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@BarrettSallee the best qb in the SEC next yr will be?— Dan Vasta (@CI_StatsGuru) January 25, 2014
If 2013 was the year of the quarterback in the SEC, 2014 will be its polar opposite. Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Connor Shaw, Zach Mettenberger and James Franklin all left the SEC following the 2013 season, leaving the cupboard incredibly bare.
Based on career achievement, it's really a three-man race at this point, with Auburn's Nick Marshall, Ole Miss' Bo Wallace and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott as the front-runners. Sure, there could be others that pop up and impress, but based on what Marshall did during the 2013 season, I'll go with him as my top quarterback next year.
I know, I know...he isn't consistent in the passing game.
Well, he had five weeks in the system and two and a half as a starter before taking his first snap in a game, and head coach Gus Malzahn learned on the fly just what his junior college transfer quarterback can do.
Now that the Tigers have reached the offseason, Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have seven months to fine-tune Marshall's skills in the passing game with not only the same receivers he had last season, but a talent injection from the recruiting process, including top junior college wide receiver D'haquille Williams.
He has the running ability and the arm strength to be a star—he was just rough around the edges in 2013. Now he has something that's invaluable to his development.
@BarrettSallee Does UGA now have the deepest/best Running back group in the SEC with the signing of Michel and Chubb?— UGA Football (@UGASECFootball) February 7, 2014
Deepest? No. Best? With Todd Gurley leading the charge and Keith Marshall not far behind, yes.
The power and speed of Gurley combined with the speed of Marshall allows head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to get creative with how the running backs fit into the game plan. As long as they both stay healthy, it's the best one-two punch in the country.
But Alabama is much deeper in the running back department.
T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake are known commodities and provide a similar version of that same one-two-punch in Tuscaloosa. Derrick Henry looked like a potential superstar in the Sugar Bowl, rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown, and Altee Tenpenny, Dee Hart and Tyren Jones are patiently waiting in the wings.
Alvin Kamara announced shortly after the season that he is transferring from Alabama. Had he been with Georgia last season or this season, he'd have been the Bulldogs' No. 3 running back even with incoming freshman Sony Michel and Nick Chubb in the mix. At Alabama, he was No. 7.
Georgia's depth chart at running back in 2014 will read like several chapters of a book, but Alabama's will be the whole novel.
@BarrettSallee Can I get a realistic 2015 SECCG prediction that will surprise everyone?— The Grass of DWS (@GrassOfDWS) February 7, 2014
Of course, some of this depends on schedule. But in the West, I'll go with Alabama.
I think the Tide might take a small step back this season. But in 2015, they'll have a quarterback with experience, remarkable depth at running back and a defense that has been replenished thanks to the last two recruiting classes.
That's not exactly shocking. After all, picking Alabama to win the SEC West is like picking Tiger Woods to win a golf tournament. You're not always right, but you'll likely be close.
What will be shocking is the opponent, though.
Give me Tennessee as the surprising representative out of the SEC East. The Vols hit a home run with this season's recruiting class, but that won't pay immediate dividends. Head coach Butch Jones doesn't get a single starter back on the offensive or defensive line, but in 2015, the players that fill those holes this year will have invaluable experience.
Wide receiver Marquez North will be a junior for that season, running back Jalen Hurd will be a sophomore or redshirt freshman and whether it's Josh Dobbs or somebody else, the Vols will likely have a quarterback who's comfortable with the speed of the SEC.
Give me the Vols to get back to Atlanta in 2015 for the first time since 2007. Subject to change (many times), of course.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.