We are taking an early look at the QB situation for each college football team and today our friend Kevin over at College Football Zealots breaks down the SEC West quarterbacks for us. If you are looking for some good college football commentary, check out their site. They even have a few 2013 teams prospectuses already available (Auburn & Kentucky).
The SEC is not really thought of as a mecca of quarterbacks but three of the last six Heisman Trophy winners have been SEC quarterbacks. There is also that pesky little stat of the SEC winning the last seven BCS National Championships and it’s hard to win a title without an anchor at QB. Going into 2013, three of the best quarterbacks in the Nation reside in the SEC and two of them play their football in the West Division. Here is how I see the QB positions as it stands right now in the West:
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide
The Aggies have a returning Heisman Trophy winner calling the shots for them but Alabama has a two-time BCS National Champion at QB. AJ McCarron is 25-2 as a starter and returns for his senior season looking for a three-peat. McCarron has great command of what Alabama wants him to do and he’s been able to step up when Alabama has needed him. Alabama is known for running the football but McCarron still finished with almost 3,000 yards passing and a fantastic 30:3 TD to INT ratio. The only real knock on the QB position at Alabama is established depth as back-ups Blake Sims and Phillip Ely threw a combined 14 passes last season. Oh yeah, keep an eye out for Cooper Bateman in the future. He’s an early enrollee this season and is ranked as the #5 QB by Scout.com.
#2 Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies return the Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and he had the Aggies playing better than any team in the Nation at the end of the season. Manziel finished second in the SEC in passing yards and led the Nation in total offense. Manziel’s offensive line (which along with Alabama’s was among the best in the Nation last year) takes a bit of a hit this season losing Luke Joeckel, but the Aggies are still poised to score big with play-makers all over the field. They did take a hit on the depth chart with #2 Jameill Showers announcing he will transfer. The next man on the depth chart (Matt Joeckel) threw just 11 passes last season.
Behind the top two teams in the West there isn’t a lot of separation between the rest of the pack.
#3 LSU Tigers
A lot was expected from Zach Mettenberger last season and the JUCO transfer by way of Georgia struggled to find his niche in the LSU offense. Mettenberger finished 8th in the league in passing yards, 11th in completion percentage and tenth in TDs, but did show flashes. Mettenberger will be better in his second year as a starter and he has a very dependable run game behind him. Mettenberger’s back-up Stephen Rivers has good bloodlines but he’s unproven. The Tigers also have two 4-star commitments that will be joining the team this fall.
#4 Ole Miss Rebels
After the 2011 season the Rebels would have been dead last on this list but Hugh Freeze found a good QB in Bo Wallace to help run his system and it paid off in the win column for them. Wallace started out at Arkansas State and then went to JUCO where he threw for over 4,000 yards before arriving at Ole Miss. Last year, Wallace came six yards short of throwing for 3,000. The biggest issue for Wallace was valuing the football as he threw an SEC high 17 INTs. With a year under his belt and a year of Hugh Freeze’s system in the books, Wallace and the Rebels will continue to improve on offense in 2013.
#5 Mississippi State Bulldogs
Statistically, Tyler Russell had a better year than Bo Wallace but I was disappointed in the Bulldogs inability to beat anybody of note in 2012. Russell threw for 2897 yards but did so at only a 58% clip. I’m not sure Russell is the right fit for Dan Mullen’s offense and it will be interesting to see what he can do as a senior in 2013.
#6 Arkansas Razorbacks
Tyler Wilson was one of the better QBs in the league last year but it didn’t translate on the field as the team went just 4-8. The big question this year is if Brandon Allen will get the starting nod or if Brandon Mitchell will get another shot at QB (he played WR last year and caught 17 passes). Don’t expect Bret Bielema to go straight to the power run game like Wisconsin had as he simply doesn’t have those types of players and he’s brought in former Tennessee OC Jim Chaney. QB is a big question-mark for the Hogs heading into 2013.
#7 Auburn Tigers
Scot Loeffler’s attempt to move the team from a spread offense to a pro-style offense was a failure in 2012 and it may have stunted QB Kiehl Frazier beyond repair. With Gus Malzahn coming back into the fold, can Frazier take over at QB for the Tigers and run Malzahn’s offense? Crazier things have happened but when Malzahn was OC in 2011, he only let Frazier throw 12 passes (versus 76 runs). Jonathan Wallace is another option but if Auburn is to be successful in 2013 they might have to depend on someone who hasn’t even signed a letter of intent as of this writing. That man is Nick Marshall. He played QB in high school but was recruited as DB by Georgia but was kicked off the team shortly after his freshman season. Marshall went the JUCO route and as a QB threw for almost 4,000 yards and 36 TDs. For Auburn to turn their program around, they may have to depend on Marshall and if he works out the Tigers will vault up this list.