SEC Football Q&A: Will Nick Marshall or Jacob Coker Be Better in 2014?

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SEC Football Q&A: Will Nick Marshall or Jacob Coker Be Better in 2014?
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You have SEC questions, and I have SEC answers. Thank you for your questions. If I didn't get to them this week, they will be saved and used in the future.

And we're off!

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, for sure.

Assuming Jacob Coker wins the Alabama job, he's still very much a mystery at this point. But even if he's an AJ McCarron clone, it's unlikely the Crimson Tide will air it out all over the field considering they have a new quarterback and a running back corps about which offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin just said "there probably aren't three more talented tailbacks in the NFL on a roster than we're fortunate to be able to work with at Alabama," according to Mike Herndon of AL.com.

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Alabama QB Jacob Coker

Now that's a complete exaggeration, of course. But it certainly speaks to the confidence Kiffin has in running backs T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake. They're going to get the ball early and often, which will prevent Coker from putting up gaudy numbers on the stat sheet.

Marshall is a different story.

We are just talking about passing numbers here, but I think Marshall is set up for a huge season through the air. You know he can stretch the field with Sammie Coates just as he did last year, and now he has Duke Williams lining up opposite Coates to put a tremendous amount of stress on the defense.

He's the first quarterback head coach Gus Malzahn has ever had return for a second year in the system, and Marshall's progress showed in the spring game where he showed touch over the middle, the ability to go through progressions and great timing with his receivers.

Auburn's offense is more likely to have a quarterback—and really anybody, for that matter, put up video game statistics. We already know Marshall can light up the stat sheet on the ground. He'll do it through the air in 2014 as well.

 

It's a big loss in the sense that Tray Matthews was going to be one of Georgia's starting safeties. No, he wasn't great last year. In fact, sometimes he was downright awful (looks repeatedly at the "Miracle on the Plains"). But he and fellow dismissed safety were still starters on a defense that just needs to be adequate for the team to be contenders.

They can still be adequate without Matthews back there.

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Former Georgia S Tray Matthews

Quincy Mauger had plenty of playing time last year splitting time with Matthews, Corey Moore could play either safety spot and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt could reach back over the offense and bring former defensive back Brendan Langley back after he moved to wide receiver.

Matthews' absence is a big deal, but there are options—several of whom have comparable experience to Matthews—perhaps just not the upside. It will impact the defense, but how much remains to be seen.

Pruitt has participated in this song and dance before. He took a Florida State defense last year that struggled to force turnovers and helped them lead the nation in interceptions (26) in 2014 and turned them into national champs.

Considering all the weapons on offense, all this defense has to be is opportunistic for the Bulldogs to be successful. That's still very realistic.

 

Oh man, he could be a force on that Texas A&M defensive line. But just how much will he play?

The nation's No. 2 overall player in the class of 2014 will arrive in College Station with a ton of pressure on his shoulders. He's the centerpiece of the defense for years to come, and that defense needs to take a gigantic leap forward right now in order for Texas A&M to be competitive in the SEC West.

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Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett (left)

Garrett has all the talent in the world, but a lot of his production depends on Julien Obioha. Ideally, the coaching staff would like the 6'4", 236-pound junior to slide to the other side of the line and make room for Garrett at rush end. But is that the best move for the entire line?

If Obioha succeeds, it will allow more opportunities for Garrett to get after the quarterback. That will happen a little bit, but I see Garrett more as a situational pass-rushing specialist early in his career and evolving more into an every-down role toward the end of the season.

I'll go with nine tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks during his freshman campaign. Would that be what Texas A&M fans expect? Maybe not. But it'd still be a very solid freshman season.

 

Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.com, and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

 


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