SEC Football: 2012 Will Be the Year of the QB for the SEC
This past season, the SEC was dogged by major media outlets for not having the QB phenom that other conferences possessed in players like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Case Keenum.
In recent years, the SEC has been highlighted by running backs like Mark Ingram, Marcus Lattimore and Trent Richardson.
Even the QBs that have been made famous by the SEC (e.g. Tim Tebow, Cam Newton) possessed more of a scrambling style instead of a traditional rocket-arm.
When people think of the SEC, they think of big-boy, smash-mouth, grown-man tackle football—not laser-guided precision by the guy receiving the snap.
Next year, that will change.
Multiple QBs will be coming into their own next season with talents only rivaled by the big guns of the Big 12.
With experience, talent and undeniable skill surrounding them, one of these next QBs could even be in the Heisman discussion by midseason.
Alabama: AJ McCarron, Junior in 2012
Overlooked, underrated and forgotten describes the play of AJ McCarron throughout the regular season.
With Trent Richardson in the backfield, McCarron was expected to manage the game first, hand the ball off to Richardson second and throw the ball third.
That is, until the National Championship game against LSU.
McCarron fooled the LSU defensive gameplan by throwing on first down multiple times, instead of jamming it up the gut with Richardson.
He threw for 234 yards and had a 67.6 completion percentage against the second best defense in college football.
This was no small feat for a first-year starter in the biggest game of his career.
Now I'm not trying to compare McCarron to Andrew Luck, but to ignore his statistics in a year when the running back carried this Alabama team is foolish.
McCarron threw for 2,634 yards on the season, 16 TDs and only five interceptions.
Next year, the running back won't be the focus for the Crimson Tide. Look for McCarron to throw for 3,000-plus yards and to solidify himself as one of the better QBs in the SEC.
Arkansas: Tyler Wilson, Senior in 2012
Tyler Wilson was the best QB in the SEC this season.
He threw for 3,638 yards, 24 TDs and only six interceptions. Although his numbers aren't gaudy by most of the league's unusually high standards, Wilson still shredded the secondary of many teams this season.
Some of Wilson's success has to be attributed to the outstanding receivers lining up on the line of scrimmage every down. Jarius Wright and Joe Adams combined for almost 1,800 receiving yards and 15 TDs off of Wilson's arm.
The good news for Wilson and the Razorbacks is that Tyler will have yet another year under his belt and will be in his second full season as a starting QB.
The bad news for Arkansas is that Adams and Wright are both departing for the NFL draft.
The possible good news is that super-prospect Dorial Green-Beckham knows this. He understands that the receiving position is practically wide open—for a primarily throwing team—in the SEC.
This rings sweet in the ears of the No. 3 overall prospect and No. 1 WR in the land.
If Arkansas can snag the 6'6" wide receiver from Missouri, Wilson will once again have a deep threat for his vicious arm.
Get excited, Razorback fans.
Georgia: Aaron Murray, Junior in 2012
Aaron Murray will be entering his third straight starting season for the Georgia Bulldogs.
His past two seasons have been fruitful to say the least—Murray threw for 3,000 or more yards in both outings.
With a young wide receiver core and a rising talent in soon-to-be sophomore Malcolm Mitchell, Murray could charge the Bulldogs back into the SEC East spot of the championship game.
Nothing to see here but yet another QB who will be passing for 3,000 or more yards next season—despite playing in the best defensive conference in college football.
LSU: Zach Mettenberger, Junior, Gunner Kiel, Freshman in 2012
For LSU fans, this face is ingrained in their minds ever since the debacle that was the QB play of senior Jordan Jefferson in the National Championship game against Alabama.
Alabama exposed Jefferrson and forced the Tigers to be one-dimensional.
However, that one dimension didn't work against one of the best defenses in recent memory.
Although some Tiger fans are probably still wallowing in their defeat, the news is mostly good for next season.
Jordan Jefferson and "the face" will not play another down at LSU. Zach Mettenberger was one of the highest rated Junior College QBs when he transferred to LSU.
Gunner Kiel could develop into an elite QB in the SEC. LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard has decided to stay for his senior year
LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle has decided to forgo his senior year for the NFL draft, and neither Mettenberger or Kiel have actual, hard-hitting, SEC experience as a starting QB.
However, after the dismantling of the LSU offense in their last game, look for Mettenberger or Kiel to open up and spread the field with LSU's talent at the receiver position next season.
I fully expect either (most likely Mettenberger), will throw for 2,000-plus yards and compliment, not hinder, LSU's running game next season.
South Carolina: Connor Shaw, Junior in 2012
Connor Shaw broke into the South Carolina starting job this season when longtime QB Stephen Garcia was suspended multiple times for violating team rules and drug use.
Without playing as a starter in the first five games, Shaw took over and shined as a sophomore on this South Carolina team.
Shaw passed for 1,448 yards and 14 TDs while also rushing for 525 yards and eight TDs.
This kid can play.
Although the departure of wide receiver Alshon Jefferey will likely force the receiving to come by committee next season, a full year and a guaranteed starting position in the fall will only help Shaw.
The receiving core around him is also very young, and with a healthy Marcus Lattimore, look for Shaw and the Gamecocks to surprise next season.
Shaw will be throwing in the neighborhood of 2,300 yards with another 500 rushing in 2012.