With spring practice completed nearly everywhere in the SEC, here is a look at the quarterback position at all 14 schools:
Alabama: With Nick Saban looking on in a pink (yes, pink) blazer, five different quarterbacks looked quite average in Bama’s spring game. Jacob Coker got the most snaps and he’ll probably start the fall as the #1 but his hold on the position is anything but solid. Alec Morris has been around three years and he probably finished the spring as the #2. Redshirt freshman David Cornwell has the best arm and is the prototypical size that Saban likes. Cooper Bateman has been around two years and knows the system. Freshman Blake Barnett might have the most upside of all of them. One of them will start in the fall, probably Coker, but at this point it’s anybody’s guess.
Arkansas: No quarterback controversy here. Brandon Allen is the clearcut starter and by the time 2016 is over and done with he could be one of the two or three best quarterbacks in the SEC. He was easily the most improved QB in the conference last year. All he did in the spring was get better. He benefits from the best downhill running game in the league which makes play action a money ball. Younger brother Austin Allen is the backup. He will be pushed in the fall by stud freshman Ty Storey.
Auburn: The days of a quarterback running the ball 20 times a game are gone. In place of a running quarterback Gus Malzahn wants to throw 8-10 passes of 40 yards (in the air) or more each game to take advantage of what Jeremy Johnson does best. Johnson was 28-37 for 436 yards and 3 touchdowns last year. That could be a typical one-game output in 2015. Redshirt freshman Sean White will be the backup. Early entry freshman Tyler Queen impressed in the spring but probably takes a redshirt.
Florida: Jim McElwain once won 12 straight regular season games at Alabama with John Parker Wilson as his quarterback then won a national championship the next year with Greg McElroy, who had to sit while Wilson played. If he can do that then who’s to say he can’t turn either Will Grier or Treon Harris into an SEC quarterback? Mac likes drop back quarterbacks. He’s going to appreciate that both Grier and Harris have really good legs because his offensive line might make Marcus Mariota look below average.
Georgia: Redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey had the entire spring to nail down the starting job but he couldn’t pull away from junior Faton Bauta, a better runner than thrower, and redshirt freshman Jacob Park. No matter which of the three earns the start in the fall, the main job will be to turn and hand the ball off to Nick Chubb. With stud Jacob Eason committed for 2016, you can almost bet one of Ramsey, Bauta or Park will transfer out by this time next year.
Kentucky: Patrick Towles has the edge in experience and he will go into fall camp as the #1 quarterback but redshirt freshman Drew Barker had a strong enough spring that Towles hold on the position is anything but strong. They are both big guys with strong arms who can tuck it and run effectively. In the fall it will come down to who makes the fewest mistakes who gets the start.
LSU: Nothing was settled in the spring. Anthony Jennings and Brandon Allen were both improved in the spring but there was no separation so they will go into the fall neck and neck in the battle for the starting job. In the spring game both Jennings and Allen threw for two touchdown passes. Whoever wins the job will be throwing to the fastest and most athletic wide receivers in the league.
Mississippi State: Dak Prescott is the best quarterback in the SEC. He could have taken it easy in the spring but by all accounts, he pushed himself to get better and was helped by competition from talented backup Damian Williams and redshirt freshman Nick Fitzgerald, who looks like the quarterback of the future. Dan Mullen loves the potential of another redshirt freshman, Elijah Staley. Mullen has four quarterbacks, a starter, a strong backup and two talented kids in various stages of development. Incoming freshman Nick Tiano will take a redshirt and have all the time he needs to develop.
Missouri: A healthy Maty Mauk, who obviously has shed some weight, is the clearcut starter. With a healthy shoulder, he threw the ball well in the spring and showed much better accuracy than last season when he threw far too many picks. Backup Eddie Printz was one of the most improved Mizzou players in the spring but incoming freshman Drew Lock is talented enough to claim the #2 job in August.
