If Texas A&M is going to win the SEC and compete for a national championship, it will start defensively. The Aggies offense is in the capable hands of reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and a group of talented running backs and receivers, but the defense has no choice but to get better if it is to achieve its goals.
That's why taking a look at the top quarterbacks the Aggies will face this season is important. The SEC has improved its quarterback play over the years, and Texas A&M struggled to keep up last season, finishing 12th in the conference in pass defense.
This year, the Aggies face similarly talented signal-callers, including a three-time national champion, a few quarterbacks with potential and a quarterback returning from injury.
Bo Wallace could become one of the best quarterbacks in the country if he can limit his turnovers. He finished last season ranked fifth in the SEC in total offense (3,384 yards). That was better than Alabama's AJ McCarron, Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers and LSU's Zach Mettenberger.
Keep in mind that it was his first season in the league.
The downside with Wallace is that he led the SEC with 17 interceptions. He has a tendency to get careless with the ball, and his seven interceptions in the final three games doesn't exactly scream effective.
Still, Wallace completed 63.9 percent of his passes, threw 22 touchdowns and also ran for 390 yards and eight touchdowns. He threw for 305 yards in the 30-27 loss to the Aggies.
Wallace could surprise folks this season if he can put everything together.
Tyler Russell is poised to have a breakout season. He has steadily shown improvement each season and wasn't too shabby last year, quarterbacking Mississippi State to an 8-5 finish.
Russell finished with 2,897 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also played fairly well in the 38-13 loss to the Aggies, completing a solid 63.3 percent of his passes for 212 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for a touchdown.
The senior quarterback has the look of a legitimate NFL prospect at 6'4", and he has above-average arm strength. He's capable of making all of the throws and should take another step in the right direction in his fourth season.
Russell moved the chains on 138 of his 231 pass completions. He can become a game-changer this season and is somebody the Texas A&M defense can't afford to overlook.
Zach Mettenberger's most pathetic performance last season was against Texas A&M. He completed only 37.9 percent of his passes and threw for 97 yards and one touchdown. LSU still won 24-19, but it certainly had little to do with its quarterback.
Mettenberger was a huge disappointment last season and certainly did little to earn the trust of the LSU fanbase. However, he began to find a rhythm after the Texas A&M game, finishing the next three games with at least 273 passing yards. His completion percentage also topped 60 percent in three of the final five games.
The senior quarterback showed that he has potential to get the job done at a high level. If he can get on the same page with new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Mettenberger can become one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC.
Texas A&M luckily missed out on facing James Franklin last season, as the Missouri senior was hampered with injuries. He didn't play at all in the Tigers' 59-29 loss to the Aggies.
However, Franklin appears to be healthy heading into fall camp and should be ready to go once this season begins. When healthy, Franklin is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football. He finished the 2011 season with 2,865 passing yards, 981 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns.
His performance was huge in the Tigers' 38-31 overtime victory against the Aggies, as he scored four touchdowns.
Franklin is an aggressive quarterback who does whatever it takes to win. He has no problem lowering his shoulder to move the chains. While Missouri may not be the scariest team on the Aggies' schedule, Franklin is a quarterback the defense should respect.
The toughest quarterback in the country to figure out is a winning quarterback. It doesn't matter what his statistics look like, he finds ways to win the game when it counts. Most likely, he was a winner since his Pop Warner days and will continue to be until he hangs up the cleats.
That's AJ McCarron of Alabama.
He isn't the flashiest quarterback in the country and isn't going to run when nothing is there. However, he has guided Alabama to two straight national championships and will be the X-factor as the Crimson Tide seek to three-peat.
McCarron had his worst game of the season last year against Texas A&M, throwing two interceptions, but he still managed to throw for 309 yards and complete 61.8 percent of his passes.
The Alabama quarterback has seen it all and knows how to win. He will be the toughest quarterback the Aggies face.