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SEC Football: Power Ranking All 12 Starting Quarterbacks

Drew LaingAnalyst IMay 31, 2011

SEC Football: Power Ranking All 12 Starting Quarterbacks

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    John Brantley looks to redeem himself from a below average 2010 season.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    As we move into the summer months of June and July, there is no better time to discuss the upcoming season of college football.

    Fans scrutinize every aspect of their favorite team as training camps prepare the players for the grueling college football season.  

    Perhaps the most criticized (and most important) position in all of college football is the quarterback position. 

    Every year, quarterbacks are shuffled in and out and the topic of which one will step up to lead his team to a championship are debated back and forth.

    Therefore, with only 92 days until the 2011 college football season starts, I give you my rankings of the the starting SEC quarterbacks.

12. Whoever Wins the Ole Miss Starting Quarterback Job

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    Houston Nutt still has to decide between three quarterback options.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Currently, the Rebels of Ole Miss have yet to disclose who they are selecting for the starting quarterback job heading into the new season.

    After the departure of Jeremiah Masoli and the transfer of Masoli's backup Nathan Stanley, the Rebels were left with Randall Mackey, Zach Stoudt and Barry Brunetti.

    Neither Mackey or Stoudt have any Division I starting quarterback experience. Brunetti, who transferred from West Virigina in December, has only seen a very limited amount of snaps during his college career.

    Although the popular pick so far is Mackey, neither quarterback option will provide the Rebels with a legitimate passing attack in 2011.

    Stoudt possess the quarterback-like physique at 6'4", 220 lbs, but recent reports out of spring practices at Ole Miss show that Stoudt has great arm strength and looks the most natural when running the pro-style offense.  But according to Ren Turner of chuckoliver.net, Stoudt makes fewer big plays and has the talent of a backup quarterback in practice. 

    Brunetti will most likely receive a red-shirt this season in order to improve his ability of running a pro-style offense. A red shirt will also give him a better opportunity to be the starting Rebels quarterback for two years in the future.

    It will come down between Stoudt and Mackey, but I believe Mackey's speed gives him the advantage over Stoudt.

    Regardless of who the quarterback is, the Rebel offense will rely heavily on returning running back Brandon Bolden, who rushed for 976 yards in 2010.  

    The Rebels were ranked 82nd in the FBS with 192.3 passing yards per game. And at first glance, it does not seem like that number will improve much this season.

11. Larry Smith: Vanderbilt

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    Larry Smith returns for his senior season at Vanderbilt.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Since the departure of Jay Cutler, the Vanderbilt Commodores have never regained that elite passing attack they had with Cutler.

    Larry Smith, who has started for the Commodores the last two seasons, threw for only 1,262 yards and six touchdowns in 2010.  He completed only 47.4 percent of his passes going 117 for 247.

    However, with no real competition this spring, Smith looks to be the starting quarterback in 2011, despite his poor numbers.

    Unfortunately, Smith receives hardly any help from any other player on offense. With no other playmakers, the defense can key in on pressuring Smith and forcing him to run outside the pocket.  

    Smith was sacked 29 times in 2010 and failed to reach 100 yards passing in six games last season.

    There's no reason to believe the SEC won't see more of the same from Smith and the Commodores. And that means another below average season for the usual SEC East cellar-team.  

10. Morgan Newton: Kentucky

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    Filling in for the Wildcats in their bowl game last season, Newton aims to be the starting quarterback in 2011.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Junior Morgan Newton will step out of his backup role in 2010 and into the starting job for the 2011 season.

    Newton did an admirable job in his freshman year starting for the Wildcats in 2009.  Named to the SEC All-Freshman Team, Newton led the Wildcats to a 5-3 record in their last eight games after Mike Hartline went down with an injury.  

    He completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 706 yards and six touchdowns.

    He saw backup duty in four games in 2010, but then was given the starting nod once again for the Wildcats in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Pittsburgh. Although they lost 27-10, Newton completed 21-of-36 passes for 211 yards.

    Clearly, there is some high potential for Newton who possess the athletic ability to make big plays with his feet outside the pocket.

    At 6'4", 235 lbs, Newton possess great size and also has solid arm strength to make the throws necessary to beat the quick SEC defenses.  

    If he can limit his mistakes in 2011, Newton could provide some consistency at quarterback for Kentucky over the next two years.

9. Barrett Trotter or Clint Moseley: Auburn

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    The quarterback job is up in the air for the Auburn Tigers heading into 2011.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    After an undefeated National Championship season for the Auburn Tigers in 2010 and Cam Newton's early exit to the NFL, the Tigers are searching for his replacement at quarterback.

