SEC Quarterbacks Must Have Answers

Nick Saban is not shy about seeking advice from professional, college, and even high school coaches around the country. He has yet to name the starting quarterback for this year’s Crimson Tide. SEC defenses are as complex as any deployed across the country.

Qualifications mentioned at the 2015 SEC Media Days by the Alabama head coach include “being assertive, playing with confidence, distributing the ball, executing in a positive way, being a good decision-maker, and showing leadership at the same time.”

Accuracy, arm strength, an ability to elude the rush, poise in the pocket, and other attributes are prerequisites to reaching the pinnacle. Manning the quarterback position against speed merchant defenses requires a superior football intelligent quotient.

BamaMag.com visited with Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and with starting and aspiring SEC signal-callers at two locations. Hoover, Ala., hosted the 31st SEC Media Days and Thibodaux, La., was site of the 20th edition of the Manning Passing Academy. All the quarterbacks were asked what advice they would give to someone wishing to play the position in the Southeastern Conference. A few even addressed playing against Alabama.

From Hoover:

Jeremy Johnson, Auburn, 6-5, 240, junior, Montgomery

“Be mentally focused and able to handle the good and the bad that comes with it. It’s been a great experience so far and I’m looking forward to have a chance this fall.”

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State, 6-2, 230, senior, Haughton, LA

“It’s a mental game. Everybody is fast. Everybody is strong. Everybody is talented and athletic. You can’t necessarily think you’re going out there and you’re doing a lot of drills, you’re doing a lot of things to make yourself better physically as you should but that is not going to give you the edge of being a quarterback especially in such a tough defensive based conference. The mental game of the quarterback position is being able to lead your teammates to follow you.”

Brandon Allen, Arkansas, 6-2, 210, senior, Fayetteville

“It is tough. The biggest thing that goes into playing is the preparation it takes to play one single game. To play one game especially against an SEC Western Division opponent - it takes hours and hours of film and hours and hours of study on your own besides the meetings you get with the coaches. I don’t think a lot of people realize how many hours the quarterbacks put in to studying an opponent to play one game.”

From Thibodaux:

Archie Manning, 6-3, 212, Ole Miss/New Orleans Saints/Houston Oilers/Minnesota Vikings

“To play in that league, get ready to battle every week. There are no easy ones. You have to keep plugging and get experience. You’ve got to get experience so you can compete. It’s hard because you’re playing against a good team every week. It’s an honor to be a quarterback in the Southeastern Conference because there are so many good players. If you get recruited by the Southeastern Conference team and win a starting quarterback job, you accomplished something right there. You have to know where to go with the football. That is really the only advice I ever gave my kids. You can’t hold the ball. You have to know where you’re going with it which means pre-reads; know where you’re going with it so you can get rid of it. If you hold the ball, you’re going to get hit. My advice is know where you’re going with the football.”

Eli Manning, 6-4, 218, Ole Miss/New York Giants

“Get the ball out quickly. Make good decisions. Enjoy the opportunity. Work hard. Listen to your coaches and do your best and compete. That’s all you can hope for.”

Peyton Manning, 6-5, 230, Tennessee/Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos

“I’m not sure I want to help too many other quarterbacks out in the SEC besides Tennessee’s quarterback. We’re (Tennessee) trying to get back. I helped Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Brandon Allen from Arkansas, and Maty Mauk from Missouri. I don’t want to give them every piece of incite. I want to try and save some for the Volunteers.

“I’m biased, obviously being an SEC guy; I think it’s certainly a special conference. Speaking of bonds, there is a bond that you have with a quarterback in the NFL that played at Georgia and who played at Alabama. It’s pretty similar to the NFL though as far as being competitive, I will say that.”

On leadership - “In order to get people to follow you, you have to earn their respect. The best way to earn their respect is maybe not by talking to them but by showing them. Be the first one out there and the last one off the field working hard earning that platform. No one wants to hear what you have to say until you earn their respect.”

Maty Mauk, Missouri, 6-0, 200, redshirt junior, Kenton, Ohio

“I think the main thing is you have to be calm and patient. Let it come to you. The thing I ran into was you don’t have to make every play. Let the game come to you. How I view it in the SEC is you can do the Johnny Manziel thing and make plays or in my opinion one of the better quarterbacks as an example would be A.J. McCarron as a guy who has been there done it and he’s consistent. That is one thing I have to be this year is just be consistent and you will be successful.”

On playing Alabama – “It’s Alabama. When you grow up all you hear is Alabama this, Alabama that. To go out there and play them it’s an awesome feeling. This year I want to be healthy and make sure our team is healthy. I think it will be a lot different outcome. If the opportunity comes I’m for sure going to be ready to play them. Right now we are focused on SEMO.”

Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee, 6-3, 212, junior, Alpharetta, Ga.

“My advice is to embrace the process. Obviously for me it is a privilege and an honor to play in the SEC. I’m very thankful for the opportunity I’ve been blessed with but I remember the process I had to go through just to get to where I am today.

“Seek counsel from as many people as you can that have done it for information just to inform you to coach you up on little things from on and off-the-field things to just how to be an all-around great person and great quarterback. That will push yourself to be the best you can be. If your goal is to play QB in the SEC then you will achieve it that way. Patience, discipline and details.

“Playing the QB position is all about habits – footwork, eyes, throwing. So treat every practice rep as if you are in a game. When you’re in practice taking full speed drops and full speed rollouts, treating everything as if it’s a game will prepare you to be the most successful on game day.”

On playing Alabama – “I’m excited. Obviously it’s a big rivalry game but when it comes down to it we have to take one game at a time. Honestly, right now we are focused on Bowling Green. We’ll get to Alabama when we get to the third week of October in Tuscaloosa. We’ll get there but we have to start with the first game.”

Chad Kelly, 6-2, 215, junior, Buffalo, N.Y.

“A lot of hard work and dedication and just study, study, study. You have to make quick decisions. All I know is to work hard and the play will play out.”

On playing Alabama – “Can’t wait. I can’t wait to play every single team. It’s going to be a great year and I can’t wait. I think it’s going to be a great season. Everybody on our team is very excited.”

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