LSU Football: 5 Best QBs Tigers Will Face in 2014
The SEC in 2013 will be remembered as "The Year of the Quarterback."
Georgia's Aaron Murray, Alabama's A.J. McCarron, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Missouri's James Franklin were all phenomenal last season. All five of those sharp gunslingers have now moved on to the NFL.
But that does not mean the conference will be weak at the game's most important position in 2014. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis knows there is talent returning under center and will need to have his defense prepared.
LSU's pass defense was not as dominant in 2013 as in years past. The Tigers accumulated 18 interceptions in 2011 and 2012, but only had 11 last season. They allowed over 229 yards per game against conference opponents, which is the worst mark in the Chavis era by nearly 10 yards.
The group should be improved as sophomore cornerbacks Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson are projected to be stars. If they perform at a high level, expect the secondary to be dominant yet again.
Here are the top five quarterbacks LSU will have to defend next season.
5. Jacob Coker, Alabama
2013 Statistics (Florida State): 18-for-36 (50 percent) for 250 yards, no touchdowns and one interception; 10 rushes for 15 yards and one touchdown
Analysis: Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is walking into a gold mine.
Alabama's embarrassment of riches on offense is almost unfair. The Crimson Tide have a talented trio of running backs in T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry. Coker's receiving options include Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and speedy tight end O.J. Howard.
Coker has little experience. He served as a backup to Florida State's Jameis Winston last season on the Seminoles' national championship team. But there is no reason for him not to succeed with the talent surrounding him.
Coker's biggest challenge for now is to win the starting job over program returnees Blake Sims and Cooper Bateman. If he succeeds, he then must master the playbook from first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
LSU will be at home against Alabama this season. It took a magical drive from A.J. McCarron to win the game the last time the Tigers and the Crimson Tide faced each other in Death Valley. Nick Saban will need Coker to make some special plays this time to beat the Tigers again in Baton Rouge.
4. Joel Stave, Wisconsin
2013 Statistics: 208-for-336 (61.9 percent) for 2,494 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Analysis: Wisconsin junior quarterback Joel Stave's No. 1 job is to give a smooth handoff to explosive running back Melvin Gordon and get out of the way. But when Stave is asked to throw, he has proven to be effective.
Stave set a sophomore record at Wisconsin with 2,494 passing yards last season according Wisconsin Sports Information. His next task is to lead the Badgers to wins in close games. The Badgers were 0-3 in games decided by one possession or less, highlighted by the controversial finish against Arizona State.
Stave has a tough task ahead of him when Wisconsin squares off against LSU in the season opener. He lost his best receiver in Jared Abbrederis, but does have monstrous 6'4'' junior Jordan Fredrick ready to take on an expanded role.
Wisconsin must establish the run with Gordon early to take some of the pressure off of Stave. If not, LSU's secondary will be able to slip into their nickel and dime packages. Defensive coordinator John Chavis' schemes can be overwhelming for quarterbacks who are not the fleetest of foot.
3. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
2013 Statistics: 283-for-437 (64.8 percent) for 3,346 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions; 355 yards rushing on 131 attempts (2.7 ypc) and six touchdowns.
Analysis: A popular dark horse candidate to win the SEC is Ole Miss. But if the Rebels are to do so, they would need steady play at quarterback from Bo Wallace.
The Rebels have multiple future NFL draft picks on both sides of the ball and a talented head coach in Hugh Freeze. If Wallace can limit his turnovers, Ole Miss can shock the college football world.
Wallace has arguably the best receiver, Laquon Treadwell, and tight end, Evan Engram, in the SEC. Running back Jaylen Walton is a dangerous threat out of the backfield as well. Wallace should have no problem finding open targets.
Wallace has averaged 328 yards in his two career starts against LSU. He lead the Rebels to an upset victory over the Tigers last season. There is no reason he cannot do the same again in 2014.
2. Nick Marshall, Auburn
2013 Statistics: 142-of-239 (59.4 percent) for 1,976 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions; 1,068 rushing yards on 172 attempts (6.2 ypc) and 12 touchdowns.
Analysis: Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall wants to prove his breakout season in 2013 was not a fluke.
Marshall is the maestro of head coach Gus Malzahn's spread option attack. Malzahn's spread is predicated on the variations of rushing plays. In order for it to be at its peak effectiveness, a quarterback must be smart and mobile. Marshall fits both of those categories.
Defenses should be better prepared to defend Auburn, so Marshall must become a better passer. He will be aided by leading receiver returnee Sammie Coates and junior college transfer D'haquille Williams.
Marshall struggled against LSU last season. He was 17-of-33 for 224 yards and two interceptions. But he was efficient in the nine games after, throwing for only two interceptions in Auburn's magical run to the national championship game.
1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
2013 Statistics: 156-for-267 (58.4 percent) for 1,940 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions; 829 rushing yards on 134 attempts (6.2 ypc) and 13 touchdowns.
Analysis: Dak Prescott is the most athletic quarterback in the SEC.
Prescott dazzled fans last season while splitting time with the now-departed Tyler Russell. Now the junior is the lone starter at quarterback, and he returns with an experienced supporting cast.
LSU struggled defending Prescott last season, especially when he escaped the pocket. But the Tigers settled down defensively in the second half as the LSU offense began to pull away.
LSU offered Prescott, a native of Haughton, Louisiana, during the 2010-11 recruiting cycle, per The Shreveport Times. He made the right decision to go to Starkville, as the experts in Vegas are gradually increasing his odds to win the Heisman per The Clarion-Ledger.
Prescott will put up video game numbers this season and will give LSU headaches when he visits Tiger Stadium in late September. The Tigers pass rush will need to be cautious when rushing him due to his escapability.