SEC Football: Projecting the Top 8 QB/WR Tandems in 2012
The SEC will be a quarterback's league in 2012.
The league will be home to some of the best quarterbacks in the nation with Tyler Wilson and Aaron Murray featured as the prodigious standouts.
And the SEC is never short of playmakers on the outside. From Ryan Swope to Da'Rick Rogers to Cobi Hamilton, the conference is loaded with superstars.
But which quarterback/wide receiver tandem will be the best in the league next season?
8. Jordan Rodgers/Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)
Vanderbilt's "Jordan connection" will be the real deal.
And no, Jordan Rodgers isn't on this list simply because he's Aaron Rodgers brother. Though he was shaky at times with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions, he showed potential last season.
His wide receiver, Jordan Matthews, is one of the more impressive wide receivers in the league. Matthews reeled in 778 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2011.
Alas, the Commodores are no longer punching bags in the SEC East, and with Rodgers and Matthews, the "Jordan connection" might take Vanderbilt to the next level.
From college football fans to Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, in the words of Heath Ledger's Joker, "you've changed things."
7. James Franklin/Dorial Green-Beckham (Missouri)
The James Franklin/Dorial Green-Beckham duo for Missouri could be the most entertaining combination to watch this fall.
Franklin is a dual threat quarterback who posted 2,865 yards passing, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season, and Green-Beckham arrives on campus with high expectations. Green-Beckham is a 6'6", 220-pound wide receiver that was rated as the top overall prospect in 2012 by Rivals.
But as promising as both athletes appear, they're both relatively unproven.
Green-Beckham turned heads against high school competition, and Franklin padded his stats against Big 12 defenses. And not to pick on Big 12 defenses, but let's just say it's a different level of intensity in the SEC.
Though they'll be facing the best defenses in college football, Franklin and Green-Beckham should still make noise as SEC newcomers.
6. Connor Shaw/Ace Saunders (South Carolina)
It seems like the pieces are all falling into place for South Carolina in 2012.
No more headaches from Stephen Garcia, Marcus Lattimore is returning, Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor lead a fierce defensive line, and Connor Shaw's valuable experience in 2011 should do wonders for him as a quarterback.
Like Missouri's Franklin, Shaw can run and throw, but his passing might be a little more refined than Franklin's. Shaw completed 65 percent of his passes last season with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. He came on strong at the end of last season with 657 passing yards, eight touchdowns and one interception in the final three games.
But not everything is all gloomy for Steve Spurrier's coaching staff. The Gamecocks will need someone to replace Alshon Jeffery, and though incoming freshman Shaq Roland may be that guy, look for Shaw to have the most chemistry with returning starter Ace Saunders.
Saunders has 699 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his two previous seasons, and with Shaw targeting Saunders more often in 2012, expect more production out of him.
5. Zach Mettenberger/Odell Beckham (LSU)
All Zach Mettenberger has to do in 2012 is establish a deep threat for the LSU Tigers.
With most of the Tigers offensive line returning and a stable of backs ready to trample over more defenses, LSU will have a rush-oriented attack. Still, expect Mettenberger to catch defenders napping in the secondary.
After being drawn into the box to stop LSU's physical running game, Mettenberger's strong arm combined with the Tigers' speed on the outside will burn defenses. And burning defenses is something Odell Beckham did quite spectacularly as a freshman.
Beckham is the Tigers' top returning receiver, as he picked up 475 receiving yards with two touchdowns.
Though Mettenberger is still unproven at this level, the talent surrounding him will help him blossom into a legit passing threat in the SEC, with Beckham as his main target.
4. AJ McCarron/Kenny Bell (Alabama)
Enough can't be said about AJ McCarron's performance against LSU in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.
Going against the second-best defense in the nation, McCarron completed 67.6 percent of his passes and threw for 234 yards. He showed poise, and he led his team to victory and had a solid season for the Crimson Tide.
McCarron's 16 touchdowns with only five interceptions in the SEC as a freshman is something to marvel over, but let's not overlook the fact that Alabama is a predominantly run-first team.
Like LSU, Alabama plays physical up front and clears holes for its talented backs. It seemed to work for both teams last season, and with the two best offensive lines in the conference, don't expect a whole lot to change.
But like Mettenberger, this will be McCarron's advantage. Opposing teams will simply have to choose their poison, and that will allow Kenny Bell plenty of space on the outside to run his patented go route. Touchdowns will follow.
3. Aaron Murray/Tavarres King (Georgia)
With two full seasons under his belt, Aaron Murray deserves all of the hype he receives entering 2012.
Murray has already proven that he's a prominent player in the best conference in America with his staggering 6,198 passing yards, 59 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in two seasons.
And with Tavarres King returning as an option to throw to, Murray is set for another astounding stat-producing season.
Malcolm Mitchell will be switching from wide receiver to cornerback next season, so expect King to get more looks than he received last year.
If that means he'll record more than 705 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, than expect to hear a whole lot of "Murray-to-King" calls in the fall.
2. Tyler Bray/Da'Rick Rogers (Tennessee)
Tyler Bray is poised for a breakout season in the SEC.
With all of the talk being dominated by Wilson, Murray and McCarron, Bray may very well surprise everyone and be the best quarterback in the conference next season. A big reason for that is because he has two of the best wide receivers in the conference.
The SEC's leading receiver in 2011, Da'Rick Rogers, returns, and Justin Hunter hopes to get back to his old self before sustaining an ACL tear against Florida.
Bray electrified Vols fans last season, and he finished the season with 1,983 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions despite missing five games with a broken thumb.
And though Rogers went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark last season, the odds are against him doing the same this season. Sharing the spotlight with Hunter will diminish his stats to a degree, but both players' stats combined should be substantial.
1. Tyler Wilson/Cobi Hamilton (Arkansas)
Tyler Wilson and Cobi Hamilton make up the biggest quarterback/wide receiver threat in the SEC.
Wilson's ability to deliver the ball on a dime and Hamilton's elusive moves in the secondary automatically make them opposing defensive coordinators' first priority.
Last season, Wilson led the SEC in passing with 3,638 passing yards, and he had 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions to go along with it.
As for his partner in crime, Hamilton, he recorded 545 yards receiving and four touchdowns despite the Razorbacks' stacked receiving corps and talented tight end Chris Gragg.
With Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright all gone, Hamilton will become the go-to target for Wilson in 2012. The scary part is that Hamilton has potential to be better than his former All-SEC teammates.