2010 College Football Predictions: Ranking SEC's Starting Quarterbacks

Michael PintoSenior Writer IAugust 3, 2010

2010 College Football Predictions: Ranking SEC's Starting Quarterbacks

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 28:  Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks avoids a tackle by Kelvin Sheppard #11 of the Louisiana State University Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Grayt
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    With former Heisman hopeful quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's recent addition at Ole Miss, it seems fitting to re-rank the starting quarterbacks of the SEC now that the landscape for the 2010 season is more or less decided. Now that we're through the spring and quickly approaching the start of the new year, we can better judge who the starting signal callers will be.

    Masoli hasn't earned the starting job for the Rebels quite yet, but we'll assume he can beat out the much less heralded competition.

    He won't be the only fresh face in the SEC this year though as he's joined by several first-year starters and transfer players that are expected to take the helm in 2010 for their respective teams. 

    So how do the starting quarterbacks of college football's most competitive conference stack up against each other?

    Check out the 2010 preseason ranking for the starting quarterbacks of the SEC. 

12. Matt Simms, Tennessee

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    Matt Simms, son of the great Phil Simms,will have first crack at the starting quarterback job for the Vols in 2010, but don't be surprised if he's relieved of his command before the start of next season. It's no secret that Tennessee is suffering at the position with the loss of Johnathan Crompton, but of all the choices available, Simms has the experience and that's his main advantage. 

    He threw for 2,204 yards and 17 touchdowns for El Camino CC last season after transferring from Louisville. Simms might not be the best quarterback, he's a big guy with a decent arm and a solid personality and work ethic. 

    Tennessee needs a leader under center and that's something Simms can be; but there's a lot of young guns vying for his job and he needs to play well to keep it. 

11. Larry Smith, Vanderbilt

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    NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 31:  Larry Smith #10 of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrates against the Boston College Eagles during the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl at LP Field on December 31, 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Vanderbilt fans were brimming with hope for the future after seeing what Larry Smith did in the 2008 Music City Bowl victory over Boston College. That hope was rewarded with disappointment the following season though, as Smith failed to produce in 2009 and finished the year with 1,126 yards and four touchdowns with a passer rating of 88.01. 

    He did miss half the season with a torn hamstring, which accounts for the low totals in production, but there's no excuse for his 47 percent completion rate and miserable quarterback rating. 

    Smith will be a junior in 2010 and this former high school star needs to be a lot better if the Commodores will have any chance to be successful. He's more talented than he showed in 2009, but it's hard to have much faith in a player after such a terrible season. 

10. Chris Relf, Mississippi State

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    It's difficult to judge the situation at Mississippi State because the Bulldogs are definitely going to have a quarterback carousel going all year long in 2010. Most fans want to see Tyler Russell, the 4-star quarterback of the 2009 recruiting class, but this is still Chris Relf's show. 

    Relf, who'll be a junior in 2010, has been playing much better in the offseason than he has in the past and looks poised for a solid year as his coaches claim he's drastically improved his decision-making and accuracy. Maybe it's time this dual-threat passer will actually present a dual-threat. 

    Everyone knows Relf can run. He's big, fast, and difficult to bring down, but if he can start throwing the ball with some consistency and cut down the mistakes, Relf has the chance to be a solid overall quarterback in 2010. 

9. Stephen Garcia, South Carolina

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    COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 28:  Stephen Garcia #5 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates a first half touchdown against the Clemson Tigers at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Stephen Garcia has been a player surrounded by hype for years, but to this point it hasn't quite materialized into the type of production you'd expect for the former top-rated recruit. Garcia threw for 2,862 yards and 17 touchdowns last season with 10 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 119.33. Those numbers are decent, but not great. 

    He's a mobile passer who can do a lot of damage with his legs, but you can't put too much faith into South Carolina's offense and it can't be argued that his style of play just doesn't seem like a good fit for this team. 

    It wouldn't be surprising to see him struggle early in the year and then find himself replaced sooner rather than later. There's talent there, that can't be denied. But his issues off the field and lack of maturity get in the way of what could be a very successful career. 

8. Aaron Murray, Georgia

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    One of two star quarterbacks of the 2009 recruiting class who'll be an SEC starter in 2010, Aaron Murray will be taking over the starting job in Georgia, but his hold on the position isn't that firm. He didn't perform overly well in the offseason, doing just enough to warrant a chance to sink or swim. 

    He was the No. 3 quarterback of the 2009 class and has a serious cannon for an arm. He can make every throw a college passer needs to and if he can get a handle on his accuracy and decision making, Murray has all the tools to be a great quarterback. 

    There will be growing pains for sure, but the feeling here is that he emerges from those troubles as one of the best underclassman starting quarterbacks in the country. How he deals with the pressures of the job will be a very interesting story-line though. 

7. Morgan Newton, Kentucky

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 21:  Quarterback Morgan Newton #12 of the Kentucky Wildcats against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Morgan Newton started the last eight games of the season for Kentucky on his way to earning All-SEC Freshman team honors for the Wildcats. One of the highest rated prospects of the 2009 class, Newton will get the chance to start of a full season in 2010 and could potentially emerge as one of the top quarterbacks of the SEC.

