The SEC Arms Race

Rex Grossman is now gone and there is a huge quarterback battle in Gainesville with four eyeing the job. FightinGator.com takes a look at Florida and all the other signal callers in the Southeastern Conference.

SEC East

Florida

Starter: ?

Contenders for the job: Ingle Martin (So.), Gavin Dickey (R-Fr.), Chris Leak (Fr.), Justin Midgett (Fr.)

Rex Grossman is now playing in the NFL and the job appears to be wide open among four.  Martin is the guy with the most experience.  He played in all their games last season, mainly as the Gators punter.  Martin rushed for 56 yards and was 7 of 10 passing for 96 yards.  He led Florida to a key 68-yard drive against Auburn last season.  Dickey is perhaps the most intriguing of the bunch because of his great athletic ability and big arm.  He had a roller coaster spring and like most young quarterbacks, makes some great plays and then some bad ones.  Leak has already been impressive in voluntary workouts and some say he already has a very good understanding of the Gator offense.  Midgett has thrown very well too.  If these two adjust to the speed of the game when the bullets are flying for real, the quarterback race could get real interesting.   

This season:  It could very well be QB by committee this season in Gainesville.  Regardless, a young, inexperienced quarterback will be manning the show.  A key for Florida will be there run game and offensive line.  Both are huge pluses for their offense this season, as they are very big and experienced on the OL and have some great talent at running back.  These two keys should take some much needed pressure of a young QB.

Georgia

Starter: David Green, Jr.

Backups: D.J. Shockley (So.), Joe Tereshinski (Fr.)  

Greene has been sensational since he took over the reigns as a freshman.  The southpaw was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2001 after throwing for 3,077 yards (59.1%, 18 TDs, 11 Ints).  Last season, he threw for 2,924 yards (58%, 22 TDs, 8 Ints).  In two years as the UGA starter, he's unbeaten in away games but 0-3 in neutral sites (0-2 vs. Florida in Jacksonville, a 2001 Music City Bowl loss to BC).

This season:  Despite losing Terrence Edwards to graduation, Greene will have plenty of weapons to throw to, especially wideout Fred Gibson.  Two keys for another successful season, a running game and good offensive line play.  The Dawgs lost five senior starters from their O-line and could likely start five sophomore OLs this season.  This unit could very well determine the Dawgs chances of repeating in the SEC.  Regardless, Greene is a super starter and Shockley is there for back-up duties.  Shockley, who could likely start on most teams in the country, will see plenty of playing time too and it will be interesting to see if this has any affect on the junior starter. 

Kentucky

Starter: Jared Lorenzen, Sr.

Backup: Shane Boyd (Jr.) 

It seems as though Lorenzen has been in Lexington forever but this marks his final season.  The hefty lefty had a terrific junior season, throwing for 2,267 yards (24 TDs, 5 Ints).  He also set a school record with 152 consecutive passes without an interception.  As a freshmen, Lorenzen threw for 3,687 yards and as a sophomore, he split early time with Boyd.  But over Kentucky's final five games, he averaged 376 yards passing.

This season: The Wildcats played hard last season for Guy Morris but he left for Baylor.  Enter Rich Brooks, an NFL veteran coach (UK's 3rd head coach in four years) and long time Oregon coach.  Air Mumme is gone and the ‘Cats will look to run play action out of the  "I".  This may not suit Lorenzen.  Could Boyd get the call instead?  Should be interesting in Lexington.  Kentucky only returns 11 starters. 

South Carolina

Starter: Dondrial Pinkins

Backups:  Bennett Swygert (Fr.), Mike Rathe (Jr.)

Pinkins and his laser arm didn't see that much action last season but he did throw for 431 yards (49%, 2 TDs, 4 Ints). 

This season:  Pinkins is now a junior and needs to be the man in Columbia.  He has great size, a cannon for an arm and good mobility.  If Pinkins can limit mistakes, assume some leadership and put his team in a position to win games, USC could be awfully tough this season.  Swygert missed last season because of an ACL injury.  JUCO Mike Rathe is there and could play and play early if Pinkins struggles.  The Gamecocks need the wide receiving corps to really step up.  Of course, like any Lou Holtz team, they will be able to run the ball with a bunch of different talented running backs.  Only one starter returns from the offensive line.

Tennessee

Starter: Casey Clausen, Sr.

Backups: C.J. Leak (Sr.), James Banks (So.)

Clausen enters is his final year with a ton of experience.  He has owned the starting job since his freshman campaign (started seven games).  He has a 63.2 completion percentage, which ranks him third in the SEC all-time.  As a freshman, he threw for 1,593 yards (16 TDs, 9 Ints), as a sophomore threw for 3,362 yards (25 TDs, 9 Ints), and as a junior threw for 2,297 yards (11 TDs, 7 Ints). 

This season: Clausen should have a dominant run game to take some pressure off of him.  The Vol offensive line should be top-notch and the key will be developing the wide receiver corps and Tennessee staying away from the injury bug that plagued the team last season.  If these things happen for the Vols, they could prove tough to beat in the SEC and could be playing for championships.  Jason Whitten and Kelly Washington will be a huge losses for the Vols. 

Vanderbilt

Starter:  Jay Cutler (So.)
Backups: Benji Walker (Sr.), Steven Bright (Fr.)