Ole Miss: With his legal problems behind him, juco transfer Chad Kelly had a good enough spring that he’ll go into the fall as the #1 but backup dual threat DeVante Kincaid was impressive enough that Hugh Freeze is considering a special package to take advantage of Kincaid’s running ability. The quarterback of the future is Shea Patterson, a 2016 who is considered one of the top five prep QBs in the nation.
South Carolina: After a spring in which neither Connor Mitch, Perry Orth or Michael Scarnecchia distinguished himself, Steve Spurrier probably is counting the days until dual threat freshman Lorenzo Nunez arrives on campus. For Nunez, who is thought to be a faster version of Connor Shaw, it will be about two things: (1) how quickly he can pick up the playbook and (2) how well he can handle Spurrier’s very hands on approach.
Tennessee: Joshua Dobbs’ hold on the #1 job was never in doubt but he hasn’t been nearly as consistent throwing the ball in the spring as head coach Butch Jones was hoping for. He’s got a redshirt freshman and three true freshmen backing him up. True freshman Jauan Jennings is a dual threat like Dobbs and Quinten Dormandy is more of a pocket passer with a big arm.
Texas A&M: Kyle Allen started and finished the spring unchallenged as the #1 quarterback. If the Kyle Allen who threw four touchdown passes in the Aggies’ Liberty Bowl win shows up in the fall, he’ll be the #1 then, too. The X-factor is incoming freshman Kyler Murray. He’s good enough that some experts are already predicting he’ll get snaps in every game even if Allen is THE man.
Vanderbilt: The situation at quarterback was murky when spring football ended and it got worse when Patton Robinette, who probably would have started, decided he’d rather be a healthy doctor in the future than a beat up ex-quarterback. Johnny McCrary and Wade Freebeck will go into the fall in a dead heat for the starting job. Robinette’s decision might affect incoming freshman Kyle Shurmur. Plans to redshirt Shurmur might be scrapped out of necessity.
Rating the quarterback position in the SEC:
1. Mississippi State: Behind Dak Prescott are three very talented dual threat quarterbacks, all perfectly suited to run a spread option.
2. Arkansas: If anything happens to Brandon Allen, Bret Bielema is perfectly content putting Austin Allen in the game.
3. Alabama: There may be five in a battle but most of them would start in the bottom half of the SEC.
4. Texas A&M: Kyle Allen will be much improved over last year and incoming freshman Kyler Murray is very much the real deal.
5. Missouri: There is an incumbent starter in Maty Mauk, an experienced backup and a real stud freshman coming in.
6. Auburn: There isn’t a lot of experience here but Jeremy Johnson is a big time talent and the two backups are very solid.
8. Tennessee: There is absolutely zero experience behind Joshua Dobbs.
9. Georgia: Georgia will win a lot of games if the three quarterbacks can simply hand the ball off to Nick Chubb without fumbling.
10. Kentucky: New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson likes his two guys and thinks they will thrive in a no-huddle, hurry-up attack.
11. Florida: Will Grier took a redshirt last year and Treon Harris didn’t exactly set the world on fire in the six games he started.
12. Ole Miss: There is nothing in the way of experience, so it’s wait and see.
13. South Carolina: If one of the three returnees doesn’t improve dramatically in the next four months then Steve Spurrier will probably turn the reins over to a true freshman.
14. Vanderbilt: They want to redshirt Kyle Shurmur. They probably can’t afford to.
Rating the top five quarterbacks in the SEC:
1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
2. Brandon Allen, Arkansas
3. Maty Mauk, Missouri
4. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
5. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
The media was a mixed bag Monday when Tim Tebow signing with the Philadelphia Eagles became official. Here are some quotes from around the nation.
Bob Ford, Philadelphia Inquirer: “If Philadelphia can get used to a convicted felon starting at quarterback, it can certainly accommodate a third-string guy who likes to take a knee and pray after on-field successes. Chances are he won't have that many opportunities. But, you never know. As said earlier, this is fascinating. Kelly's offense is all about short passes - crossing routes, slants and flips out of the backfield - that are designed to turn into big gains. A quarterback doesn't have to have a great arm or a faultless history. Mark Sanchez entered the 2014 season with a career 55.1 percent completion record. He completed 64.1 percent in Kelly's system.”
