SEC Football: Way Too Early QB Power Rankings for 2013
There has been an ample supply of successful quarterbacks throughout the history of the Southeastern Conference. Cam Newton, Tim Tebow and the Manning brothers are just some of the names that immediately come to mind.
This season was no different. Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray established themselves as three of the best quarterbacks in the country. Meanwhile, other signal-callers like Tyler Russell and Jeff Driskel put their names on the map of football fans throughout the South.
Next year, the majority of the conference's starting quarterbacks will be returning to campus for at least one more season. They will be playing not only for a championship, but also for high NFL draft selections and national recognition.
Based on their performances from this season, here is a rundown of where the SEC quarterbacks rank heading into next season.
No. 14: Justin Worley
In his limited action, Justin Worley has looked awful as the Volunteers' quarterback. In fact, he has only one career touchdown compared to five interceptions.
Then again, Tennessee looked awful at times with Tyler Bray under center. Therefore, it's not right to pin the blame completely on Worley.
Still, the Volunteers have one of the messiest quarterback situations now that Bray has declared for the draft. Combine that with a revamp of the coaching staff, and it's a recipe for disaster on Rocky Top.
Worley should be a little better than his numbers would suggest. However, he will still be one of the worst quarterbacks in the conference.
No. 13: Brandon Allen
Much like Worley, Brandon Allen has looked less than stellar in his appearances at quarterback.
Of course, this was to be expected. He was only a freshman last season, and future draft pick Tyler Wilson obviously spent the vast majority of time with the Razorback first-team offense.
Truth be told, however, Allen completed less than half of his passes and threw only one touchdown. He looked especially terrible in the Hogs' upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe, which obviously does not bode well for SEC play next season.
Don't expect the Razorbacks to compete for the SEC crown next season. Don't expect Allen to be among the conference's best either.
No. 12: Jalen Whitlow
Jalen Whitlow is a young and exciting prospect for the Kentucky Wildcats. Unfortunately, he's one of the very few bright spots on the team.
He played fairly well in the last two games of the season against Samford and Tennessee. In addition, he showed he has the potential to be a ground threat.
Right now, however, Whitlow is a young player with a lot of room for improvement. Although the team remains a relative SEC laughing stock, Whitlow is at least a piece to build around in the future.
No. 11: Austyn Carta-Samuels
The departure of Jordan Rodgers will leave Austyn Carta-Samuels at the helm of Vanderbilt's offense. Much like the Commodores, he could surprise people next season.
He showed promise before transferring from Wyoming. He left the Cowboys after accounting for 25 touchdowns and over 4,300 yards of total offense.
Still, he hasn't spent any extensive amount of time at quarterback since 2010. For this reason, he is bound to struggle at times next season. Furthermore, he won't be among the SEC's best.
No. 10: Jonathan Wallace
Auburn had a disastrous season. Two years removed from a national championship, the Tigers failed to win a single SEC game, causing Gene Chizik to lose his job. A big reason for their struggles was inconsistency at quarterback. Included in that conundrum was Jonathan Wallace.
The freshman first saw extensive action in the Tigers' 63-21 blowout loss at the hands of Texas A&M. He threw for more than 100 yards and tossed two touchdowns in that game, and he played pretty well in the following weeks.
However, his inexperience got the best of him in the season finale against Alabama. When all was said and done, he had a respectable total of 720 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Wallace took the starting job away from Kiehl Frazier, who looked downright awful. With an entire offseason to develop chemistry with the offense, Wallace should show big improvements over this season's performance.
In order to avoid another poor record, Auburn is certainly hoping he does just that.
No. 9: James Franklin
James Franklin was one of the more inconsistent quarterbacks in the SEC last season. At times, he looked great. At other times, injury and subpar play were the norm for Franklin.
Compared to his 2011 season, Franklin took a noticeable step backwards. His passing yards and touchdown total were essentially cut in half. His completion percentage also fell. The best example of his inconsistency came near the end of the season.
He threw four interceptions against Florida in a 14-7 loss before rebounding with four touchdowns against Tennessee the following week. Simply put, it was always hard to guess which James Franklin would show up.
If the Tigers want to be bowl eligible once again next season, Franklin will need to play better. Until he proves that he can do that, he will remain in the lower tier of SEC quarterbacks.
No. 8: Bo Wallace
Bo Wallace was an underrated quarterback in the SEC this season. His 27 total touchdowns led the Rebels to three conference wins and an appearance in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
One problem that plagued Wallace, however, was turnovers. He had five games with at least two interceptions and 15 picks overall. This cost Ole Miss two big victories over LSU and Texas A&M.
On the bright side, Wallace failed to account for a touchdown in only one game all season. His completion percentage was very respectable. In addition, throwing and running for more than 3,000 yards of total offense is nothing to sneeze at.
If Wallace can cut down on the turnovers, the Rebels can improve upon their record. In the process, Wallace could garner more attention as a good passer.
No. 7: Tyler Russell
Unlike Wallace, Tyler Russell limited the turnovers as Mississippi State's quarterback this season. Unfortunately, he was at his worst when it counted the most.