Cutler narrowly edged Walker to win the starting job last season.  He threw for 1,433 yards (49%, 10 TDs, 9 Ints).  Cutler played well for being young and in a brand new offensive scheme and Walker saw some action.

This season:  This is the second season for Head Coach Bobby Johnson at Vandy and that means this offense has had more reps and experience with his option-oriented offense.  They should put up more points.  The Commodores have two talented sophomores in the backfield and Chris Young returns from suspension.  They could start four juniors and a sophomore on the OL.  Replacing wide receiver Dan Stricker could be difficult.

SEC West

Alabama

Starter: Brodie Croyle (Jr.)

Backups: Spencer Pennington (So.), Brandon Avalos (R-Fr.)

Croyle finally gets his shot this season as the starter and the entire Crimson Tide nation expects big things from him.  He is so talented and was the nation's top prep signal caller a few years back.  Last season, he shared time with Tyler Watts and threw for 1,046 yards (48%, 5 TDs, 5 Ints).

This season: It has been quite a roller coaster ride for Alabama over the past few seasons.  Think about all that has gone on between the NCAA, Dennis Frachione, and Mike Price.  Unfortunately, Mike Shula was given the reigns as the next Bama coach with no spring practice to input schemes and get a feel for personel.   But at least, he has a talent like Croyle to build an offense around.  The Tide as a terrific OL and a solid rushing attack, which should take some pressure off of Croyle and the passing game.

Arkansas

Starter: Matt Jones (Jr.)

Backup: Ryan Sorahan (Sr.)

Jones had a brilliant first season with the Hogs in 2001.  He is a terrific athlete that was supposed to be a wide receiver.  Last season he threw for 1,592 yards (52%, 16 TDs, 8 Ints) and rushed for 822 yards. 

This season:  Lets start with the spring, where Jones saw a lot of playing time at wide receiver.  Jones was rehabbing a sore shoulder and was very impressive at wide receiver, making big play after big play, especially at the fade routes and deep balls.  He also ran the fastest 20-yard time on the team.  Sorahan also picked it up at quarterback and he has made significant development.  Expect Arkansas to get Jones and a much-improved Sorahan on the field at the same time a lot this year. If Sorahan can be effective, then Jones will see a lot more playing time at wideout.  The Razorbacks will start four senior OLs and Shawn Andrews, perhaps the top junior tackle in the nation. 

Auburn

Starter: Jason Campbell (Jr.)

Backups: Brandon Cox (Fr.), Josh Sullivan (R-Fr.), Wesley Hill (R-Fr.)

The job is finally Campbell's and Campbell's only after sharing time with Daniel Cobb.  Campbell showed flashes of brilliance last season.  He threw for 1,215 yards (63%, 11 TDs, 5 Ints) as a sophomore.

This season:  He is the key for Auburn to make a serious run at the SEC Championship and possibly National Championship.  If Campbell plays well, Auburn should be that good, if they can win those big road games.  In Campbell's favor, a super OL and an even better running game, will help take the burden off of him.  Does anyone have more running back depth than Auburn?  Campbell had a good spring and is emerging as a Tiger leader.  He just needs to continue to learn, develop, play within himself and not make that big mistake in a crucial situation.

LSU

Starter: Matt Mauck (Jr.)

Backups: Marcus Randall (Jr.), Lester Ricard (Fr.), Jamarcus Russell (Fr.)

Mauck comes in as the starter, despite good play last season by Randall after Mauck was injured.  Mauck threw for 782 yards (48%, 9 TDs, 2 Ints) and rushed for 242 yards.  What you can't see in box score with Mauck is his leadership skills and moxy as a quarterback.  Randall is athletic, elusive, fast and has a very good arm.  Randall has some bright moments last season.  He threw for 1,173 yards (48%, 7 TDs, 5 Ints).

This season: The Tigers are loaded!  They have a very good offensive line (4 starters returning), a terrific run game and some great skill at the wide receiver position.  They will be in SEC contention with Mauck or Randall.  With both of these guys only juniors, they can bring Russell along slowly.  Things are looking great in Baton Rouge for Saban and his Tigers.

Mississippi State

Starter: Kyle York (So.)

Backups: Kevin Fant (Sr.)

Last year, Fant threw for 1,352 yards (55%, 8 TDs, 9 Ints) after backing up Wayne Madkin for three seasons.   

This season:  Fant missed half of spring due to personal reasons.  Kyle York took advantage and had a solid spring.  There is also a new offensive coordinator and a new system.  Fant could regain the No. 1 spot with a solid fall camp.  They have some talented wide receivers and a talent at running back in Jerious Norwood.

Ole Miss

Starter: Eli Manning (Sr.)

Backup: Ethan Flatt (R-Fr.), Michael Spurlock (So.), Robert Lane (Fr.)

Manning has had a terrific career for the Rebels and everyone expects him to go out with a bang this season.  He set 13 school records in his first year alone.  As a sophomore, Manning threw for 1,948 yards (63.5%, 31 TDs, 9 Ints) and last season he passed for 3,401 yards (58%, 21 Tds, 15 Ints).  He is now the schools all-time leading passer.

This season: OL should be good upfront and they have a wealth of talent at wide receiver.  A good running game this season will help out Manning and really gives this team some balance.  They should be good defensively and in every game.  Everyone is picking Auburn or LSU to win the West but the Rebels could be right there.  If Manning can have another big season, he is good enough to carry this team to Atlanta.

 

 

 

 

 


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