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: “Let’s be real about what this is: It’s a trial. It’s a chance. It’s a coach who doesn’t care about the distraction of having Tim Tebow in his camp, because he thinks Tebow might help his team. And about that distraction thing: Did you ever hear Bill Belichick or Robert Kraft or Tom Brady talk about Tebow being a distraction in Foxboro in 2013, when Tebow was on that team for the whole of training camp? No. That’s because he wasn’t one. He was cut by the Patriots because he’s not an accurate passer and didn’t fit their exacting scheme. Cutting Tebow was justified. Tebow didn’t deserve to be on that team. He might deserve to be a cog in the wheel in Philadelphia.”
Ron Higgins, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Tim is one of the top five best players I have ever seen in the SEC, just a tremendous quarterback, relentless competitor, great leader and one of the best people I’ve ever met in sports. That’s what he seems to get killed for by his critics a lot of the time. They just revel in his failures. They don’t like the fact that Tim Tebow is a strong Christian and he doesn’t mind hiding that. They think it’s an act. I’ve been around Tim Tebow enough to know that this is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. He’s a good person. He treats everybody with kindness and respect. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Last year when the SEC Network hired him as an analyst, I kind of wondered if he could succeed because he’s such a good guy and such a nice person. I wondered if he could be critical. Tim Tebow was the best analyst on that network. He was not obnoxious. He came through loud and clear. His criticism was backed up by information and facts and he clearly did his homework. I’ll miss him this year on the SEC Network if he makes an NFL roster. I’m hoping he makes an NFL roster because this guy loves football, loves the game and dearly.”
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: “Fix that elongated motion all you want, but that's not the major issue. It isn't even the accuracy, which is downright awful at 47.9 percent for his career. The biggest problem is his inability to come to the line, recognize things and then operate as a quarterback. In Denver, when he won a playoff game by some miracle, he didn't do much of that. Team sources have told me that. The playbook was simplified. Tebow still struggled big-time once the ball was snapped … Like most, I don’t think he can play quarterback in the NFL – even in (Chip) Kelly’s system.”
David Steele, The Sporting News: “He has a career passer rating of 75.3 and a completion percentage of 47.9. That should be solid evidence that he’s not an NFL-caliber quarterback. Then again, the definition of that term is a little loose these days; teams are struggling to find starters, and for backups they’re starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Tebow’s defenders have often said, “You’re telling me he’s worse than (Player X)?’’ — and even with Tebow in the broadcast booth, the answer’s not that obvious.” Steele went on to list the following five NFL quarterbacks as worse than Tebow: Johnny Manziel (Cleveland), Brandon Weedon (Dallas), Ryan Lindley (Arizona), Kirk Cousins (Washington) and Blaine Gabbert (San Francisco).
Drew Magary, Deadspin: BAHAHAHAHAHAHA no, no this can’t be it. I know Jay Glazer reported that the Eagles were impressed with Tebow’s progress working with QB coach Tom House, but it would take a real sap to believe that, at age 27, Tebow suddenly managed to acquire Tom Brady’s mechanics while he was exiled from the sport for two years. There are limits to how much someone that age can improve upon something that, in reality, comes down in large part to natural-born skills. Tebow was not and is not a project player. He’s the same jump-passing Jesus loon he’s always been.
If given a fair shot to compete for the quarterback job with the Philadelphia Eagles, do you think Tim Tebow can make the roster?
I actually bought the album “Who’s Next” in 1971 because of the cover which shows Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, John Entwhistle and Pete Townshend walking away from this large stone slab where the wet spots tell you they just urinated. I thought that was funny so I bought the album. Of course, I knew The Who always delivered and I wasn’t the least bit disappointed, starting with the first track, “Baba O’Riley.” I’ll go with an entire album for the second straight day.