Five of his six turnovers came during the final five games of the Bulldogs' season. Amidst that stretch were four losses that completely derailed a 7-0 start. Granted, he played exceptionally well in the lone victory during that period. Still, Russell and the Bulldogs failed to deliver against their toughest opponents.
Russell is not an explosive thrower, and he won't put up gaudy numbers on a weekly basis. However, he is capable of keeping the Bulldogs in any game as long as he limits turnovers and executes.
If Russell plays better in big games next season, he could be a pleasant surprise in the SEC.
No. 6: Connor Shaw
His numbers may not suggest it, but Connor Shaw had a solid season under center for South Carolina this season.
His two worst games were the only two losses for the Gamecocks. These came during a two-game stretch against LSU and Florida when he threw only two touchdowns and had negative rushing yards.
Other than that, he was very reliable. Fifteen touchdowns is a seemingly low number, but Shaw had Marcus Lattimore to pound the ball into the end zone for the majority of the season. He can throw on the run, and he showed that he can make plays when he has to against Tennessee.
South Carolina has established itself as a heavyweight in the SEC in recent years. If Shaw can tweak his game a little bit, he and his teammates could make a run at a championship next season.
No. 5: Zach Mettenberger
Zach Mettenberger is by no means the most polished passer in the conference. However, he does enough to keep LSU in a position to win.
His receivers didn't help him either. The Tigers were prone to dropping their fair share of passes. This is the biggest reason why Mettenberger's completion percentage is only about 59 percent.
Much like Connor Shaw, Mettenberger had touchdowns taken away by his team's running game. He did throw for almost 2,500 yards, including almost 300 against Alabama. It may not be very noticeable, but his game is very effective.
The Tigers do not need Mettenberger to light up the stat sheet. All he must do is limit turnovers and manage the game. So far, he has done that. As long as he does so next season, LSU will be a legitimate title threat once again.
No. 4: Jeff Driskel
Although the Florida Gators rode their defense and strong running game to a BCS bowl, Jeff Driskel made valuable contributions in his own right.
His stats do not resemble those of a superstar. He threw for only 1,471 yards and scored only 15 total touchdowns. However, he showed he has the potential to be explosive on the run and effective in clutch situations.
He led the Gators to come-from-behind victories over Tennessee and Texas A&M at the beginning of the season and Florida State in the season finale. He ran roughshod over Vanderbilt's defense to the tune of 177 yards and three scores. Simply put, he made plays.
The key for Driskel will be his development over the offseason. If he can develop more confidence within the pocket and improve his decision-making, he can be an absolute star. He could also make the Gators a championship favorite next season.
He may not be at that point yet, but he is close. For now, he is riding the momentum of a terrific season for Florida's football program, and his stock is rising. If he makes improvements, there is no reason why he cannot enter the debate over who is the SEC's best quarterback.
No. 3: Aaron Murray
Aaron Murray silenced his critics by putting together a solid season that almost resulted in a trip to the national title game. Should he return for his senior season, Murray and the Bulldogs will likely find themselves in a similar position.
The improvements he made this season cannot be understated. He raised his completion percentage by more than six percent and cut his interception total nearly in half. His worst game was Georgia's only loss, a 35-7 thrashing by South Carolina. Other than that, he never completed less than half of his passes or failed to score a touchdown in a game.
Murray had the Bulldogs within less than 10 yards of playing for a championship. If he stays in Athens, he has a good chance of eclipsing his total of 34 touchdowns from this season. He may also see his draft stock rise in the process.
No. 2: AJ McCarron
After reaching two straight national championship games, it could easily be argued that AJ McCarron is the SEC's top quarterback. However, he lacks the explosiveness and raw playmaking ability that Johnny Manziel possesses. That's why I am putting McCarron in the runner-up spot.
You won't find a more reliable game manager in college football than McCarron. Over the past two seasons, he has thrown only eight interceptions. He never seems to force the ball into a tight window or look for a play that isn't there.
He proved he was a clutch passer by leading the Crimson Tide down the field for a winning touchdown against LSU. He understands Alabama's offense and does what he is asked to do.
Should the Tide beat Notre Dame and win their second consecutive championship, McCarron will boast one of the best résumés in SEC history. The scary part is that he will have a legitimate chance to win three in a row next season.
He may not be the most explosive passer in the country, but McCarron delivers victory after victory. That trend should continue come next September.
No. 1: Johnny Manziel
After the greatest season by a freshman quarterback in the history of college football, Johnny Manziel deserves the top spot when it comes to ranking SEC quarterbacks.
His numbers speak for themselves: 43 touchdowns and 4,600 yards of total offense. His quick feet and dazzling playmaking ability made SEC newcomer Texas A&M one of the most dangerous teams in the country. They also gave Manziel the Heisman Trophy, the first for a freshman.
In the process, "Johnny Football" became a household name. Not since Tim Tebow has a single player reached the amount of excessive popularity currently held by Manziel.
With Manziel at the helm next season, the Aggies will have one of the most feared offenses in college football, even with the loss of Ryan Swope and other playmakers.
As he proved against Alabama in November, Manziel can play with and beat the best teams in the nation. If there's one player in America who seems immune from the possibility of a sophomore slump, it is the Aggies' field general.
Expect Manziel to be just as entertaining next season, and expect Texas A&M to be in contention for the SEC crown.