SEC QBs vital in 2012Published 10:13am Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Any football fan knows how important the quarterback is to the success of a team. Any Alabama fan can tell you A.J. McCarron’s cool composure helped reverse the outcome of the team’s second meeting with LSU in the National Championship game. Any Auburn fan will tell you Cam Newton was essential to the team’s 2010 National Championship success.
The strength of quarterbacks in the SEC this year is one of the reasons I am skeptical an SEC team will go undefeated this season. The fact that the strength of the SEC makes teams run through a gauntlet of obstacles is the main reason for my line of thinking, but the strength of quarterbacks comes into play somewhere in there.
With the exception of perennial cellar dweller Ole Miss and newcomer Texas A&M, quarterback is seen as being reasonably strong for every team. Even for Texas A&M, quarterback isn’t considered a weakness; more of an uncertainty.
Texas A&M is the only team in the SEC that will have an inexperienced underclassmen no matter who their quarterback is, although they’ve officially named redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel as the starter to begin the season.
Ole Miss is the only team yet to make an announcement about their quarterback. Even Florida has announced they will use both Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett as their quarterbacks for now. When you’re playing Bowling Green, you can afford to take two quarterbacks for a test drive before sticking with one. Ole Miss has two transfer quarterbacks to choose from: former Mountaineer Barry Brunetti and East Mississippi Community College transfer Bo Wallace.
Three quarterbacks have the potential to beat teams with their feet and their arms. Missouri’s James Frankin comes to the SEC already a well-established dual-threat quarterback. Auburn’s Kiehl Frazier ran the ball more last year than he passed it, but he will have a lot more opportunities to throw the ball this season. Also, Kentucky’s multi-talented Morgan Newton can run, pass and even lined up at wide receiver on a successful trick play during his freshman season.
Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rodgers is the younger brother of Aaron Rodgers and showed flashes at times last season.
When looking at the teams expected to be the top competitors in the SEC, the general consensus is LSU, Alabama and Arkansas will be the top teams in the West and Georgia and South Carolina will be the top teams in the East. Of those teams, four have quarterbacks who were starters last year. More impressive still, all four had quarterback ratings of 140 or greater. For those unfamiliar with the quarterback rating system, a rating of 140 is impressive.
The only quarterback who didn’t hold such a distinction was Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger saw limited action as the third string quarterback at LSU last year. He was very impressive in the little time he had on the field and was one of the top JUCO quarterbacks the previous season. Bear in mind that Mettenberger was in a tight battle with Murray to be the starting quarterback at the University of Georgia before he found trouble off the field and transferred to Butler Community College.
Last season, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson had a 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio, easily ranking as best among SEC quarterbacks. Georgia’s Aaron Murray led the league in total touchdowns with 35. Wilson led the league in yardage by throwing for 3,638 yards. Meanwhile, Murray had the highest number of completions with 238.
Arkansas gets a healthy Knile Davis back this season and former head coach Bobby Petrino and offensive coordinator Garrick McGee have departed, so Wilson may not have as many opportunities this season. A.J. McCarron may get more opportunities this season, especially with Nick Saban talking a lot about wanting to see more big plays on offense. Murray should have plenty of opportunity at Georgia, too.
Any of the five quarterbacks has a chance to be in the running for the Heisman. Shaw seems unlikely, since he shares the offense with the dynamic Marcus Lattimore. However, the bottom line is this: all of the teams in the SEC will have to lean heavily on their quarterbacks. This year, the SEC has plenty of talent at the position.
Erich Hilkert is sports editor of the Atmore Advance. He can be reached at 368-2123 or by e-mail at email@example.com