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The Vols, the other '07 SEC Championship Game participant, also will be breaking in a newcomer. Erik Ainge is gone after starting for most of 2004, '05, '06 and '07.
Other than Georgia and Florida, the only conference teams who return their 2007 starting quarterback are Alabama (John Parker Wilson), Arkansas (Casey Dick), Mississippi State (Wesley Carroll) and Vanderbilt (Mackenzi Adams). That's not exactly an overwhelming group, is it?
Wilson ranked 10th among SEC quarterbacks last fall in passer efficiency. Dick was fourth in efficiency but ninth in passing yardage. Carroll ranked 10th in yardage and didn't crack the top 10 in efficiency. Adams was ninth in passer efficiency after supplanting Chris Nickson at midseason.
Given the overall lack of star power behind The Big Two, there's a good chance that the league's third-best quarterback for 2008 will be Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton. He has one career start, was outstanding in the Vols' final two scrimmages of spring practice and, as a fourth-year junior, should have enough experience and maturity to handle the pressure cooker known as SEC football.
That said, here's how I'd rate the league's quarterbacks heading into 2008:
1. Tebow (Florida): When healthy, he's the best pass/run threat in college football.
2. Stafford (Georgia): He has the tools to be a star. Maybe this is the year he'll use them.
3. Crompton (Tennessee): He paid his dues. Now it's time to show his skills.
4. Wilson (Alabama): He completed just 55 percent of his passes last fall but ranked fourth among SEC QBs at 222 passing yards per game.
6. Curtis Pulley (Kentucky): Two years ago he nearly beat out Woodson for the top job. A better runner than passer, he's a poor man's Tee Martin.
7. Kodi Burns (Auburn): He completed just 38.5 percent of his passes last year, so he's a poor man's Curtis Pulley.
8. Wesley Carroll (Mississippi State): A poor man's Kodi Burns.
9. Mackenzi Adams (Vanderbilt): A poor man's Wesley Carroll.
WAIT AND SEE
- Jevan Snead (Ole Miss): He's a highly touted transfer from Texas.
- Jarrett Lee (LSU): He's a redshirt freshman with loads of potential.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles examining the top SEC players by position.