It was a down year for quarterback play in the Southeastern Conference in 2014, never more evident than the national championship game where Oregon featured Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and Ohio State had big arm Cardale Jones. Jones, who began the season as Ohio State’s third string quarterback, and only started the last three games (Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon) because J.T. Barrett broke his ankle, was better than any quarterback in the SEC last year and if Braxton Miller and Barrett had been healthy he probably would be transferring out about now.
The lack of talent at quarterback had a lot to do with what can only be perceived as a down year for the SEC. Although nine starting quarterbacks return for 2015, you have to wonder if they can improve enough to raise the stock of the entire league. Fortunately for the SEC, they’ve got a long time in which they can improve before the 2015 season begins in September. They’ll need every minute to get better.
The all-too early quarterback ratings for the SEC in 2015:
1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: He should be one of the early contenders to win the Heisman Trophy. Heading into November of 2014 he was right there with Marcus Mariota, but three losses in the last five games took the luster off of his season. He is the most dangerous runner among returning quarterbacks in the country. He runs hot and cold as a passer, devastating when he’s hot and apt to throw it to the other guys when he’s not. He’s got really good receivers returning. If he amps up the accuracy he could take home the big trophy this year.
2. Brandon Allen, Arkansas: Two years ago he was considered as bad a quarterback as there was in the league. Amazing what an improved offensive line and some speed on the outside will do for perceptions. Allen might have been the most improved player in the SEC last year. The Arkansas running game is so good that he will make a living off play action next season.
3. Maty Mauk, Missouri: There is good Maty, who proved he can bring a team back in the fourth quarter, and there is bad Maty, who can stink it up as well as anyone in the country. It will be interesting to see what a year more experience will do both for Mauk and his wide receivers. If Mauk throws on target and his receivers catch the football Missouri could be in the hunt for a third straight SEC East title. Could incoming freshman Drew Locke present a challenge?
4. Josh Dobbs, Tennessee: When Butch Jones brought him off the bench against Alabama he gave the Crimson Tide fits. He started the rest of the season and got the Vols to a bowl game which they dominated against Iowa. He’s second only to Prescott as the best dual threat quarterback in the league. His offensive line will be vastly improved and he’ll have wideouts like Marquez North healthy.
5. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M: When Kenny Hill got benched, Allen took over as a true freshman. It wasn’t always pretty but by the time the Aggies got to their bowl game (they won), he was looking very much like the quarterback of the future in College Station. Allen could have the biggest statistical improvement of any quarterback in the league next season.
6. Patrick Towles, Kentucky: He’s a big, strong dual threat quarterback with a cannon of an arm. He had a great first half of the season then faded down the stretch as Kentucky went on a six-game losing streak. It will be interesting to see how the loss of offensive coordinator Neal Brown (new head coach at Troy) will affect Towles’ development.
7. Anthony Jennings, LSU: Jennings might ride the pine in 2015. Brandon Harris is the better quarterback and there is a really good chance that Braxton Miller will transfer from Ohio State to LSU. With all those skilled athletes LSU has, if it’s Miller Time the Tigers probably win the SEC.
8. Treon Harris, Florida: Harris was a big improvement over Jeff Driskel, but he’s limited by size and he doesn’t have a very strong arm. Most think he will be relegated to change of pace QB behind Will Grier, the former Gatorade National Player of the Year, who has much more size and a far stronger arm.
9. Vanderbilt: Johnny McCrary, Patton Robinette and Wade Freebeck all started games and none of them were impressive. In fact, all three were really bad. Can any of them beat out freshman Kyle Shurmer?
Teams with a new starter:
1. Alabama: Jacob Coker was supposed to be the starter last year but he couldn’t beat out Blake Sims. Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell are big time prospects already in the system and Blake Barnett, Scout.com’s #2 quarterback nationally is already on campus.
2. Auburn: Nick Marshall could never throw a football the way Jeremy Johnson can. Of course, Jeremy Johnson will never run the ball the way Marshall could. It’s Johnson’s show and the Tigers will throw more pocket passes and run less read option. Incoming freshman Tyler Queen is good but not good enough to pose a serious challenge.
3. Georgia: It should be Brice Ramsey’s show to run but he’s going to get quite a challenge in the spring from Jacob Park. It really doesn’t matter who is under center for the Bulldogs. The chief job of the QB will be handing the ball off to Nick Chubb.
