SEC Football Q&A: Who Will Be This Season's Breakout Star at QB?

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SEC Football Q&A: Who Will Be This Season's Breakout Star at QB?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw


Every Thursday on The SEC Blog, we will feature questions from the Bleacher Report inboxTwitter and email at 

You've got SEC questions, and I've got SEC answers. Thank you everybody for your questions this week. And if I didn't get to them, they will still be saved and used in the future.

And we're off:

As far as coming out of nowhere, I don't see it. Most teams in legitimate contention have their quarterback situations settled. But stepping up to play at an entirely different level than in the past? There are plenty of options.

I've been beating the drum for LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger for quite some time, so I'll eliminate him from consideration for purposes of this Q&A. I'll go with South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw (as long as picking a senior signal-caller who has been a starter for two seasons is allowed).

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw

Yes, I know he's out this spring and in the middle of a quarterback battle with Dylan Thompson, and may not get all of the snaps for the 2013 Gamecocks. That actually can work in his favor. It means he will be put in positions where head coach Steve Spurrier knows he will be successful to start the season.

What we will find out is that he's not only just a dual-threat quarterback who's efficient in the passing game. We will find that he can sling it down the field and keep the entire playbook open for Spurrier to use at his disposal. He can be a superstar, and we will see that this season.

He's a proven winner—as evidenced by his 16-3 record as a starter for the Gamecocks, can win games in a variety of ways, and plays for a team that will be in the BCS National Championship hunt.

All good things for Shaw. (If he doesn't count as a breakout player, I'll stick with Mettenberger.)

Connor Shaw went 20-of-21 vs. Missouri in 2012

I really like 6'6", 195-pound sophomore Mekale McKay.

He is Arkansas' leading returning receiver after finishing second on the team in receiving in 2011 with 21 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns. He has the size to be a big-time weapon over the middle once he grows into that frame, but can jump over opposing defenders with relative ease down the field.

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Arkansas WR Mekale McKay

New Razorback offensive coordinator Jim Chaney likes to spread the ball around to a variety of different receivers. McKay is physically the most similar player on Arkansas' roster to former Tennessee Volunteer Justin Hunter, who caught 73 passes for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns under Chaney a year ago.

That kind of year is probably too much to ask of McKay, but I wouldn't be surprised if he got close.

Luckily for Alabama fans, Saban has plenty of practice in this department and has become a master of that portion of his craft.

It's no secret that the 2010 Alabama team was a little bit complacent and lacked that edge that's needed to become a championship team. Saban saw that, and made sure it didn't happen again after his team won the title in 2011.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Nick Saban after the 2013 BCS National Championship Game win over Notre Dame

For Saban, it's easy. His team isn't working to beat an opponent; it's working against perfection. That's why former center Barrett Jones got into a shoving match with current quarterback AJ McCarron in the closing minutes of Alabama's dominating 42-14 win over Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game following the 2012 season.

Does that make Saban come off as joyless at times? Yes. But he knows that the process is always ongoing, and closing on the book on one season only opens the book on another. His team last season recognized that it wasn't a champion from the moment toe met leather against Michigan in the season opener, and that it had to fight that battle all over again.

Hitting that imaginary reset button and getting your players to buy in is easier said than done. But Saban seems to have his entire roster buying into that method at the moment. 

Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee via the B/R inbox, on Twitter @BarrettSallee or at

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