ALL-TIME SEC: Rating the Quarterbacks

Over the years, the Southeastern Conference has produced some of the greatest players in the history of college football. There have been six Heisman Trophy winners and 87 SEC players are now members of the College Football Hall of Fame. For the next few days, here are my all-time rankings of the best that the SEC has produced position by position.


1. ARCHIE MANNING, OLE MISS: If you really want to know how great he was, someday find someone who has a tape of the Alabama game from October 4, 1969. Archie threw for 436 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 104 and another three scores in what is probably the greatest single game a quarterback ever had in the Southeastern Conference. Bear Bryant called it the greatest single performance he ever saw. Surrounded by average talent at best, Manning got the best out of his team, taking the Rebels to three straight bowl games including a memorable 35-28 shootout (Ole Miss lost of course) to Auburn in the Gator Bowl his senior year. Archie lost the Heisman Trophy to Jim Plunkett of Stanford, a fine quarterback for sure, but the recipient of a PR campaign that scored big points because Plunkett's parents were legally blind. Manning's career numbers don't do him justice: 4753 passing yards for 31 touchdowns, 823 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. First team All-America, 1969 and 1970. Member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Had an outstanding NFL career with the New Orleans Saints.

2. STEVE SPURRIER, FLORIDA: He sealed his Heisman Trophy on October 29, 1966 against Auburn when he kicked the game-winning field goal from 40 yards out as time expired. It was the only field goal he attempted his entire college football career. Spurrier truly revolutionized the game in the Southeastern Conference as the Gators went to a true pro-style attack his junior and senior seasons. Earned a reputation as the comeback kid by leading the Gators to several fourth quarter rallies, among them the 1965 win over Florida State, famous for the two-minute drill he ran that culminated with a touchdown pass to Charley Casey. He took the Gators to the Sugar Bowl in 1965 and to the Orange Bowl in 1966. The numbers: 4,848 passing yards for 36 touchdowns, 442 rushing yards. First team All-America, 1965 and 1966. Member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Coached Florida to the National Championship in 1996.

3. DANNY WUERFFEL, FLORIDA: Heisman Trophy, 1996. The numbers are incredible: 10,875 passing yards and 114 touchdowns, four SEC championships and one national championship. He led the Gators to back to back 12-1 seasons in 1995 and 1996. The Gators lost in the national championship game in 1995 but beat Florida State, 52-20, to win the national title in 1996. In those two years, Wuerffel threw for 6,891 yards and 74 touchdowns. Threw for 394 yards and three touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl win over FSU for the national title. He was a two-time Academic All-America selection and winner of the Draddy Trophy as the nation's top scholar-athlete. First Team All-America, 1995 and 1996.

4. PEYTON MANNING, TENNESSEE: Archie's boy. If not for an 0-3 record as a starter against Florida, he probably would have won the Heisman Trophy. The numbers are outstanding: 11,201 passing yards for 89 touchdowns. Tennessee was 39-7 in games he started. Led the Vols to the Southeastern Conference championship in 1997. In 1997, he threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns, a season in which he finished second to Michigan's Charles Woodson in the Heisman Trophy balloting. First team All-America in 1997. Perennial All-Pro in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts.

5. BERT JONES, LSU: He had to be seen to be appreciated. His career numbers of 220 completions in 418 attempts for 3,225 and 28 touchdowns would make one good season in today's throw it from the moment you get off the bus mentality. Under Charley McClendon, LSU pretty much threw only on third down and a bunch, so defenses more or less knew what was coming. Still, Jones was unbelievable. In SEC history, maybe only Rex Grossman had a stronger and more accurate arm. LSU was 26-6-1 during Jones' career from 1970-72. His greatest game was his junior year when he led LSU to a stunning, 28-8, win over Notre Dame. First team All-America in 1972. Had an All-Pro NFL Career with the Baltimore Colts.