    The two names that are receiving the most attention are Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley.

    Coach Chizik has yet to name a true front-runner so far in the quarterback competition.

    Trotter, who was Newton's backup in 2010, seems like the natural choice considering he was No. 2 on the depth chart.

    But Moseley has risen quickly throughout the spring and is making the competition even closer as we approach the summer months.

    Trotter saw limited action in 2010 with Newton's success, but was able to make plays with both his arm and his feet. He appeared in six games last year, and even saw some time in the SEC Championship against South Carolina.

    Highly-touted freshman Khiel Frazier will arrive in the summer, but it's tough to imagine that Frazier will make a strong push for the starting job in 2011 after missing of all spring practice.

    There are also reports that former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson is considering transferring to Auburn. 

    Wilson is a proven playmaker at quarterback, and if he does choose the Tigers, that will significantly increase the Auburn passing attack.

    But for now, with only Trotter and Moseley on the roster, the Tigers' starting quarterback will remain at No. 9.

8. AJ McCarron: Alabama

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    Saban has still yet to confirm a quarterback for 2011.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    At Alabama, the expectations are always high no matter who is starting at quarterback.

    Riding the wave of Greg McElroy for the last two seasons, the Crimson Tide are now searching for his replacement.

    McElroy threw for 5,691 yards, 39 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions in the those two season. He lost only three games as the starting quarterback for Alabama and was one of the conference's best game managers and got the best out of his running backs and wide receivers.

    AJ McCarron, the apparent replacement at quarterback, is the only quarterback on the roster who has game experience in FBS competition.  

    In 2010, McCarron threw for 389 yards and three touchdowns.

    Officially, Saban has yet to name McCarron the starting quarterback for the Tide and red-shirt freshman Phillip Sims has shown flashes of playmaking ability which is narrowing the gap between McCarron and him.

    As both quarterbacks battle it out throughout the summer, it will be tough to ignore McCarron's game experience as the backup quarterback in 2010.

    But if Saban does choose the red-shirt freshman Sims over McCarron, then you can take the starting quarterback for the Tide farther down on this list.

7. Tyler Wilson: Arkansas

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    Wilson must fill the void left behind by Ryan Mallet's early departure to the NFL.Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    When Ryan Mallett was injured against Auburn on Oct. 16, sophomore Tyler Wilson stepped in and delivered against a tough crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

    Although the Razorbacks lost 65-43, Wilson did not disappoint. He threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns, completing 25 of his 34 passes.

    Now that Mallett has left early for the NFL, Wilson will step in as the Razorbacks' starting quarterback in 2011. 

    With an Arkansas passing offense that was fourth in the nation last year averaging 333.7 passing yards per game, Wilson will see many opportunities to show off his skill set throughout the 2011 season. 

    Bobby Petrino is not afraid to air the ball out, and he seems to have strong confidence in Wilson's game.

    Wilson will also benefit from the Razorbacks' schedule in 2011 with Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee and South Carolina visiting Fayetteville.  

    Just like any other young quarterback, if Wilson can limit his turnovers and run through his progressions during plays, he will be a big asset for the Razorbacks as they look to duplicate their success from 2010.

6. Chris Relf: Mississippi State

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    Relf will look to lead the Bulldogs again in 2011.Rick Dole/Getty Images

    Mississippi State surprised the SEC last year, going 9-4 and picking apart Michigan in the Gator Bowl, defeating 52-14.

    A major part of that success was due to the play of Chris Relf. Given the starting nod in 2010, Relf burst onto the scene throwing for 1,789 yards.  He threw 13 touchdowns and completed 58.6 percent of his passes.

    One of Relf's biggest assets is his ability to make plays on the run. Relf was second on the team in rushing in 2010 with 713 yards and five touchdowns.

    He was able to eclipse 100 yards twice in 2010, once against Georgia and the other against Arkansas.

    Although the Bulldogs passing offense was a meager 86th overall in 2010, Relf was an excellent game manager for the Bulldogs and very rarely hurt the team with interceptions. He only threw six all season.

    Relf will continue to grow in 2011 and watch out for the Bulldogs to improve on their great season from last year.

5. Tyler Bray: Tennessee

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    Tyler Bray will build off his freshman season with the Volunteers.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Tabbed as the starting quarterback despite being a true freshman, Tyler Bray had an impressive freshman year.  

