how will new coach see/use him?
  S. Carolina   D. Thompson   810   101.2   Good, But not great… he’s not been a Shaw clone to date
  Florida   J. Driskel   515   171.6   Bad, New OC and likely an open competition
  Texas A&M   M. Joeckel   293   73.2   Good, Whoever gets the nod should excel in Sumlin’s system
  Alabama   B. Sims   228   28.5   Good, The people around Bama’s QB will help a lot
  LSU   A. Jennings   199   22.1   Good, Beat Arkansas and Iowa and run game will help

 

We’re not factoring in freshmen because we’ve yet to reach signing day and who knows which commitments might flip-flop between now and then?

One thing is clear looking at this SEC quarterback chart — the league should shift back to more of a defense-first conference next season.  In 2013, a combination of young defenses, veteran quarterbacks and the proliferation of hurry-up offenses inside the league conspired to “soften” the SEC in terms of defense.  In 2012, SEC defenses allowed 42,609 in conference-only games.  That number ballooned to 46,600 yards in 2013.  On average, SEC defenses allowed about 70 yards per game more in 2013 than they did in 2012.

With newcomers expected to take over at so many schools and with defenses that should be a bit more veteran in 2014, we suspect that total-yards-allowed number to drop a bit, even with all of the hurry-up offenses currently being utilized across Dixie.  That’s because only about half of the league’s teams — Ole Miss, Auburn, Mississippi State, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and LSU — have a pretty firm grasp on who’ll be taking their offense’s snaps in the season ahead.

 


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