Quarterback Inexperience Doesn't Equal Rebuilding Year for SEC in 2014

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 24, 2014

USA Today

One look at rosters across the SEC, and you'll see a remarkable lack of star power at the quarterback position.

Only two returning starters in the SEC—Auburn's Nick Marshall and Ole Miss' Bo Wallace—could be considered true, full-time returning starters. Mississippi State's Dak Prescott could be considered one, too, but he inherited the job due to Tyler Russell's injury early last season and then held on to it once Russell came back. 

Alabama QB Jacob Coker
Alabama QB Jacob CokerJeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The lack of experience at the quarterback position means it'll be a down year for the SEC, right?


While it's easy to say that having newcomers at the most important position on the field will create inconsistency, those dots aren't meant to be connected.

At least, they're not based on recent history.

Four of the last five national-title winners at quarterback have been first-year starters, and seven of the last 10 starters in the BCS National Championship Game were in their first seasons as starting quarterbacks.

Starting QBs in the BCS National Championship Game
Jan. 2010Greg McElroy - Alabama*Colt McCoy - Texas
Jan. 2011Cam Newton - Auburn*Darron Thomas - Oregon*
Jan. 2012AJ McCarron - Alabama*Jordan Jefferson - LSU
Jan. 2013AJ McCarron - AlabamaEverett Golson - Notre Dame*
Jan. 2014Jameis Winston - Florida State*Nick Marshall - Auburn*
CFBStats.com / First-Year Starters Denoted with *
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That isn't including first-year starters like former Texas A&M Johnny Manziel, who led the Aggies to an 11-win season and won the Heisman Trophy in his first season taking snaps in 2012; Jeff Driskel led Florida to the Sugar Bowl in 2012 in his first full season as the starter; and all Connor Shaw did after taking over for Stephen Garcia mid-way through the 2011 season was lead South Carolina to its first three 11-win season in program history.

First-year starters don't struggle, they thrive—especially when they have talent around them.

South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson
South Carolina QB Dylan ThompsonJeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

When you're flipping through your preseason magazines by the pool this spring and summer and figuring out which teams you think will step up to the big-boy table and contend for one of the first four spots in the inaugural College Football Playoff, look past the quarterback.

Look at the weapons he has around him—the offensive line, the running backs, the wide receivers. A great quarterback can cure a lot of ills, but a game manager with weapons can be just as effective if winning rings is the goal.

History proves that.

Georgia QB Hutson Mason
Georgia QB Hutson MasonDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

So which team or teams with new quarterbacks are set up well to succeed at an elite level in 2014?

Whoever wins the quarterback battle at Alabama will have a deep and talented corps of running backs and wide receivers to fall back on. New Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason has four years in the system, Heisman hopeful Todd Gurley at running back and depth at wide receiver and along the offensive line to help him out and the combination of South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson, head coach Steve Spurrier and running back Mike Davis is nothing short of scary.

It may be a down year in the SEC, and it may jump back to the top of the college football pack and win the national title. If it does struggle, don't point only to the quarterbacks. 

They're only one piece of the puzzle. As recent history shows, having a padded resume heading into the season isn't a prerequisite to success. 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistical information is courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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