    The roster has been upgraded to give Newton more weapons to throw to and it looks like this team will actually be able to get some production going on that side of the field in a new offensive system.

    Newton is an elite athlete who has a great grasp of the game and generally has proven to be a smart decision-maker. He's still on the raw side, but with some more time to develop we could be looking at a special quarterback; if he'd had more experience, he'd be higher on this list. 

6. Greg McElroy, Alabama

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    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 07:  Quarterback Greg McElroy #12 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws the ball against the Texas Longhorns in the second half of the Citi BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl on January 7, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (P
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Greg McElroy won't wow you and, in fact, most Crimson Tide fans are just waiting for Philip Sims to take over as the starting quarterback in 2011. But don't forget that he quarterbacked this team to a National Championship last season. Is he a caretaker of the offense, yes. Is he easily replaceable? No.

    McElroy is a leader, an accurate passer, a solid decision-maker, and an overall underrated quarterback. He might have struggled at times last season and wasn't able to do much in the National Championship Game playing with a chest full of sore ribs, but don't take away how good he was at times. 

    Entering his senior year, this is McElroy's last show and he's not going to ride off into the sunset without a fight. There are more talented quarterbacks in the SEC, that's not up for debate, but its hard to say that too many more are more meaningful to their respective teams.

5. Cameron Newton, Auburn

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    Cam Newton went from Florida to JUCO and now has landed the starting quarterback gig at Auburn. He comes with baggage, but his alleged theft charges are long removed now and all that's visible to the naked eye is a ton of talent and potential.

    He led Blin College to a National Championship in 2009 throwing for 2,833 yards and 22 touchdowns with nearly 700 rushing yards and another 16 touchdowns on the ground. That made him a prime target of several teams searching for answers under center and the Tigers struck big with this one. 

    He's a big, athletic passer who should do great in Auburn's up-tempo offense. Don't be surprised if his stats are off the charts in 2010 because he's more than capable of lighting up the scoreboard. 

4. John Brantley, Florida

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 22:  John Brantley #12 of the Florida Gators celebrates after throwing a touchdown against the Citadel Bulldogs during the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/G
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    John Brantley has bigger shoes to fill next season than probably any player in college football. Fortunately for Gators fans, he just might be the man for the job.

    Brantley will be starting in place of Tim Tebow next season for Florida, and, from what he's shown so far, seems more than up to the task. He had a great offseason and has quickly emerged as a leader for this team on and off the field. 

    Obviously, he isn't going to step in and do exactly what Tim Tebow did, but you can still expect big things; people will be surprised just how good this kid is when he gets unleashed in August.

    He's got great natural instincts and field vision, and throws the ball with incredible power. By the 2011 season, he'll be in the discussion for the No. 1 spot on this list. 

3. Jordan Jefferson, LSU

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Jordan Jefferson #9 of the Louisiana State University Tigers against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Jordan Jefferson wasn't overly impressive last season, but he's done enough in the offseason to convince coach Les Miles to move 2009's highly-touted recruit Russell Shepherd permanently over to receiver. Reports out of Baton Rouge suggest that move might have been premature though based on the way he's struggled with consistency throughout the offseason. 

    It's not that he hasn't been good, because he has, but when your as talented as Jefferson is and display the type of potential, bigger things are expected. Jefferson is expected to only only be great, but to be the best. He has all the tools and at times has shown flashes of just how good he can be, but it's yet to come all together. 

    He'll have a ton of weapons to play with in 2010 and the passing game should be better than it was a year ago. If he can continue to grow and get his accuracy in order, Jefferson has the chance to not just be the best quarterback in the SEC, but the best quarterback in the country. It all depends on how much he wants it. 

2. Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss

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    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli #8 of the Oregon Ducks drops back to pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes at the 96th Rose Bowl game on January 1, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    In 2009, Masoli led the Ducks to the Pac-10 championship, capping his year with a 26-17 near-upset loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. This came after Oregon's October victory over fifth-ranked USC, a game in which Masoli threw for 222 passing yards with 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

    He was considered to be one of the top dual-threat QBs in the country and many experts put him on 2010 Heisman watchlists entering the offseason.

    But his off the field troubles quickly derailed any chances of continuing his successful career uninterrupted. That led to his dismissal from Oregon, but Masoli is getting a fresh start at Ole Miss and it's expected he'll take advantage of if during his last year of eligibility. 

1. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Texas A&M Aggies at Cowboys Stadium on October 3, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Ryan Mallet is arguably the top quarterback in the country and if he meets expectations will be the top player in all of college football in 2010; which should earn him a Heisman.

    He's a very accurate passer and a great leader on the field. He commands the respect of his teammates and leads by example with stellar play and a near-flawless work ethic.

    He is a player with all the tools the NFL is looking for and currently is in a tight race with Jake Locker to be the first pick in the 2011 draft.

    He can beat you in a number of ways and if he's able to just match his numbers from a year ago he'll be the top quarterback in the SEC.

    The feeling here is that he takes a major step forward in 2010.

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