    He threw for almost 1,900 yards and 18 touchdowns.  He led the Volunteers to 4-4 record in the eight games he started, but threw for over 300 yards in his final four out of five games.

    With one full year under his belt, Bray looks to build off his minor success in 2010.

    It'll be a tough schedule for the Volunteers in 2011 as they go on the road against Florida, Alabama and Arkansas.  

    While the Volunteers will be facing another rebuilding year, Bray will reap the benefits of having highly-touted players like Justin Hunter Da'Rick Rodgers on the outside.  

    Bray, who led the Volunteers to a 30th ranked overall passing attack in 2011, will grow substantially in 2011 and could possibly be a top SEC quarterback heading into 2012.

4. Jordan Jefferson: LSU

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    Jefferson could lead the Tigers to a national championship in 2011.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Jordan Jefferson will be the starting quarterback of a top-five team once the official preseason polls come out for the 2011 season.

    However, LSU is a team that relies heavily on its defense and running game for much of its success.

    Although he has a 20-7 career record as a starting quarterback for LSU over the last three seasons, Jefferson has not put up consistent numbers for the Tigers.

    His numbers took a big hit last year as he only threw for 1,411 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had ten interceptions.

    His game-high in 2010 was 254 yards, but some games, Jefferson would only throw 8-10 passes. 

    LSU was 107th overall in passing last year, beating out on 13 teams in all of the FBS.

    He also must deal with the departure of LSU's top receiver from 2010, Terrance Toliver.

    LSU as a team is very good defensively and at running the ball, but Jefferson will not win any games for the Tigers.

    But with the talent that LSU brings in every year, Jefferson could break out at any time during 2011.

3. John Brantley: Florida

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    John Brantley struggled mightily in 2010, throwing for 2061 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

    The main issue seemed to be that Brantley's skills did not fit well in former head coach Urban Meyer's spread option system.

    Brantley also split time with two other quarterbacks, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed, for much of the season.

    His skills are much better suited for a pro-style offense.

    After last season concluded, the red-shirt junior was rumored to be looking into transferring out of Florida. 

    However, the hiring of Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis and the implementation of the pro-style offense convinced Brantley to stay for his final season of eligibility.  

    Under the tutelage of Charlie Weis, Brantley's game will vastly improve. Weis, who has coached other quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Jimmy Clausen and Matt Cassel will be able coach Brantley and help him develop the skills necessary to be successful in the pro-style offense. His experience in coaching quarterbacks will be key in the development of Brantley.

    Unfortunately, Brantley will have a short leash with Florida fans. They may want Brantley out of there at the first few signs of trouble like in 2010.

2. Stephen Garcia: South Carolina

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    Stephen Garcia has been give one final chance to be the starting quarterback at South Carolina in 2011.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Stephen Garcia's troubles off the field have been well-documented over the last year.

    But his on the field success has also been very apparent. Garcia has amassed 6,753 passing yards and 43 touchdown passes in his career.

    He was finally able to get South Carolina its first ever berth in the SEC Championship game in 2010 and led the Gamecocks to the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Florida State.

    He has been the starting quarterback for the past two seasons, and barring any more troubles away from the field, it seems he will be the Gamecock's starting quarterback again.  

    This could be the Gamecocks' year to finally win an SEC Championship too. With a weak SEC East again in 2011 and a loaded South Carolina offense, Garcia could lead the Gamecocks to Atlanta for the second consecutive year.

    If he can stay out of trouble and not throw away his final chance to stay on the team, Garcia could be a top quarterback in the SEC.

1. Aaron Murray: Georgia

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    Aaron Murray is the SEC's top quarterback heading in 2011.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Red-shirt sophomore Aaron Murray will look to build off an impressive 2010 season.  

    In his first season as a starter, Murray threw 3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.  He also posted a quarterback rating of 154.5.

    Although the 6-7 record might not indicate it, Murray provided consistent play for the Bulldogs. He surpassed 200 yards passing nine times and had eight games with no interceptions.

    Despite the departure of All-American wide receiver A.J. Green, Murray will continue to improve his game in 2011. 

    He will have to create plays even with a depleted Bulldog offense, but Murray has the arm strength and accuracy to make the big plays. Murray is also capable of providing some plays with his feet outside the pocket.

    As long as teams can get to Murray, they will be able to shut down the Bulldog offense. But Aaron Murray picked defenses apart in his first season and will continue to build off of that in his second season.

    Even if the Bulldogs struggle in 2011, Aaron Murray is the best quarterback in the SEC heading into the 2011 season.

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