Ranking the SEC Quarterbacks
By Matthew Osborne
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The SEC has no fewer than three quarterbacks that have to be considered legitimate early contenders for the Heisman Trophy this season.
Great quarterback play leads to exciting football, and the SEC has no fewer than three quarterbacks that have to be considered legitimate early contenders for the Heisman Trophy this season.
Here is a ranking of the projected starting quarterbacks in the SEC for 2013.
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel made history last fall when he became the first freshman ever to bring home the Heisman Trophy. Defensive coordinators may be slightly more prepared this time around, but Manziel is simply too talented to be contained. He will have his way with SEC defenses this fall.
2. A.J. McCarron, Alabama
While other SEC quarterbacks are sure to throw for more yards, no quarterback in the conference is a more efficient passer than McCarron. Last fall McCarron threw 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions, finishing with a quarterback rating of 175.28, highest in the nation.
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia
The fact that Murray checks in at No. 3 proves just how talented the SEC is under center this fall. Barring injury, Murray will go on to set a number of school and SEC records during his senior season. Known as a bit of gunslinger, Murray actually finished second nationally behind McCarron in quarterback rating last fall.
4. Tyler Russell, Mississippi State
Russell’s 2012 season ended on a rather disappointing note, but he had a very positive campaign overall last fall. Playing without many of his top receivers from last season, Russell will need to be even better for the Bulldogs this fall. It is a task for which he appears adequately prepared.
5. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Shaw is extremely undervalued as a passer, but his true value is still found in his ability to create plays and win football games. Though his statistics might not be as good as others due to the fact that he will split snaps with Dylan Thompson, Shaw is one of the most electrifying and dangerous quarterbacks in the nation.
6. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
There was a time last year when it appeared that Mettenberger might lose his starting job. However, that all changed after some outstanding performances down the stretch. There is not a more physically gifted passer in the country, and Mettenberger’s production will increase drastically with his newfound confidence.
7. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
Playing as a sophomore last season, Wallace displayed a propensity for making the big play. Sadly, he also showed that he was turnover prone. Wallace is very comfortable in Hugh Freeze’s offensive system, and most quarterbacks see a significant increase in their production in year two as a starter in the SEC.
8. James Franklin, Missouri
Franklin’s numbers were not all that impressive last fall, but he was injured for the vast majority of the campaign. Now healthy and with a talented arsenal of weapons at his disposal, Franklin will be able to fully showcase his dual-threat abilities for the conference. Last year’s performance should prove to be little more than a fluke.
9. Jeff Driskel, Florida
Driskel received a lot of criticism from the media, but his performance wasn’t all that bad last fall. He does a very nice job of taking care of the football and is very dangerous when he pulls the ball down to run. If some of Florida’s young receivers end up being as good as advertised, Driskel will have a breakout year in 2013.
10. Maxwell Smith, Kentucky
There is no guarantee that Smith will even be Kentucky’s starter, but he is the most talented passer on the Wildcats’ current roster. Before getting injured last season, Smith was completing nearly 70% of his passes and had thrown eight touchdowns and just four interceptions.
11. Austyn Carta-Samuels, Vanderbilt
Another dual-threat quarterback, Carta-Samuels will bring a different dimension to Vanderbilt’s offense. Carta-Samuels was a star player at Wyoming before transferring to the SEC two years ago. Now as the full-time starter at Vandy, he should lead the Commodores to a third consecutive bowl appearance.
12. Justin Worley, Tennessee
The good news is that Worley has attempted 110 passes in his college career, giving him some solid playing experience. The bad news is that, to this point, he has thrown five interceptions and just a single touchdown. With minimal talent surrounding him at wide receiver, it could be a rough year under center in Knoxville.
13. Kiehl Frazier, Auburn
Frazier’s struggles last season were well-documented, but he should be much more productive playing in Gus Malzahn’s offense this fall. Frazier has shown the ability to make plays with his legs, and will continue to improve as a passer in a system which is better suited for his skill set.
14. Brandon Allen, Arkansas
Allen attempted 49 passes as a freshman last season, completing just 43% of his throws. An offseason in the film room should help his understanding of coverages, but a dearth of talent at the skill positions will hurt his production. The good news is that Allen is physically talented enough to develop into a quality starter in the SEC.