4. South Carolina: It’s the Connor Mitch Show now. He’s got the big arm that Steve Spurrier likes and better scrambling instincts than predecessor Dylan Thompson. He’s also got the league’s most versatile offensive weapon in Pharoh Cooper to get the ball to.
5. Ole Miss: The job is probably there for the taking for Jim Kelly’s nephew, juco transfer Chad Kelly, but he’s already had a run-in with the law and is skating on very thin ice. Hugh Freeze likes his redshirt freshmen DeVante Kincaid, a dual threat guy with great feet, and Ryan Buchanan, who is more of a pocket guy.
Bill Belichick says he’s got better things to do than weigh footballs to see if they are properly inflated. Do you believe him? Tom Brady, who says that a fully inflated football feels good in his hands, says he didn’t notice that he was playing with footballs that had two pounds per square inch lighter. Do you believe him?
Of the two, Belichick is actually easier to believe. He repeatedly said at a Thursday press conference, “I have no explanation for what happened.” The Boston and national media seemed to think Belichick was telling the truth so they shifted their questions to Brady, who wasn’t helped in the least by the admission of former Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson that he bribed someone to the tune of $7,500 to get the footballs scuffed before Super Bowl XXXVII, won by the Bucs back in 2002.
Brady told the media that footballs pumped to the NFL minimum 12.5 pounds per square inch “are a perfect fit for me.”
One would think that someone who knows what is a perfect fit might know the difference between a properly inflated ball and one that is two pounds psi lighter.
It’s like a golfer who knows his own clubs. They fit better in his hands and he plays better with clubs that fit. As often as Brady throws a football during the course of a week in preparation for a game, it’s hard to imagine that his hands are sensitive enough to notice changes.
“It’s obvious Tom Brady had something to do with this,” Aikman told a Dallas radio audience.
Brady could be fined $25,000 by the NFL if it’s found out that he had anything to do with deflate-gate but he could be subject to further punishment by the league. If there is no positive proof that Brady did it, it would be hard to suspend him for the Super Bowl, but what if the league finds the evidence? Would Roger Goodell have the guts to suspend a league icon before the biggest game of the year?
Joe Theismann, who won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins, wanted to see what Deflate-Gate is all about so he went out to Redskins Park to throw footballs inflated to 13 pounds per square inch and the 11 psi the NFL says it found in 11 footballs used by the New England Patriots in their AFC Championship Game win over the Indianapolis Colts. He didn’t see that it’s an advantage throwing with a softer ball.“You really have to push it to feel the difference in it,” Theismann told Sporting News. “It’s negligible, as far as I’m concerned.’’
Theismann went on to add that it might actually be harder to throw a less inflated football."
Former All-Pro running back Jerome Bettis, a shoo-in for the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday, seems to think Brady is guilty as sin and should have used the Thursday press conference to confess his guilt.
Said Bettis, “I'm so disappointed because I thought this was a perfect opportunity for Tom Brady to go and say 'You know what? I made a mistake. I blew it. It's on me. I'll take the blame here, and this will go away.' He didn't do that ... I'm disappointed in you, Tom Brady."
Brad Lawing has joined the Florida State staff as the defensive line coach. He replaces Sal Sunseri, who took a job with the Oakland Raiders … Former Florida offensive graduate assistant Ryan Day, the offensive coordinator for Steve Addazio at Boston College, has taken the quarterbacks job with the Philadelphia Eagles … The new offensive coordinator at Arkansas is Dan Enos, who left Central Michigan, which he took to a bowl game this year. He was making about $360,000 at CMU. He’ll make $550,000 at Arkansas. He’s a spread guy. Is this an indicator that Bret Bielema might incorporate some spread features into his ground and pound philosophy? … Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian has a decision to make: either he’s the next quarterbacks coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs where he will work with Dirk Koetter or he’ll be the next head coach at Central Michigan. He worked at Central Michigan with UT head coach Butch Jones.
Do you think Tom Brady engineered deflate-gate or do you think Bill Belichick had anything to do with it?
I discovered the music of Diane Birch on “Live from Daryl’s House” on Palladium TV, a show that Daryl Hall devotes plenty of time to up and coming musicians and song writers. Birch writes most of her own music and has a lot of Laura Nyro qualities about her voice and musical style. Today’s music is “Life’s Too Short.”