6. PAT SULLIVAN, AUBURN: Won the Heisman Trophy in 1971. His career numbers were 6,284 passing yards for 53 touchdowns. Also ran for 18 touchdowns in his career. Led Auburn to a 26-7 record and three bowl games in his three years as the starter. Sullivan combined with Terry Beasley to form one of the nation's top pass-catch combinations during their three years. Most importantly in the minds of Auburn fans, Sullivan beat Alabama two out of his three years, including a 49-26 win in 1969. First team All-America in 1971. Member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

7. VITO "BABE" PARILLI, KENTUCKY: Back in the days when they played without facemasks, Kentucky was actually a football powerhouse. The coach was a fellow named Bryant who ended up doing pretty well at Alabama. Most people remember Bear for the wishbone at Alabama, but in his younger days, he was known to air the ball out by the standards of that era. From 1949-51, the triggerman at Kentucky was Babe Parilli. He led Kentucky to a 28-8 record while throwing for 4,351 yards and 50 touchdown passes. He was first team All-America in 1950 and in 1951. He finished third in the Heisman voting in 1950, fourth in 1951. He led Kentucky to one Southeastern Conference championship and to the Orange, Sugar and Cotton bowls. In 1950, he led Kentucky to a 13-7 win over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. In those days the national champion was voted on before the bowl games, otherwise Kentucky would have been national champion. Member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Was a star in both the NFL and the old American Football League. Threw the first touchdown pass ever in the AFL (1960) to tight end Oscar Lofton and was Joe Namath's backup on the Super Bowl Champion New York Jets in 1968.

8. JOE NAMATH, ALABAMA: If you are a numbers freak, then Namath's totals are not going to jump out at you. He completed 203 of 374 passes, good for 2,714 yards and 25 touchdowns. Those are CAREER numbers, not for one single season. Even with Namath, the best passer in college football, Alabama was a run-first team so the numbers never told the true story. Even though he was limited by a knee injury during his senior year (1964), Namath made first team All-America. Alabama won the national championship in Namath's senior year after earning third and eighth place finishes in the final polls in 1962 and 1963 respectively. Led the New York Jets to the 1968 Super Bowl championship.

9. REX GROSSMAN, FLORIDA: His sophomore season of 2001 is one of the greatest individual seasons in the history of the SEC. During that year he completed 259 passes for 3,402 yards and 34 touchdowns, good for a 170.8 passing efficiency mark. During that 2001 season, Grossman had 10 300-yard plus games. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2001 and was First Team All-America. For his career, the numbers are 9,164 yards and 77 touchdown passes.

(TIE) 10. DAVID GREENE, GEORGIA: Greene started every game for four years at Georgia and the Bulldogs went 42-10 in his career. His 42 wins are the most ever by a starting quarterback in the history of the NCAA. He led Georgia to one Southeastern Conference championship (2002) while piling up 11,528 passing yards and 72 touchdown passes. First team All-SEC in 2002.

(TIE) 10. SHANE MATTHEWS, FLORIDA: Matthews went from sixth string to starter in Steve Spurrier's first spring at Florida. For the next three years, he was the best offensive player in the Southeastern Conference, winning SEC Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991. He led Florida to its first ever Southeastern Conference championship that counted (1991) and the best record in the SEC (1990). For his career, the Gators were 29-8 in games he started. For the career, his numbers are 9,287 passing yards and 74 touchdown passes.

HONORABLE MENTION: Harry Gilmer, Alabama; Kenny Stabler, Alabama; Steve Sloan, Alabama; Jimmy Sidle, Auburn; John Reaves, Florida; Kerwin Bell, Florida; John Rauch, Florida; Zeke Bratkowski, Georgia; Fran Tarkenton, Georgia; George Blanda, Kentucky; Tim Couch, Kentucky; Y.A. Tittle, LSU; Charlie Connerly, Ole Miss; Jake Gibbs, Ole Miss; Eli Manning, Ole Miss; Bobby Dodd, Tennessee; Condredge Holloway, Tennessee; Tee Martin, Tennessee.

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