Baptized by Fire: Auburn, Florida, and the Freshman Quarterback Debate

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Baptized by Fire: Auburn, Florida, and the Freshman Quarterback Debate

If you're a college football fan, you've heard of the SEC.

You know about the national dominance that bears every national championship in the past five years. The year 2006 saw Vince Young throw Texas on his shoulders to defeat Southern California. Since then, it's been all about the Southeastern Conference.

Let's quickly take a look at the history of the BCS championship. Mike, what does this have to do with freshman quarterbacks? All in due time, readers. All in due time.

In 1998, Tennessee defeated Florida State to be crowned the first national champions of the BCS era. 

The next season would see Florida State top Virginia Tech. The Seminoles would return the next year, only to lose to Oklahoma. 

In 2001, Miami defeated Nebraska. The Hurricanes would fall to Ohio State a year later. 

LSU would become the second SEC team to be named champions after their defeat of Oklahoma, who would fall to USC the next year in a blowout in 2005.

Then came Vince Young and Texas and their victory over USC.

In 2007, an era of SEC dominance began that has yet to end. Florida and LSU took turns dismissing the Ohio State Buckeyes. Florida won their second title over Oklahoma the following year.

What conference is better than the SEC? Don't you dare lie to me.

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Then came Alabama, who defeated Texas with ease after Colt McCoy was knocked out. 

And finally, the Auburn Tigers defeated Oregon just two months ago.

Now, go back and look. How many times did an SEC team lose in the championship game? Don't feel like it? Fine, then, I'll tell you.

The answer is none.

Every time an SEC team reached the big stage, they emerged victorious. 

I know. To the fans of all other conferences, I know. You're so tired of hearing the chatter. You're fed up with hearing how the SEC is the best conference in football. I hear you. I get it. 

Sometimes, the truth hurts.

Okay, seriously. What does this have to do with freshman quarterbacks? This Mike Kirkland is dumb. (I'm getting there, calm down.)

Simply put, the SEC is the toughest conference in college football. When a team from the SEC plays for a national title, they win (so far, anyways). Across the board, the SEC is just plain better.

And there isn't much of an argument a sane person can make against it. 

Now to my next point: the quarterback. The quarterback position is the hardest position in football. This doesn't need much explanation. If you don't have a skilled quarterback, chances are you aren't going to have a great team. The quarterback directs the offense. You get the picture. 

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

However, most quarterbacks will tell you that a lot of the position is mental. The ones who make it are strong mentally. If you throw an interception and have a bad game, you can't dwell on it. If you do, you'll keep doing it.

Too often, a quarterback is ruined because he gets put in a situation where he fails miserably, and he never recovers. 

Fact: Quarterbacks fail to live up to expectations more than any other position. 

I made that up. But I'll bet you a double cheeseburger that it's true.

Okay, now to explain the title. (It's about time.)

I remember the talk. John Brantley will make Florida fans forget about Tim Tebow. He's that good.

Yeah...not really.

Florida went from competing for national champions to middle of the pack. Was it John Brantley's fault? Partially. But I don't think it was all him. 

Quite honestly, I think Urban Meyer couldn't get over Tim Tebow (normally I say he didn't get over his Teboner...but I'll try to keep this professional). He tried to recreate Tebow's dual-threat abilities by using two quarterbacks for different situations. It didn't work.

Would you start Frazier and/or Driskel?

Submit Vote vote to see results

You play to your quarterback's strengths. But don't let that deter you from listening to his almightiness preached on ESPN. 

I don't like Urban Meyer much, as you can tell.

You know who I do like? Will Muschamp. He took over after Meyer retired to spend time with his family (then turned around and became an analyst, I know).

Anyways, Muschamp hired an All-Star staff, including offensive guru Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator.

I believe John Brantley would succeed in a pro-style offense, which is what Weis will most likely implement.

While Florida was viewed as mediocre, the Auburn Tigers defied the odds week in and week out. They overcame all the critics and were named national champions. I'll be the first to call you out if you say Auburn was a one-man team.

But I'll be the first to agree if you say Auburn wouldn't be champions had Cameron Newton not been the one taking the snaps. Cameron Newton was the best player in college football. And now he's gone.

So here you have two SEC teams with rich histories entering the spring with questions at quarterback. No, they're not the only team. Alabama will most likely rely on A.J. McCarron to replace Greg McElroy.

LSU has an interesting situation as well, as they are viewed as serious contenders for a title. They will likely have to make a decision whether to stick with Jordan Jefferson or go with Jarrett Lee or JUCO star Zach Mettenberger.

But none of those replacements are true freshmen.

Florida and Auburn each landed future stars in this year's class. Florida got a star in Jeff Driskel. Auburn got one in Kiehl Frazier.

Now Jeff Driskel has a few flaws, but he can play football. Florida has to be excited about him.

Kiehl Frazier plays similarly to Cam Newton. He also comes from an offense similar to Gus Malzahn's.

The questions linger, however. I have seen countless conversations about whether these teams should start their freshman quarterbacks. I know more about Auburn, so I'll start there.

Newton came and Newton went. Those are big shoes to fill. Also consider: Auburn lost 20-plus starters. There will be a lot of new faces in Auburn, Ala., next season. Should one of those new faces be Kiehl Frazier?

I say no. And here's why.

Barrett Trotter is said to be a more polished passer than even Newton himself. He has highly underrated scrambling abilities. But the main thing is that he's been in Malzahn's offense for his entire career at Auburn.

So has Clint Moseley, who sadly is always pushed to the side in conversation. I think he has a legitimate shot at the starting job. 

Frazier does come from a similar scheme, but the SEC is way different than Arkansas high school football. It will be faster, smarter and tougher.

Throwing Frazier in as a starter, I believe, would be foolish. If he struggles and Auburn falls, he could be scarred mentally. And he may never recover. 

I don't expect Auburn to go to the national championship next season. It is possible, but unlikely. There's no doubt Frazier is the most skilled quarterback Auburn will have.

But experience? That would go to Trotter. Frazier can get valuable experience in the fourth quarter/spot duty.

But the starting job, while open, should not be handed to him so soon, especially with him not enrolling early.

Hence, he won't be there in the spring. And if any position needs that experience as a freshman, it's quarterback.

Now to Driskel and Florida. Yes, Gator Nation. John Brantley was subpar last season. I can say I don't want Frazier to be thrown in so soon because I'm an Auburn fan. I can't say the same for Florida, but I can speak from logic.

Jeff Driskel showed brilliance in the Under Armour game. He also showed some flashes of inexperience. Is it worth risking? I don't think so.

If I'm Will Muschamp, I'd do what I'm supposed to do. I would have a quarterback battle. I think that Brantley would do much better in a pro-style offense.

I'm certain that some fans despise the thought. But understand that starting Jeff Driskel could also prove costly.

I'm not saying I don't think it could work, because it most certainly could. I'm also not saying that any freshman who struggles will be mentally endangered. It is a possibility, but not a sure thing.

However, and this applies to both situations, the adaptation may not be smooth. There's the speed. There's the talent. There's the atmosphere.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to take a true freshman quarterback into a stadium like LSU and see him struggle.

The transition from high school to college, especially for a quarterback, would probably not yield the greatest of results on an immediate timeline.

Every team must plan for the future at some point. Auburn and Florida have, in all likelihood, secured their future quarterbacks.

Now the only question is, when does the future start?

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